Center for Consumer Protection Monthly September 2017
The following is a compendium of information that may be of interest to our AG offices who are dealing with consumer protection issues. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General 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.
Consumer Chief of the Month: Parrell Grossman, North Dakota
While I did not particularly want to draw unnecessary attention to myself, I was unable to say no to Abby Stempson when she indicated that her first several choices for September “Chief of the Month” were unable to participate because they had important and significant responsibilities.
It has been my pleasure to serve as the Director of the North Dakota Attorney General’s Consumer Protection & Antitrust Division since 1996.
SCOTUS Update: Recent Bankruptcy Rulings
Jacob Petry, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Texas
Two recent decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States have narrowed the protections available to consumers through the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In Midland Funding, LLC. v. Johnson, 137 S.Ct. 1407 (2017), the Court held 5-3 that the filing in a bankruptcy court of an obviously time-barred proof of claim was not a violation of the FDCPA. In Henson v. Santander Consumer USA Inc., 137 S.Ct. 1718 (2017), the Court held unanimously that a party who owns the debt it is attempting to collect is not a “debt collector” for purposes of the FDCPA. However, unanswered questions in Henson and calls for legislation in both decisions leave regulators and the industry with some uncertainty.
Attorney General News
- Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Capital Medical Center in Olympia, alleging it repeatedly violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act by withholding charity care from thousands of low-income patients. Attorney General Ferguson also filed a lawsuit against St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, alleging it repeatedly violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act by withholding charity care from tens of thousands of low-income patients since at least 2012.
- Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is urging Oklahomans to use extreme caution when purchasing a used vehicle that may have been damaged by Hurricanes Harvey or Irma.
- Following a major data breach at credit reporting firm Equifax Inc., Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed an enforcement action over the company’s failure to protect sensitive and personal information of nearly three million Massachusetts residents.
- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced he has joined a multi-state investigation with over 40 other state Attorneys General and has signed on to a letter to Equifax demanding the company improve its consumer response to the breach and take steps to refund those who have already paid for a credit freeze.
- Thirty-three Attorneys General reached a $5.5 million settlement with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co, and its subsidiary, Allied Property & Casualty Insurance Co., resolving issues arising from a 2012 data breach. The settlement requires Nationwide to strengthen its security practices and ensure the timely application of patches and updates.
- Attorney General Ken Paxton filed lawsuits against three Texas businesses, accusing them of unlawful price gouging while consumers were in need of fuel, shelter and other essentials as a result of Hurricane Harvey.
- New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a Scam Alert regarding scammers who are calling people in the Santa Fe-area threatening to jail or fine them $2,000 for failure to report to jury duty.
- Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt, along with 31 other states, announced a $3.5 million settlement with technology company Lenovo Inc. The settlement aims to resolve allegations that the company violated state consumer protection laws by pre-installing software on laptop computers sold to Nevada consumers that made their personal information vulnerable to hackers.
- California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced a default judgement against Ningbo Beyond, an apparel manufacturing company based in China that operates in California. In operating its business, Ningbo Beyond did not pay licensing fees for software, including products manufactured by Adobe, Microsoft, Symantec and others. By not paying software licensing fees, Ningbo Beyond gained a significant cost advantage in the low-margin business of apparel manufacturing, shipment and sales. The judgment awards the State of California $3.2 million in civil penalties and marks the second time the California Attorney General's Office has secured a legally enforceable judgement against an international company for this type of misconduct.
Federal Consumer Protection News
- From the Federal Trade Commission: The Equifax Data Breach: What to do?
- The Securities and Exchange Commission charged a sports radio personality and another New York City man with stealing millions of dollars from investors who were allegedly promised their funds would be used for the purchase and resale of concert tickets of famed musicians like Adele.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that recent supervisory actions resulted in $14 million in relief to more than 104,000 harmed consumers from January through June 2017.
- New Jersey, Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania Men Latest to Plead Guilty in Multimillion Dollar India-Based Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims. Defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy and passport fraud charges during the past month for their roles in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through a massive telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme perpetrated by a network of India-based call centers.
- Militaryconsumer.gov is a joint initiative between federal agencies, several state attorneys general, and other partners to empower active duty and retired servicemembers, military families, veterans and civilians in the military community. These are free resources servicemembers can use as the first line of defense against fraud and to make better-informed decisions when managing money.
Beware of Fake Charities Scams Relating to Hurricane Harvey
The Internal Revenue Service issued a warning about possible fake charity scams emerging due to Hurricane Harvey and encouraged taxpayers to seek out recognized charitable groups for their donations.
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 email@example.com or call (202) 326-6263.