Washington attorney general sues Value Village owners

SEATTLE — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against a company that owns Value Village, saying the company has deceived thousands of Washington consumers and donors for more than a decade.

The suit, filed in King County Superior Court on Wednesday, alleges that TVI Inc., of Bellevue, has used deceptive marketing that led consumers and donors to believe that Value Village is a nonprofit or charity and that that all types of donations and purchases benefited charity.

“If a for-profit company asked you to donate your couch so it could donate zero dollars to charity, you might think twice and decide to donate your couch to an actual charitable organization,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Value Village made millions by deceiving consumers and donors.”

The lawsuit comes a week after the company pre-emptively filed its own suit against Ferguson, saying his office has violated the company’s rights by demanding $3.2 million to settle a three-year investigation. In its complaint, TVI said it had answered all of the investigators’ questions, provided 15,000 pages of documents, and sought to meet with the attorney general’s office to address any concerns. The complaint cited the imminent threat of litigation by the attorney general’s office, “necessitating this action to protect the First Amendment rights of TVI and its charity partners.”

Ferguson said that he also filed a motion to dismiss that counter lawsuit Wednesday.

TVI Inc. runs 330 stores worldwide and 20 Value Village stores in Washington state. Spokeswoman Sara Gaugl said that the company is still reviewing the details of the complaint, but in a written statement said that the company continues “to believe their actions are misguided.”

“We are fully compliant with all relevant Washington state laws and are confident this matter will be resolved in our favor,” she wrote.

“We stand by the position and facts established in our Complaint and are proud of our business and the positive impact we make across the state.”

The attorney general’s lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting Value Village from making misrepresentations to customers and donors, and also seeks a penalty of up to $2,000 per violation.

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