Saturday, January 1, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.
When you experience a problem with a financial institution, try to resolve it first with the company. Keep very detailed records, and if you aren't able to resolve the matter, contact the following regulatory agencies for assistance.
Washington State Department of Financial Institutions
DFI regulates a variety of Washington-state financial-service providers such as banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, money transmitters, payday lenders, securities broker-dealers and investment advisers. For a list of DFI-regulated financial institutions:
The agency also provides educational materials and outreach programs to protect consumers from becoming victims of financial fraud. To file a complaint about a company or get answers to your questions:
The Federal Trade Commission
Has authority over mortgage companies and state-chartered credit unions. It also offers online publications with advice on avoiding scams and rip-offs, as well as tips on other consumer topics. The FTC enforces the truth-in-lending law, which requires disclosures for credit transactions, including home loans, as well as overseeing the mail- and telephone-order rules. Send complaints to:
FTC, Consumer Resource Center, Room 240, Washington, DC 20580
Federally regulated savings-and-loan institutions
Federal savings banks generally have the words "federal association" or "federal savings bank" in their titles or the letters FA. or FSB following their titles. However, a state-regulated bank may also have the word "federal" in its title. Before sending off your complaint, check with the Department of Financial Institutions (above) to make sure it isn't a state-regulated institution. Complaints should be sent to the Office of Thrift Supervision, West Regional Office, Consumer Affairs:
P.O. Box 7165, San Francisco, CA 94120
Complaints: 650-746-7098. General information: 800-842-6929
National banks and their subsidiaries
National banks usually have the words "national" or "national association," or the letters NA. or NT&SA following their titles. They account for 28 percent of the commercial banks in the U.S. and hold 57 percent of the total assets of the banking system. Send signed complaints to the Comptroller of the Currency, Customer Assistance Group:
1301 McKinney St., Suite 3450, Houston, TX 77010-9050
800-613-6743; fax: 713-336-4301
Complaints regarding federally chartered credit unions in Washington should be sent to National Credit Union Administration, Region V — Tempe:
1230 W. Washington Street, Suite 301, Tempe, AZ 85281.
602-302-600; fax, 602-302-6024
The Federal Reserve System
This is the central bank of the United States. It monitors bank holding companies (organizations that own one or more banks), state-chartered banks that choose to be members of the Federal Reserve System, and various international banking operations. Contact Consumer Complaints, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Division of Banking Supervision and Regulation:
101 Market St., Mailstop 620, San Francisco, CA 94105
866-838-9247; fax, 415-393-1921
www.frbsf.org and www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/complaints
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Consumer Response Center:
2345 Grand Ave., Suite 100, Kansas City, MO 64108.
800-378-9581; fax 816-234-9060
Want to know if your favorite restaurant passed a health inspection? Or do you feel sick after a meal out? Check with the following agencies for information or to report problems.
Seattle-King County Environmental Health Department
This department has jurisdiction over food safety. Contact the following offices:
City of Seattle, 206-296-4632; north and east King County, Northshore office, 206-296-9791; from the Seattle city limits south to Pierce County, Alder Square office, 206-296-4708.
To file a complaint online: www.metrokc.gov/health/foodsfty/complaints.htm
For more information or to check out a restaurant: www.metrokc.gov/health/foodsfty/inspections.htm
In Snohomish County
Contact the Environmental Health Division. Inspection history isn't available on the Web, but you can file a complaint online, or view inspection records in their office.
For complaints and information about other foods:
Meat and poultry
For questions about the prevention of food-borne illnesses (a service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture).
Before you dine on bounty from the beach, call the state Department of Health's Red Tide line, or go online to learn whether it's safe to eat clams, mussels and oysters.
The Federal Trade Commission
Works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid fraud. To get free information on consumer topics or to file a complaint:
Toll-free, 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)
Integrates information from most federal agencies into one site that focuses on consumer concerns. It is designed to help you locate information by category — topics range from food to money — and it directs you to areas within individual agency sites containing related information.
Links you to Consumer Sentinel, which focuses on fraud. The complaints filed here are used for law enforcement. Available to more than 280 state and local law-enforcement agencies, it is the central repository for fraud complaints and the Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse. As soon as you realize you've been a victim of identity theft, report it to police; send copies of the report to the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, Trans Union — see "Credit" in this guide); and then fill out a report on this Web site. In Washington state, credit-reporting agencies are required to block inaccurate information resulting from an identity theft once they receive a police report. For information or to file a complaint about fraud or identity theft, go online or call the Identity Theft toll-free hotline.
The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires funeral directors to give you itemized prices in person or over the phone. The Funeral and Cemetery Unit of the Washington State Department of Licensing investigates complaints about the industry. Also provides information on where it is legal to scatter ashes or cremains in this state. The Federal Trade Commission enforces federal laws.
Funeral and Cemetery Unit, State Department of Licensing
P.O. Box 9012, Olympia, WA 98507-9012
360-664-1555; fax, 360-586-4414
Federal Trade Commission
The FTC enforces the Funeral Rule. "Funerals: A Consumer Guide" is online.
CRC — 240, Washington, DC 20580
Department of Veterans Affairs
Information on funeral and burial benefits for vets. Veterans and their spouses are entitled to a free gravesite, marker, and opening and closing of the gravesite in a national cemetery. Veterans also are entitled to a flag to drape over the coffin.
Tahoma National Cemetery is in the Kent-Maple Valley area:
18600 S.E. 240th St., Kent, WA 98042-4868
People's Memorial Association
Nonprofit consumer cooperative periodically surveys funeral-home prices in Western Washington. Contracts with several funeral homes and cemeteries for low-cost services for PMA members. One-time membership, $25 per adult.
155 NE 100th St, Suite 307, Seattle, WA 98125
206-325-0489 or 866-325-0489
Funeral Consumers Alliance
A consumer group with more than 100 societies across the country; provides education about death care and consumer advocacy.
33 Patchen Road, South Burlington, VT, 05403
Washington State Funeral Directors Association
Offers information such as what to do when a death occurs; what is cremation; types of funeral merchandise; and paying for a funeral. Accepts complaints about its members; offers mediation and arbitration.
3819-100th St. SW, Suite 7C, Lakewood, WA 98499
253-588-7111; fax 253-588-7444