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Center for Consumer Protection Monthly January 2018

Consumer Chief of the Month

Recently, I turned 60, and, in looking back on my 27 years as a deputy attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division of the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, I can recall many challenges and rewards. I came to the Boise-based office in August 1990 after earning my law degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 1984, clerking for two years with the Idaho Supreme Court, and working (i.e., billing) four years in private practice.

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Article of the Month

Did you know that only individuals and organizations accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may assist Veterans and their families with VA benefits claims? Did you also know that there are statutory restrictions on when fees can be charged for claims representation?

The VA believes that all Veterans and their families deserve qualified, competent representation on their VA benefits claims. Sadly, each year we receive numerous complaints about questionable conduct relating to claims preparation, and too often the conduct that is being complained about is outside the scope of the VA’s enforcement authority over accreditation.

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Scam Alert:

Do Not Call registrations do not expire. Beware of emails indicating otherwise.

Federal Consumer Protection News

In Consumer Financial Protection Bureau news:

  • The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the structure of the CFPB.
  • The CFPB announced that it is issuing a call for evidence to ensure the Bureau is fulfilling its proper and appropriate functions to protect consumers.
  • The CFPB intends to engage in a rulemaking process so that the Bureau may reconsider its Payday Rule.

In Commodity Futures Trading Commission news:

  • The CFTC announced, in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Investigative Division, criminal and civil enforcement actions against three banks and six individuals involved in commodities fraud and spoofing schemes.
  • The CFTC announced the filing of a federal court enforcement action under seal on January 16, 2018, charging commodity fraud and misappropriation related to the ongoing solicitation of customers for a virtual currency known as My Big Coin.

In Federal Trade Commission news:

  • Electronic toy manufacturer VTech Electronics Limited and its U.S. subsidiary have agreed to settle charges by the FTC that the company violated a U.S. children’s privacy law by collecting personal information from children without providing direct notice and obtaining their parents’ consent and failing to take reasonable steps to secure the data it collected.
  • CellMark Biopharma, LLC and its CEO have agreed to settle FTC charges that they made false or unsupported claims regarding two health products they marketed as effective treatments for cancer patients’ malnutrition and “chemo fog,” or treatment-related cognitive dysfunction.
  • The FTC has released a report on 2017 consumer protection actions and policy initiatives.

In Securities and Exchange Commission news:

  • The SEC obtained a court order halting an allegedly fraudulent initial coin offering that targeted retail investors to fund what it claimed to be the world’s first “decentralized bank.”
  • The SEC has invited regulated entities to voluntarily submit self-assessments of diversity policies and practices.

The United States Justice Department announced that BNP Paribas plead guilty to participating in a price-fixing conspiracy in the foreign currency exchange market.

The U.S. Secret Service has issued an alert on ransomware.

Attorney General Consumer Protection News and Other Items of Interest

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed an Arizona consumer fraud lawsuit against INT Sourcing LLC, Premiere Office Supplies LLC, and their owner James R. Deremiah. The defendants are accused of sending fake toner cartridge invoices to churches, schools, and businesses to trick businesses into paying the fake invoice as a routine business matter.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is offering tips to consumers who are considering refund application loans and refund anticipation checks during tax season.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman announced that her office has settled a lawsuit against two lenders who charged predatory interest rates to Colorado consumers.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is warning Idahoans of a consumer scam involving the use of his name and office.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced that a new law in Illinois will better protect consumers buying used cars. In other Illinois news, General Madigan announced that Illinois consumers will soon begin receiving payments from an approximately $190 million settlement with manufacturers of liquid crystal displays.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, along with attorneys general from 48 states plus the District of Columbia, and more than 40 state mortgage regulators, has reached a $45 million settlement with New Jersey-based mortgage lender and servicer PHH Mortgage Corporation.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said a roofing contractor has been temporarily prohibited from doing roofing business in Kansas while a state lawsuit alleging violations of consumer protection laws is pending.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear filed suit against a national opioid distributor for allegedly violating state law. General Beshear is suing San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation over unfair, misleading, and deceptive business practices for excessively distributing opioids and for failing to report the large volume of these drugs to state and federal authorities.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has settled with national mortgage servicer, Nationstar Mortgage LLC, over its alleged failure to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.

After a rise in consumer complaints against health clubs and fitness centers in 2017, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is reminding Michigan consumers looking to join a gym this new year to shop smart.

In collaboration with the solar, energy, and housing industries, consumer protection groups and regulators, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas released the Distributed Generation Disclosure Statement. This form is designed in an easily understood and visually distinct manner to help consumers understand the important terms of a solar power system purchase, lease, or power purchase agreement.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a court order against a New York company that allegedly defrauded consumers by failing to deliver heating oil.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein provided tips on how to keep your personal information safe.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Federal Trade Commission announced that the operators of a nationwide computer repair scam have been banned from the tech support business as part of settlements with the FTC and Ohio Attorney General.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro warned Pennsylvanians to be alert for scams when purchasing Super Bowl LII tickets or other products related to the event.

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring has secured a permanent injunction and restitution order against Sea-Thru Windows, Inc., a Virginia Beach-based window seller and installer, and its president and sole owner, Jeffery C. Pesich, for taking tens of thousands of dollars of customers' money in violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

Legislation

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is proposing legislation to strengthen the notification requirements in Arizona’s data breach notification law.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is proposing legislation to eliminate fees most Iowa consumers now pay to freeze unauthorized access to their credit reports as well as fees credit reporting agencies can charge Iowans to undo the freeze.

North CarolinaAttorney General Josh Stein has announced his support for legislation to strengthen North Carolina’s laws to prevent data breaches and to protect affected victims.

South Dakota Attorney Marty Jackley is proposing legislation to require the reporting of data breaches of personal information to consumers and the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office.

Charities

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced that the Office of the Attorney General filed the first of a series of lawsuits against charities across New Mexico that have allegedly failed to comply with the state’s registration and reporting requirements under the Charitable Solicitations Act.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that over 4,700 donation collection bins throughout New York now disclose whether clothing or other items deposited in those bins are used for charitable or for profit purposes.

Veterans and Military News

An Illinois man was sentenced to prison for using stolen identities of U.S Air Force members to file fraudulent tax returns.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced his Office of Military Legal Assistance’s partnership with the Reno and Las Vegas VA Medical Centers to host free resource fairs. At the resource fairs, legal and medical experts will be available to discuss family law, bankruptcy, landlord/tenant, public benefits, consumer law/protection, veteran benefits, wills, powers of attorney, mental health, health care, and suicide prevention.


Blake Bee, Program Counsel for the Center for Consumer Protection, is the editor of Center for Consumer Protection Monthly, a compendium of information that may be of interest to the attorney general community and others interested in consumer protection. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) nor the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute expresses a view as to the accuracy of the matters, nor as to the position expounded by the authors of the hyperlinked materials. Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or part must include the customary bibliographic citation. NAAG retains copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material presented in this publication. For content submissions or to contact the editor directly, please email bbee@naag.org or call (202) 326-6263.

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