For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
(208) 334-4112

Date: February 24, 2009

Attorney General’s Office Recovers More Than $900,000 for Idaho Consumers

(Boise) – The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division completed 39 enforcement actions in 2008, nearly double the number of a year ago. These actions resulted in recovery of more than $900,000 in restitution for Idaho consumers and a record $2.9 million in civil penalties and costs.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden released the consumer protection annual report for 2008 during a news conference in Boise this morning.

Idaho consumers reported record losses of nearly $10 million in 2008, nearly triple the losses reported to the Consumer Protection Division a year ago. Requests for information or assistance from Idaho consumers also increased 50%. At the same time, the number of formal consumer complaints increased by only 4%.

The Consumer Protection Division also contributed to state government by transferring more than $380,000 to the general fund at the end of Fiscal Year 2008. An additional transfer of $2.2 million is pending. When it is completed, the Attorney General will have transferred nearly $8 million to the general fund since Fiscal Year 2000. The transferred money was collected in consumer protection enforcement actions.

“Two things come across very clearly in this year’s report,” Attorney General Wasden said. “In difficult economic times, more Idahoans turn to the Attorney General’s Office for help with consumer issues and, in addition to providing that help to Idaho consumers and businesses, the Consumer Protection Division contributes significantly to state government’s fiscal needs.”

A settlement with Countrywide Financial Corporation resulted in more than $700,000 in mortgage foreclosure relief for Idaho consumers, Wasden said. The Attorney General’s Office also published Mortgage Fraud and Foreclosure, a handbook for homeowners. It is free and available on the Attorney General’s website or by calling the Consumer Protection Division at 334-2424. Idaho residents outside the Boise calling area may call, toll free, 1-800-432-3545.

Other significant Consumer Protection Act enforcement actions include settlements with Bristol Myers Squib / Apothecon, Merck, Pfizer, Mattel, Airbone, and Eli Lilly.

“Our settlements with MySpace and Facebook, the two most popular social networking websites, were probably the most satisfying. Both companies agreed to actions that will make their sites less dangerous for children,” Wasden said. “MySpace recently announced it had removed more than 90,000 register sex offenders from its site, using the Sentinel Safe software. Last week, Facebook announced that it had removed about 5,500 registered sex offenders. I commend MySpace’s diligence and success in identifying and removing such a large number of registered sex offenders. I hope MySpace’s success demonstrates to the other social networking sites that this is technically possible and that it motivates them to follow MySpace’s lead. Most importantly, though, the removal of registered sex offenders from these websites should not in any way be interpreted to mean that these sites are safe for children. It remains critical for parents to be actively involved in supervising their children’s online activity.”

Also in 2008, the State of Idaho received more than $28 million pursuant to the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which the Consumer Protection Division enforces. To date, Idaho has received nearly a quarter billion dollars from the 1998 tobacco settlement.

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