December 30, 2008
Jefferson City, Mo. - Consumers who filed complaints with the Attorney General's Office in 2008 got back a record $9,501,221 in restitution through informal mediation.
The Consumer Protection Division's recovery for 2008 breaks the record of $9.3 million set in 2007. Since 1993, the Attorney General's Office has returned more than $51 million to consumers through informal mediation efforts.
Staff in the Consumer Protection Division were able to return the record amount for consumers despite never filing a lawsuit, a criminal charge or setting foot in a courtroom. The informal mediation process simply involves communicating via phone, mail and e-mail with consumers and the businesses involved in the complaints.
Many times no fraud or illegal conduct is involved on the part of the businesses. Instead, the parties simply acknowledged a dispute and worked with the Attorney General's Office to resolve it to the satisfaction of those involved.
Some consumer complaints, however, did require legal intervention, either through criminal charges or civil lawsuits. Those legal efforts returned an additional $6 million to consumers in restitution in 2008. The combined consumer restitution through enforcement and informal mediation for 2008 was $15.5 million.
Division attorneys obtained 11 criminal convictions, and 29 assurances of voluntary compliance and 36 judgments in civil cases in 2008. In addition to the $15.5 million for consumers, the Consumer Protection Division obtained judgments of $722,000 in penalties for Missouri schools, $3,568,181 for consumer law enforcement and consumer education, and $200,807 for antitrust law enforcement.
In 2008, Nixon's office handled more than 120,000 contacts from consumers through the telephone hotline, e-mail, faxes and regular mail. Those contacts included more than 40,000 formal complaints.
Consumers can file complaints online at ago.mo.gov or can contact the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222 to obtain a complaint form or ask questions.