Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AG’s have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
- 46 attorney generals announced a $17.5 million settlement against The Home Depot after a multistate investigation of a 2014 data breach perpetuated by hackers that exposed about 40 million consumers’ payment card information. In addition to the $17.5 million payment, The Home Depot has agreed to put a series of data security practices in place, such as providing training to employees, participating in a post-settlement information security assessment, employing a Chief Information Security Officer, and using specific security safeguards like two factor authentication.
- Washington DC Attorney General Racine announced a settlement with DoorDash, Inc. The settlement requires DoorDash to pay $2.5 million to resolve a November 2019 lawsuit accusing it of misleading DC consumers by using tips for employees to subsidize worker payments. As part of the settlement, DoorDash must pay $1.5 million to delivery workers, $750,000 to the District, and $250,000 to two DC charities. DoorDash also must keep a payment model that ensures all tips go to employees without lowering their base pay, and it is required to provide clear and accessible information about its policies and its payment model to employees and consumers.
- Amazon and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (“IPR Center”) are teaming up through Operation Fulfilled Action to help prevent counterfeit goods from entering the U.S. The partnership will rely on Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit intelligence, logistics company DHL, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
- Kentucky Attorney General Cameron announced that an investigation by Kentucky’s Office of Consumer Protection resulted in the conviction of a businessowner for stealing over $60,000 in a roofing scam. The attorney general investigation revealed that the business, Restore-It USA, entered into roof replacement contracts with 16 victims over four months in 2012 and then used the money for personal gain rather than performing the work. The businessowner has been sentenced to five years for each of the eleven counts and must pay $61,298.98 in restitution. The sentences are to run concurrently and are probated for five years, or until the businessowner pays restitution in full.
- New Hampshire Attorney General MacDonald announced violation notices issued to two businesses, White Mountain Tavern and Loudon Village Country Store, pursuant to Emergency Order 52 and Food Service Industry Guidance. The two businesses allegedly failed to comply with requirements related to social distancing and face coverings. The violation notices require the businesses to pay civil penalties of $1,000 and $2,000, respectively.
Friday, November 27, 2020
- New York Attorney General James issued her annual charitable giving report, which found that almost a third of charitable donations end up in professional fundraisers’ pockets. In connection with the report, Attorney General James stated, “Today’s report highlights the high percentage of charitable dollars that are pocketed by outside fundraisers rather than reaching the charity itself. My office will continue to combat charity fraud, and I encourage all New Yorkers to follow our tips to ensure that their money is going to a reputable source this holiday season.” The press release also includes tips for donors, such as researching organizations, not disclosing personal information, donating securely, not being pressured by telemarketers, and reporting suspicious organizations.
Monday, November 30, 2020:
- Idaho Attorney General Wasden announced a settlement agreement with three Idaho gas sellers, Retailers Maverik, Jacksons Food Stores, Inc, and Stinker Stores, Inc., following an investigation into the businesses’ gas prices during the pandemic. The settlement includes $1.5 million in consumer redress through sales credits which will be applied in 2021. The press release reminds readers of Idaho’s price gouging law, stating, “In March, federal and state emergency orders triggered the implementationof Idaho law governing the sale of food, water, fuel and pharmaceuticals during emergency declarations. Specifically, the statute prohibits selling those items at exorbitant or excessive prices while the declaration is in place.”
- DC Attorney General Racine led a bipartisan coalition of 12 attorneys general in an amicus brief in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewskibefore the Supreme Court, defending a rule that encourages local governments to amend laws that raise constitutional questions. The rule requires courts to put an end to litigation if the government amends or rescinds a law or policy due to a constitutional issue if the only remaining claims for relief are for harm that already occurred. The coalition is arguing that the rule avoids lengthy litigation and encourages governments to amend problematic laws early.
- Ohio Attorney General Yost and Iowa Attorney General Miller led a coalition of 49 attorneys general in writing a letter to Congress urging it to extend the December 30, 2020 CARES Act funding deadline. The CARES Act currently limits use of the funding to expenses incurred between March 1 and December 30.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro reminded Pennsylvania citizens of puppy scams as well as that Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law includes the Dog Purchaser Protection provision. This provision ensures that consumers who buy a dog in Pennsylvania know their dog is healthy and establishes other basic standards that dog sellers, purchasers, and veterinarians must meet.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued its final Advisory Opinions Policy to address regulatory uncertainty. Under the Policy, financial services providers seeking to comply with CFPB policies may submit requests for advisory opinions, which will be published in the Federal Register and on the CFPB website. The CFPB will prioritize open questions that can be legally addressed through an interpretive rule, and it will evaluate requests for advisory opinions based on their “alignment with the Bureau’s statutory objectives; [the] size of the benefit offered to consumers by resolution of the interpretive issue; [the] known impact on the actions of other regulators; and [the] impact on available Bureau resources.” The CFPB also issued two advisory opinions, one regarding wage-advance programs and when they fall into the scope of the Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z, and one clarifying that some education loan products that refinance or consolidate pre-existing education loans meet the Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z’s definitions of “private education loan” and therefore their disclosure and other requirements.
- The FTC took action against debt collection company Midwest Recovery Systems for allegedly placing fake or questionable debts onto consumers’ credit reports through illegal “debt parking” and then waiting for consumers to notice the debts when trying to obtain a car or home, open a credit card, or apply for a job, in order to coerce them into paying. The FTC has alleged that the company collected over $24 million on these false debts, which included medical debt. The settlement includes injunctive relief such as a requirement that Midwest Recovery contact credit reporting agencies and request that debts reported by the company be deleted from credit reports, as well as a monetary judgment of $24.3 million.