The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute
Center for Consumer Protection Monthly May 2020
Consumer Chief of the Month: Susan Ellis, Illinois
It's surreal but perhaps appropriate that I am writing this from home during the COVID-19 quarantine. Appropriate, because just as in past crises, the work we do (protecting people from fraud, helping and advising them, standing guard against those who would take advantage of unfortunate circumstances to line their own pockets) is essential. I am so grateful for the way our AG consumer protection community works together during these times of crisis.
I am the Chief of the Consumer Protection Division in the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, Kwame Raoul. I have held that position for a little over a year. Before that, I was the Consumer Fraud Bureau Chief in Chicago for several years. As many of you know, I took over the Consumer Chief position from Deborah Hagan, a pillar of the AG consumer protection community for over three decades. Hard shoes to fill for sure. But I learned from the best, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in this position.
Consumer Protection and Intellectual Property: How the USPTO Can Help Consumer Protection Enforcers
Peter N. Fowler and J. Todd Reves
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks. Since Congress enacted the first patent law in 1790, the demand for protection of America's intellectual property (IP) has evidenced the ingenuity of American inventors and entrepreneurs.
Under the U.S. IP system, American industry and creators have flourished, new products have been invented, new uses for old ones discovered, and employment opportunities created for millions of Americans. As documented in the comprehensive study, Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: 2016 Update, the strength and vitality of the U.S. economy is supported by effective mechanisms that protect new ideas and investments in innovation and creativity
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Federal Consumer Protection News
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or "Bureau") and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey jointly filed a lawsuit against Commonwealth Equity Group, LLC, d/b/a Key Credit Repair, and Nikitas Tsoukales, Key Credit Repair's president and owner. As alleged in the complaint, from 2016 through 2019 alone, Key Credit Repair enrolled nearly 40,000 consumers nationwide, and since 2011, it collected at least $23 million in fees from consumers. The complaint alleges that in their telemarketing of credit-repair services, the defendants violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act's prohibition against deceptive acts or practices and the Telemarketing Sales Rule's prohibitions on deceptive and abusive telemarketing acts or practices.
- To guide homeowners with federally-backed loans through the process of obtaining mortgage relief, the CFPB and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) released a Consumer Relief Guide with borrowers' rights to mortgage payment forbearance and foreclosure protection under the federal CARES Act. In addition to this guide, the Bureau has a centralized webpage with information on how consumers can protect their finances during the pandemic and launched a joint housing website with other federal regulators. CSBS maintains a state tracker with useful consumer information on topics such as mortgage forbearance, modification of loan terms, stays on evictions, restrictions on overdraft fees, and some common COVID-19-related scams on the COVID-19 Consumer Resources webpage.
- The CFPB settled with Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC (SLS), a mortgage-loan servicer in Colorado resolving allegations that SLS violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and Regulation X by allegedly taking prohibited foreclosure actions against mortgage borrowers who were entitled to protection from foreclosure, and by failing to send or to timely send evaluation notices to mortgage borrowers who were entitled to them. The consent order requires SLS to pay $1.275 million in monetary relief to consumers in the form of redress and waiver of borrower deficiencies, pay a $250,000 penalty, and implement compliance measures.
- The CFPB announced that it will provide an additional 60 days for the public to comment on its Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on time-barred debt disclosures. The extension is intended to allow all interested parties additional time to comment on the rulemaking as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline was June 5, 2020; the comment period will now close on August 4, 2020.
Federal Trade Commission:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued an alert to consumers to be on the lookout for nursing homes and assisted living facilities that are requiring residents on Medicaid to sign their stimulus checks over to the facilities. In a blog post, the FTC says that states around the country have received reports of nursing homes and assisted living facilities claiming that stimulus checks count as "resources" under the rules of federal benefit programs that must be used to pay for services. The FTC notes that this is not true, and encourages consumers to check with loved ones who receive Medicaid and live in these facilities, and to file a complaint with their state attorney general if they or a loved one have experienced this issue.
- New York City car dealer Bronx Honda and its general manager, Carlo Fittanto, will pay $1.5 million to settle FTC charges they discriminated against African-American and Hispanic car buyers and engaged in numerous other illegal business practices.
- The FTC sued the operators of a Pennsylvania-based telemarketing scheme, alleging that they charged organizations such as businesses, schools, fire and police departments, and non-profits for books and newsletter subscriptions they never ordered. The FTC's complaint alleges that American Future Systems, Inc., operating under the names Progressive Business Publications and the Center for Education and Employment Law, has called organizations nationwide offering to send sample books or newsletters for the organizations to try. The suit also names as defendants a New York-based debt collection operation, alleging that it illegally threatened organizations if they failed to pay for the unordered merchandise.
- The operators of a business coaching scheme will pay at least $1.2 million to settle FTC charges that they targeted people who were trying to start new businesses online and used deception to sell them bogus marketing products and services. According to the FTC's complaint, Position Gurus and Top Shelf Ecommerce, and their owners Aaron Poysky, Stacy Griego and Samuel Cohen Brown, targeted consumers who were looking for ways to make money by starting retail businesses on the Internet. The defendants found many of their targets by purchasing consumers' contact information from other online business coaching operations that had already deceived the targets.
- The FTC sent letters warning 50 more marketers to stop making unsupported claims that their products and therapies can effectively prevent or treat COVID-19.
- The operator of a deceptive crowdfunding scheme will be banned permanently from engaging in crowdfunding activities as part of a settlement with the FTC over allegations that he used contributors' funds for personal use rather than to deliver the high-tech backpack he promised. In its complaint, the FTC alleged that Douglas Monahan, operating through his company, iBackPack of Texas, LLC, raised more than $800,000 from consumers through four crowdfunding campaigns. According to the FTC, Monahan falsely claimed the funds would be used to develop a handful of products, including an "iBackPack" that would incorporate batteries for charging laptops and phones, cables, and a Bluetooth speaker.
- The FTC is seeking comment on whether proposed changes should be made to the Health Breach Notification Rule that currently requires certain companies not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to notify consumers and the FTC of a data breach within 60 days after discovery of the breach. If more than 500 individuals are affected by a breach, however, entities must notify the FTC within 10 business days. The FTC will be accepting comment for 90 days after the Rule review notice is published in the Federal Register. The FTC is requesting comments on various issues including whether the rule has resulted in under-notification, over-notification, or an efficient level of notification.
- One of the biggest payment processing companies and its former executive will pay more than $40.2 million to settle FTC charges they knowingly processed payments and laundered, or assisted laundering of, credit card transactions for scams that targeted hundreds of thousands of consumers. According to the FTC's complaint, Atlanta-based First Data Merchant Services, LLC (First Data) allegedly ignored repeated warnings from employees, banks, and others that Chi "Vincent" Ko, through his company that served as an independent sales agent for First Data, was laundering, and First Data was assisting and facilitating laundering, payments for companies that were breaking the law. This conduct occurred over a number of years. Ko was later hired as an executive at First Data.
- Following a public comment period, the FTC finalized a settlement with Delaware comparison shopping website LendEDU over allegations that it promoted deceptive rankings of financial products for a fee and posted fake positive reviews of its website. According to the agency's administrative complaint, LendEDU misled consumers to believe its website provided objective product information, when in fact it offered higher rankings and ratings to companies that paid for placement.
Securities and Exchange Commission:
- The Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges in two cases involving companies that claimed in press releases to offer products to test for and combat the COVID-19 virus: one against Applied BioSciences Corp. and one against Turbo Global Partners, Inc. and its CEO, Robert W. Singerman. The SEC previously suspended trading temporarily in the securities of Applied BioSciences and Turbo Global.
- The SEC announced charges against blockchain services company BitClave PTE Ltd. headquartered in San Jose, California, for conducting an unregistered initial coin offering of digital asset securities. BitClave agreed to settle the charges by paying disgorgement of $25,500,000, prejudgment interest of $3,444,197, and a penalty of $400,000, returning proceeds from the offering, and paying additional monetary relief to be distributed to investors.
In other federal news:
- The U.S. Treasury Department announced that it would be delivering millions of economic impact payments by prepaid debit card. Per the Department, to validate an EIP card, consumers will be asked to provide, at minimum, name, address, and social security number. The Department is working with a private company, Money Network Financial, LLC, which will assist with the EIP card program and has posted FAQs about the program.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order that will end the practice of warning most robocallers before issuing penalties for violating the law and for harassing consumers with unwanted robocalls. Such warnings were previously required by law until the TRACED Act was enacted in December 2019. In addition, prior to the TRACED Act, any fine the Commission proposed for TCPA violations by robocallers could be based on violations that occurred only after the warning had been issued. The order also extends the statute of limitations to four years.
- The FCC and FTC demanded that gateway providers allowing COVID-19 pandemic-related scam robocalls into the United States cut off this traffic or face serious consequences. The letters sent May 21, 2020, gave the companies 48 hours to cut off the scam robocalls or face the loss of their access.
- A federal court ordered a California company to stop distributing hand sanitizer products that are unapproved new drugs, the Justice Department announced. The court enjoined Innovative BioDefense Inc., of Lake Forest, California, along with company CEO Colette Cozean and distributor Hotan Barough, from distributing "Zylast" hand sanitizer products until the company obtains U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval or removes disease-specific claims from its product labeling. According to the complaint, the defendants marketed their products as being effective against infection by pathogens such as the norovirus, rhinovirus, rotavirus, flu virus, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria, and Ebola virus, despite a lack of proof of the products' safety and effectiveness for such uses and no approval from the FDA.
- The U.S. Department of Education's settlement with a class of college students who had sued the Department over its delay in resolving borrower defense to repayment applications, has received preliminary approval. The settlement would require the Department to resolve within 18 months from the date of settlement, all applications for borrower defense filed by April 7, 2020, and includes potential penalties and debt discharge requirements if the Department fails to meet settlement deadlines.
Attorney General Consumer Protection News and Other Items of Interest
Editor's Note: Attorneys General from across the country have issued numerous consumer alerts and guidance for avoiding COVID-19 related scams. They have also issued cease and desist letters and engaged with private industry urging action to halt price gouging on important consumer goods and safety equipment. Space does not permit inclusion a summary of each such release in the Consumer Protection Monthly, however a representative sample of such releases is provided in the news items below. Each such release is available on consumerresources.org, our public-facing consumer protection website, which is being updated regularly with coronavirus-related information about actions by the attorneys general. If you have information that you think would be useful for the public or the attorney general community, please send it to CCP Director, Abby Stempson, at email@example.com or Todd Leatherman, CCP Program Counsel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for the work you are doing to protect consumers in this trying time.
Led by attorney generals from California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, a bipartisan coalition of 34 attorneys general announced a multistate settlement with Santander Consumer USA Inc. (Santander), the nation's largest subprime auto financing company. The settlement includes approximately $550 million in relief for consumers and ensures future protections for consumers with subprime auto loans. The settlement resolves allegations that Santander violated consumer protection laws by exposing consumers with subprime auto loans to unnecessarily high levels of risk and knowingly placing these consumers into auto loans with a high probability of default.
Led by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, 52 attorneys general wrote a letter calling on USTelecom, the leading organization representing telecommunications providers, and its Industry Traceback Group (ITG) to continue its collaboration with state attorneys general by bolstering technological capabilities to improve enforcement against illegal robocallers. The bipartisan coalition is urging the association to further develop robocall traceback and other tools suited to law enforcement needs. The letter also asks USTelecom to advance the ITG's abilities in identifying robocall campaigns, trends and business ecosystems; conducting automated traceback investigations; and coordinating with relevant law enforcement agencies.
Led by attorneys general from Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and North Carolina, a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general wrote a letter urging Congressional leaders to fund expanded access to broadband Internet.
Led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a bi-partisan coalition of 26 attorneys general called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to take immediate action to protect senior citizens from homelessness resulting from the COVID-19 public health crisis. In a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, the coalition recommends specific actions that can help ensure senior citizens with reverse mortgages do not lose their homes to foreclosure as result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, 24 attorneys general called on Congress to make key changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to ensure that funds are distributed fairly and equitably. In a letter to Congressional leadership, the coalition of attorneys general expressed concerns that the program, while helping some small businesses and their employees, suffered from a lack of transparency, technical savvy, and functionality that led to funds being distributed in a manner overly benefitting large, well-connected companies. As a result, the AGs argued that both the first and second rounds of funding with this program have left many small businesses across the country underserved by PPP.
A multistate coalition of 25 attorneys general filed a motion to extend the deadline for filing claims in the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy due to circumstances caused by COVID-19.
Led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a coalition of 12 attorneys general sent a letter to 10 major auto manufacturers addressing troubling reports that dealerships are engaging in predatory and harmful practices in connection with the return of leased vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coalition calls on auto manufacturers to ensure that their financing arms and affiliated dealerships have proper controls in place to timely accept the returns of leased vehicles during the pandemic.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit against Google LLC for deceptive and unfair practices used to obtain users' location data, which Google allegedly then exploits for its advertising business. Arizona is seeking to stop Google's allegedly deceptive collection of user data and obtain monetary relief up to and including forcing Google to disgorge gross receipts arising from its Arizona activities.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced she is filing a lawsuit against Alma Laura Anne Jones and her business Purple Hat Construction, LLC for failing to complete residential home repair services. Rutledge is seeking restitution for harmed consumers, civil penalties, an injunction and other costs and fees. General Rutledge also filed a lawsuit against residential roofers Chance and Samone Greenhagen, and their company Greenhagen Exteriors, LLC, for failing to complete roofing projects and provide refunds.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley announced misdemeanor price gouging charges against Apna Bazar, a grocery store in Pleasanton, California, and its owner, Rajvinder Singh. California law prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10 percent, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. Mr. Singh allegedly increased the prices of several food items more than 10 percent with some prices being as much as 200 percent more than what was previously charged.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser sent cease and desist letters to three businesses that marketed tests for COVID-19 infection or immunity and overstated the reliability and accuracy of the tests. The companies that were served with a cease and desist letter include: Zvia Weight Loss and MedSpa, Functional Medicine Center of Fort Collins, and Red Tail Wellness Centers.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong urged vendors to work with couples forced to cancel and postpone their weddings due to COVID-19. Connecticut has received multiple complaints from couples recently who have been denied refunds, quoted high fees, and given limited flexibility in attempting to reschedule weddings planned for this spring and summer. Given the unprecedented public health crisis and economic collapse, the Office of the Attorney General is urging both vendors and couples to be flexible and to work collaboratively to find compromise.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced a price gouging lawsuit against Helen Mart, a convenience store. In response to a complaint submitted in April, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) investigated and found the store was charging $12.99 for 121-oz. bottles of Clorox Bleach, 200 percent higher than prices offered by other District retailers. OAG filed suit after Helen Mart refused to comply with a cease and desist letter ordering the store to reduce its price.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody recovered thousands of dollars for consumers who purchased purported at-home COVID-19 test kits. Sunshine Community Rx of Sarasota, d/b/a PrecisionMed Pharmacy, sent approximately 1,000 text message solicitations to consumers in the Tampa Bay area offering at-home COVID-19 test kits for $85 each. More than 100 consumers purchased the kits, but PrecisionMed neglected to inform consumers that the kits were not approved for at-home use. PrecisionMed agreed to make full refunds of more than $9,000 to its customers and pay $5,000 in civil penalties. General Moody also announced she is seeking information from the chief executive officer of TikTok about how the China-based social media company ensures the privacy and security of children who use its video application. Attorney General Moody's concerns and request for information center on whether age verification tools on TikTok's application can be circumvented. If a child under the age of 13 can delete an account and obtain a new account on the very same device using a fake birthdate, specific protections for children may be evaded.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr warned Georgians about new ways in which scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic including contact tracing scams, false promises of additional stimulus money and work-at-home/car advertising scams.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill announced the filing of a complaint alleging that several companies and people perpetrated a years-long real-estate scheme and defrauded dozens of would-be investors. The civil complaint alleges that Clayton Morris, Bert Whalen and Natalie Bastin, along with their associated companies, promised consumers simple, ready-to-rent "turnkey" properties that would deliver significant return on investment. Victims of the scheme took possession of dilapidated properties, many with housing code violations, they believed were in better shape and paid for services that were never provided and lost thousands of dollars.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is urging residents in Abilene to use caution to avoid scams by transient contractors following recent storms. With few exceptions, the Kansas Roofing Contractor Registration Act requires roofing contractors to obtain a registration certificate from the Kansas Attorney General in order to legally solicit or provide commercial or residential roofing services for a fee in Kansas. The online directory of registrations is available at www.InYourCornerKansas.org.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has released the quarterly list of children's products that have recently been recalled, and is encouraging Louisiana parents, guardians, and caregivers to take precautions to protect their little ones. To view pictures, descriptions, and suggested remedies for these recalled items, consumers are urged to visit www.agjefflandry.com/safetybox.
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh announced a settlement with Mid Atlantic Water, an online retailer based in Maryland, specializing in the sale of water filtration equipment, and its owner, Aidan Walsh. Frosh alleged that Mid Atlantic Water and Walsh accepted payments in over two hundred instances for water filtration equipment that they failed to deliver to their customers. Mid Atlantic then failed to accept their consumers' cancellation and refund requests. The settlement includes injunctive relief, refunds for consumers for goods that were not delivered, and civil penalties.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today announced her office has secured more than $1.4 million in additional refunds for nearly 4,200 Massachusetts consumers whose trips were cancelled this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a settlement with a Cambridge-based educational travel company. In an Assurance of Discontinuance, EF Institute for Cultural Exchange Inc. and EF Explore America Inc. will offer additional cash refunds ranging from $100 to $435 to consumers who booked domestic and international travel through the company scheduled to depart between March 11 and May 14, 2020, that was ultimately cancelled due to the escalating public health emergency.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel took multiple actions to fight COVID-19-related price gouging. Nessel obtained Assurances of Voluntary compliance against Michigan-based as well as Amazon online sellers for selling sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, masks and other household products at inflated prices.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox cautioned Montanans to mitigate their risk of being hacked while using the cloud-based video conferencing tool Zoom. His recommendation follows reports of two Billings churches being "Zoom bombed" recently during virtual services.
Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford is advising Nevadans to watch out for utility imposter phone scams as local businesses reopen. The utility imposter scam involves a scammer posing as a member of a reputable utility company demanding money from unsuspecting customers. The scammer often calls from a number that has been "spoofed" to look like it belongs to the actual company; however, it is just an attempt to add legitimacy to the scam. The scammer usually explains that the consumer is behind on his or her utility bill and demands immediate payment to avoid a shutoff of utilities.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sued JUUL Labs Inc. for allegedly illegally advertising and selling nicotine products to underage youth and creating an epidemic of nicotine addiction among young people. The lawsuit demands that JUUL pay for the costs associated with combating a public health crisis affecting young people across New Mexico and seeks restitution, damages, and penalties and an order requiring JUUL to abate the harm it has caused in New Mexico.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a settlement that stops fraudulent student debt relief practices by a ring of five New York-based defendants. Stemming from a lawsuit originally filed in September 2018, Attorney General James filed a proposed consent judgment for $5.5 million against three New York-based student loan debt relief companies, Debt Resolve, Inc.; Student Loan Care, LLC; and Progress Advocates, LLC, and two of the companies' executive officers, Bruce Bellmare and Stanley Freimuth, for their part in running a student loan debt relief scam that allegedly cheated thousands of New York student loan borrowers out of millions of dollars. General James also announced a letter agreement with Zoom Video Communications that will provide security protections for more than 300 million meeting participants on the platform. General James also provided direction to law enforcement departments throughout New York state, so they have clear guidance on how to protect the public from unlawful evictions both during the COVID-19 public health crisis and into the future.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced that he obtained a temporary restraining order against Charlotte-based A1 Towing Solutions, Inc. and its owner David Jewel Satterfield for allegedly violating North Carolina's price gouging statute and engaging in deceptive trade practices and unfair debt collection practices. The restraining order bans them from the towing business in North Carolina until a court hearing. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants booted or towed trucks that were delivering food, water, bleach, or needed medical supplies in spite of the trucks' drivers having the necessary permission of property owners to park their trucks on the property. After towing or booting the trucks, the defendants allegedly forced drivers to pay exorbitant amounts, up to $4,400, for their release. The defendants also allegedly double-booted a tractor and its attached trailer to double the price for removing the boots, charged inflated fees for use of a credit card and bogus fees for filings with the DMV, and threatened to increase fees for the release of the trucks unless the drivers paid immediately.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, in response to reports that some Americans are mistakenly discarding stimulus debit cards, urged Oklahomans to not assume that unmarked envelopes containing cards are junk mail. The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service announced the agencies had begun the process of sending nearly 4 million Visa debit cards loaded with the $1,200 stimulus payments to Americans. The debit cards are arriving at households in plain envelopes, leading to confusion and individuals mistaking it for junk mail or fraudulent activity. Attorney General Hunter is encouraging Oklahomans to open such correspondence and ensure they are not accidentally throwing away their stimulus payments.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that his office has shut down price gouging efforts at the Fresh & Easy Convenience Store in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania through an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance. General Shapiro also entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with Philadelphia EZ Dollar Plus store, stopping price gouging of face masks and hand sanitizers that were being sold at prices that exceeded limits set by the state price gouging statute.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed consumer protection lawsuits against two gyms that continued to operate in violation of Gov. Jay Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" proclamation. Both business owners have received multiple warnings that, by continuing to operate, they were endangering public health. In addition, they are engaging in an unfair business practice while their competitors remain closed. General Ferguson also announced that Nevada-based JRK Residential Group Inc. will pay nearly $350,000, including almost $300,000 directly to tenants in the form of refunds, payments, and rent forgiveness, to resolve a lawsuit Ferguson filed in April over the company's violations of the state's emergency eviction moratorium. Ferguson's lawsuit was the first filed to enforce one of Gov. Jay Inslee's emergency proclamations.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey announced a $3.9 million settlement to resolve allegations that Johnson & Johnson and two of its specialty corporations engaged in unlawful, unfair and deceptive conduct in the marketing of surgical mesh devices and hip replacement systems.
Twenty consumer groups led by the Campaign for Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy filed a 55-page complaint with the FTC claiming that TikTok had failed to comply with a 2019 FTC settlement of allegations that it had violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
A Colorado restaurant filed a false advertising suit against Grubhub a for allegedly telling consumers that restaurants it doesn't work with are closed and directing those people to establishments that use Grubhub's service.
Most newly registered COVID-19 domains aren't leading to phishing attacks, network security firm Lastline found in a report. Examining newly registered domain data feeds from the Cyberthreat Coalition, PhishLabs and CISA, Lastline determined that of the more than 6,000 examined, phishing domains account for only 2.4 percent in those feeds. Nearly 14 percent offered some kind of pandemic goods or suspicious treatment, but the majority, 84 percent, were not active.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody successfully obtained the appointment of a receiver over the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Foundation to oversee the Foundation's assets amounting to approximately $1.5 million plus some undeveloped parcels of real estate. The order provides that the receiver can use $500,000 of the Foundation's funds to pay creditors, fund the mission of FCADV, distribute money to the state's 42 domestic violence shelters and for administrative costs. The remaining funds will be held by the receiver under court supervision.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost partnered with Philanthropy Ohio and Ohio State University's John Glenn College of Public Affairs to produce The Ohio Nonprofit COVID-19 Survey which captured early reactions of the nonprofit sector to the pandemic, including their concerns and planned actions. According to the report, one in four Ohio nonprofits are not able to provide any services due to economic fallout from the pandemic and an additional 50% are doing so at a significantly reduced capacity.
The National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) released a Survey of State Laws Governing Registration of Charities as of May 15, 2020. The survey includes information regarding relief certain states have provided in light of the COVID-19 crisis. NASCO's goal is to update information on COVID-related changes on a regular basis. NASCO is an association of state offices including attorneys general, secretaries of state and other offices charged with the regulation and oversight of charitable organizations and charitable solicitation in the United States.
New York Attorney General Letitia James applauded passage of legislation that will substantially strengthen New York State's price gouging statute to prevent excessive price increases on essential goods and services, as the state continues to battle the coronavirus disease. The bill (S.8189/A.10270) expands protections against price gouging beyond consumer goods to include any products or services that are vital or necessary to the health, safety, and welfare of consumers or the general public, including medical supplies and equipment, such as ventilators. The legislation also extends protection to small businesses, hospitals and other health care providers, and the State of New York, as they purchase products or services for the benefit of the public.
Veterans and Military News
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a Washington State Court judge ruled that a Tacoma-based towing company and its owner, Kristine Zachary, illegally auctioned off vehicles owned by active-duty military service members in violation of the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act which requires companies to obtain a court order before selling at auction vehicles owned by active duty service members. The court ruled that Burns Towing will be required to pay restitution to all service members who suffered financial losses when the company towed their car.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, NAAG canceled the Consumer Protection Spring Conference in Raleigh that was supposed to take place in May. The meeting will not be rescheduled. NAAG's goal is to reschedule the conference in Raleigh for the Spring 2021 conference. We look forward to the NAAG Consumer Protection Fall Conference which is scheduled for October 26-28, 2020, in Washington, DC and have great hope that schedules will resume to normal by that time. Furthermore, all in-person NAGTRI trainings are cancelled through July 31.
Todd Leatherman, 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 202-326-6044.