Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday a consumer protection lawsuit against TVI Inc., the for-profit company that owns Value Village, which used to have a Vancouver location. Ferguson alleges that the Bellevue-based company “deceived thousands of Washington consumers and donors for more than a decade,” according to a news release.
The complaint filed in King County Superior Court claims TVI violated the Consumer Protection Act and Charitable Solicitations Act.
“The numerous alleged deceptions mainly involve misleading consumers and donors to believe that all types of donations and purchases benefitted charity, and creating the impression that Value Village itself is a nonprofit or charity. In fact, no portion of Value Village in-store sales benefits its charity partners, and contrary to Value Village’s marketing, for years, some types of donations — including furniture and housewares — did not benefit charities at all,” a news release from the Attorney General’s Office said.
The 37-page complaint also claims that “Value Village failed to disclose its status as a for-profit commercial fundraiser, and failed to disclose certain contact information for the secretary of state,” which is required by law and, according to Ferguson, important for donors to know.
TVI runs 330 store worldwide including 19 Value Village stores in Washington. The Vancouver store’s last day was Nov. 12, 2016. Property owner Dick Hannah Dealerships declined to renew Value Village’s lease when it expired at the end of last year. Hannah’s Ram truck dealership has since opened in its place.
The store’s closure interrupted a revenue stream for The Arc of Southwest Washington, a Vancouver-based nonprofit that relies on selling used goods to support its programs that help people with autism, Down syndrome and other developmental and intellectual disabilities. In July, The Arc’s executive director, David Wunderlin, said he negotiated to extend its contract through the end of February. The local Arc has been around since 1936 and in the last several years has worked to move away from reliance on Value Village.
Ferguson’s complaint said 400 Washingtonians were surveyed about Value Village. Most respondents thought charities would get one-third or more of an item’s sale price from Value Village. Actually, charities do not benefit from in-store sales but are paid a certain amount per pound of collected goods. The Arc of Southwest Washington sells clothing for 41 cents a pound and miscellaneous goods for 14.3 cents per pound. Some of its donations are given to low-income clients.
People have also expressed frustration over the lack of information about how much money benefits charities, according to Ferguson.
TVI has 20 days to respond to the suit. Attorneys representing Value Village filed a preemptive lawsuit against the Attorney General’s Office last week; Ferguson filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss Value Village’s lawsuit.