Led by California Department of Justice and the Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, 48 attorneys general announced a $186 million multistate settlement with surgical mesh manufacturer Boston Scientific Corporation to resolve deceptive marketing allegations.
A bipartisan group of 24 attorneys general expressed disappointment in the Purdue Pharma restructuring plan submitted in bankruptcy court. The attorneys general stated that “while [the plan] contains improvements over the proposal Purdue announced and we rejected in September 2019, it falls short of the accountability that families and survivors deserve” as well as providing insufficient value from the Sackler family.
A bipartisan group of 5 attorneys general joined the antitrust lawsuit filed against Google in the Northern District of Texas. Attorneys general from Alaska, Florida, Montana, Nevada, and Puerto Rico joined the suit led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton bringing the total number of plaintiffs to 15 states and territories.
Led by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a group of 11 attorneys general called on Facebook and Twitter to stop the spread of anti-vaccine coronavirus disinformation.
Individual Attorney General Actions
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge sued Walgreens for its alleged role in fueling the opioid crisis in Arkansas and across the country. In a separate matter, General Rutledge filed a lawsuit against two men allegedly involved in a “puppy scam” enterprise, that deceived and harmed consumers nationwide.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr issued a consumer alert warning about home repair scams following recent storms.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita announced that his office will begin distributing payments to current and former Indiana residents who filed eligible claims for restitution following the massive 2017 Equifax data breach.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller settled with travel company Voyageurs International Ltd, obtaining $610,430 in consumer refunds and resolving allegations that it violated the Iowa Travel Agencies and Agents law, Door-to-Door Sales Act, and Consumer Fraud Act related to trips cancelled because of the pandemic.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt obtained an order that banned a man who operated a concrete company from doing business in Kansas for allegedly failing to honor a two-year warranty on the installation of an entrance and driveway for a consumer and failing to perform work on a project. The defendant was also ordered to pay more than $13,500 in restitution to consumers and fined $100,000 for violating the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron warned Kentuckians to beware of natural disaster scams following flooding and a declaration of disaster.
Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey announced the indictment of a builder for theft by deception in connection with obtaining more than $400,000 in home construction projects that he allegedly knew he lacked the capacity to complete.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh announced a settlement between the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and Home Free Lead Inspections, LLC and two if its inspectors, resolving allegations that they failed to properly perform lead-based paint inspections, issued lead-free inspection certificates for properties that had not been thoroughly inspected, failed to provide notification prior to performing inspections, and failed to submit timely inspection certificates to MDE.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey secured refunds of nearly $127,000 for 588 former Boston Sports Clubs members through a bankruptcy court claims process established at the urging of Healey’s office. In other news, General Healey issued an updated advisory to warn residents about COVID-19 vaccine scams, including information that her office has received reports about people getting spam or scam emails or texts after they have received vaccines or registered for vaccines through legitimate websites.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that in the state’s lawsuit against major opioid distributors, the court granted its motion seeking to reinstate a claim of statutory nuisance against the defendants that had been previously dismissed.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison obtained an $81 million settlement with R.J. Reynolds (Reynolds) related to the tobacco company’s alleged failures to comply with the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). After Reynolds transferred 4 brands to ITG Brands (ITG) in 2018, neither Reynolds nor ITG made MSA payments related to the brands. The settlement resolves liability for past payments and future payments. Attorney General Ellison also celebrated the dismissal of a legal challenge to the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act. The law provides eligible diabetics emergency access to affordable insulin and low-income individuals access to reduced-cost insulin for up to one year. The act was challenged by a lobbying group for pharmaceutical manufacturers claiming the law created an unconstitutional taking.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson reached a settlement with two Omaha companies, Pivot Concierge Health, LLC and Banyan Medical Systems, LLC for deceptive and misleading statements regarding COVID-19 antibody tests. According to the attorney general, the companies failed to make necessary disclosures required by test manufacturers and recommended by the FDA. The attorney general also claimed the companies made deceptive and misleading statements to consumers regarding the ability of their antibody tests to identify the presence of a current or prior COVID-19 infection, creating a significant likelihood of consumer confusion and endangering public health.
New York Attorney General Letitia James helped obtain $76 million in rebates for 4 million New Yorkers charged fees for sports programming never provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven companies — Altice USA, AT&T Inc., Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, DISH Network, RCN Corporation, and Verizon Communications — committed to passing on to their customers rebates they are seeking from regional sports networks, following receipt of letters from the attorney general demanding relief for subscribers. In other New York news, General James announced an agreement with Life Alert Emergency Response, Inc. resolving an investigation into the company’s failure to include certain mandatory cancellation provisions – required by New York law – into the personal emergency response service contracts. The agreement provides for contract cancellations and refunds for affected consumers.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued a San Antonio-based La Quinta Inn for price gouging during the February 2021 winter storm that knocked out power throughout the state. According to the complaint, room rates were dramatically increased after some consumers checked into the hotel after demand skyrocketed due to widespread power outages.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring obtained more than $300,000 for Virginia students from Voyageurs International, Ltd. related to allegedly unlawful trip cancellation practices. The company’s 2021 summer European student trips were cancelled due to the pandemic and it allegedly retained $1,900 cancellation fees to which the disappointed travelers were entitled. Attorney General Herring also obtained debt relief and restitution for Virginia student loan borrowers in a settlement with Equitable Acceptance Corporation (Equitable). The settlement resolves allegations that Equitable made loans with illegal interest rates that were used by Virginians to purchase fake student debt relief services from companies that partnered with Equitable.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that his office has sued a company posing as a charity to help servicemembers and its owner. The company, operating as Contributing 2 Combatants and Coast 2 Coast Marketing, allegedly funneled donations to its owner Jacob Choinski who spent the funds collected for his personal use and did not spend a single dollar on care packages since C2C’s inception in July 2018.
Veterans and Military
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will make grants totaling $1 billion to state veterans homes operated across the country to ensure residents continue to receive high quality care, live in modern, safe facilities, and are protected from the COVID-19 pandemic. The VA received funding from Congress through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act as amended by the Consolidated Appropriates Act of 2021.
The VA announced that the recently enacted SAVE LIVES Act expanded the VA’s legal authority to provide COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans, regardless of their VA health care enrollment status, as well as veteran spouses, caregivers, and some beneficiaries. The SAVE LIVES Act removed some of the legal limits on the medical care VA can provide to veterans, based on health care eligibility and priority groups. The expanded authority depends on readily available COVID-19 vaccine supply and requires VA to continue to prioritize vaccinations and healthcare delivery for veterans enrolled in VA care
Other articles in this edition include:
- Consumer Chief of the Month
- The Impact of Recent Tax Law Changes on Consumer Protection Settlements
- Federal Consumer Protection News and Other Items of Interest