NEW! We are now providing a digest of consumer protection-related press releases from state and territorial attorneys general and a selection of federal consumer-related releases on ConsumerResources.org, NAAG’s consumer-facing website.
Led by a North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general announced a proposed $26 billion opioids settlement that will help bring desperately needed relief to people across the country who are struggling with opioid addiction. The agreement includes Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen – the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – and Johnson & Johnson, which manufactured and marketed opioids. The agreement also requires significant industry changes to help prevent this type of crisis from ever happening again. The agreement would resolve investigations and litigation over the companies’ roles in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic. Negotiations for the states were led by a bipartisan executive committee which, in addition to North Carolina and Tennessee, included attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Settlement approval is contingent on a critical mass of states and local governments participating. States and their local governments will receive maximum payments if each state and its local governments join together in support of the agreement. The deadline for states to sign onto the agreements is August 21, 2021. Subdivisions in participating states will then have through January 2, 2022, to join. The first payments are expected to be received by participating states and subdivisions in April 2022. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey separately announced their opposition to the settlement. They believe that the settlement amount is insufficient to address the harms of their respective states. Additional information can be found on NAAG’s Opioids webpage.
Led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, a bipartisan coalition of 37 attorneys general sued Google in federal court in California for antitrust violations. The suit alleges exclusionary conduct relating to the Google Play Store for Android. A bipartisan coalition of 38 attorneys general is also suing the tech giant in federal court in the District of Columbia for antitrust violations related to alleged anticompetitive behavior in the internet search market.
A bipartisan group of 10 attorneys general have filed objections to the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed an objection that was joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong filed an objection which was joined by Maryland and the District of Columbia. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also filed a formal objection. The bankruptcy plan has been accepted by a bipartisan group of 15 attorneys general who dropped their prior opposition to the plan following a $50 million increase in the financial commitment by the Sackler family.
Led by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a bipartisan coalition of 34 attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of regulating pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). The amicus brief was filed in U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of North Dakota laws that regulate abusive behavior by PBMs. The PBM industry’s national lobbying association is challenging those laws.
Led by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and New York Attorney General Letitia James, a bipartisan coalition of 28 attorneys general called on Congress to protect consumers by restoring Federal Trade Commission (FTC) authority to recover consumer restitution in enforcement actions filed under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. The FTC’s authority to obtain restitution in such actions was eliminated by the Supreme Court’s ruling in AMG Capital Management, LLC, et al. v. Federal Trade Commission earlier this year.
Led by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and New York Attorney General Letitia James, 17 attorneys general called for improved child car seat safety standards in a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Led by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, 22 attorneys general filed an amicus brief advocating for the rights of federal student loan borrowers. The brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, supports the New York Legal Assistance Group’s lawsuit challenging action taken by the prior administration’s Department of Education that allegedly unlawfully repealed and replaced federal “borrower defense” regulations. The prior administration repealed regulations that allow students who have been defrauded by a school to seek relief from federal loans and replaced them with rules which the brief argues are too restrictive on students’ ability to obtain relief, are arbitrary and capricious, and violate the Administrative Procedures Act.
Led by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Co-Chairs of the NAAG Internet Safety/Cyber Privacy and Security Committee, a bipartisan coalition of 8 attorneys general issued a ransomware advisory, alerting businesses and government entities to take prompt action to protect operations and personal information. The advisory follows recent attacks by REvil on the software company Kaseya’s VSA software which is believed to have infected thousands of client systems in at least 17 countries.
Individual Attorney General Actions
Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor obtained a $110,000 settlement with RV rental company Alaska Motor Home, Inc. (AMH) and its owners Peter and Cole Harkovitch. AMH was accused of a litany of unfair and deceptive trade practices including advertising newer RVs but providing older RVs that were in poor condition, adding contractual penalties for posting negative reviews, and charging customers for damage which they did not cause.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against 2 real estate companies and a manager. Tucson businesses Deed and Note Traders, LLC and 881 Home, LLC and their manager, David Kinas, allegedly sold homes under a “wrap mortgage” arrangement and then failed to make required payments on the underlying mortgages putting consumers’ homes at risk of foreclosure.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta provided a first-year enforcement update on the California Consumer Privacy Act and launched a new online tool for consumers to notify businesses of potential violations. Attorney General Bonta reported that upon receiving a notice of alleged violation, 75% of businesses acted to come into compliance within the 30-day statutory cure period. The remaining 25% of businesses that received a notice of alleged violation are either within the 30-day cure period or are under active investigation.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that more than 200,000 Coloradans will be receiving checks from a settlement with CenturyLink. CenturyLink paid $6,775,000 to resolve claims that it deceptively charged hidden fees, falsely advertised guaranteed locked prices, and failed to provide discounts and refunds it promised to consumers who signed up for internet, television, and telephone services in Colorado.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody sued a landscaping company allegedly targeting seniors with false promises and incomplete work. Service Smart Inc., Service Smart Management Inc., Good Neighbor Landscape Inc., and Good Neighbor Service Management Inc., a/k/a Good Neighbor Services, and its owners and managers, Kenneth Wayne Smith, Aaron Paul Gaines and Roy Blackburn allegedly failed to provide certain services and misrepresented the quality and timing of services provided, resulting in more than $118,000 in losses.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron settled charges of unconscionable pricing against a fuel retailer following the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. According to the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, Radhey Properties LLC d/b/a Brothers Market in Girdler, Kentucky increased the price of regular gasoline by 9.3 percent to 19.4 percent accumulating $5,666.40 in additional profit as a result of the inflated prices which was unrelated to any increase in cost. The settlement requires disgorgement of the excess profit and imposes a suspended penalty of $41,160.
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh announced that Cricket Wireless, LLC and AT&T, Inc. were found to have deceived consumers into buying cell phones that the companies planned to stop servicing shortly after they were sold. AT&T and Cricket’s actions allegedly violated Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act, and as a result, the companies have been ordered to pay back consumers who bought the phones and to pay a penalty of $3,250,000.00 for their violations.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey awarded $1.9 million in funding for local consumer mediation programs. Settlement funds are used to finance a statewide network of Local Consumer Programs and Face-to-Face Mediation Programs which provide the same consumer advocacy services as the attorney general’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch obtained a $3.7 million settlement with subprime automobile lender Santander for deceptive auto loan practices. Santander allegedly placed consumers into auto loans that had a high probability of default and engaged in aggressive collection practices. Under the agreement, Santander will pay $1.8 million in direct consumer restitution as well as relief in the form of debt extinguishment.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro sued a company allegedly posing as the Pennsylvania Secretary of State in letters to businesses, claiming they must apply for a certificate of good standing in order to lawfully do business in the state. Defendant FL Certificate Service LLC d/b/a PA Certificate Service, based in St. Petersburg, Florida, allegedly sent the letters to newly incorporated businesses and attempted to charge $82.25 for optional “subsistence” certificates for which the Secretary of State charges $40. The certificates are not necessary to operate a business in Pennsylvania.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey obtained a court order shutting down a used car dealership for operating without a license and deceptive practices including misrepresenting odometer readings. Defendants Karen Richmond, Brian Richmond, Glenville Ratliff, Corey Smith, Richmond’s Quality Cars, LLC, and CMS Pre-Owned Auto Sales, LLC are permanently banned from selling vehicles in any capacity in West Virginia.
Other articles in this edition include:
- Consumer Chief of the Month
- A Review of CPSC and NHTSA Safety Information Transparency and Recall Authority
- Federal Consumer Protection News: July 2021