State sues Value Village, alleging it deceived people for decades into thinking it benefited charities

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against a for-profit company that owns Value Village, saying the company has deceived thousands of Washington consumers and donors for more than a decade into thinking it benefited charities.

The suit, filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court, 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.

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.

The 37-page complaint, filed in King County Superior Court, contains numerous photos of actual advertisements used in Washington.

"The numerous alleged deceptions mainly involve misleading consumers and donors to believe that all types of donations and purchases benefited charity, and creating the impression that Value Village itself is a non-profit or charity," the attorney general's office said in a news release.

"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. Others provided far less benefit than consumers were led to believe, or did not go to the charity indicated to donors. In many cases, the donations were in reality pooled and shared among multiple charities," it said.

TVI Inc. runs 330 stores worldwide and 20 Value Village stores in Washington state.