Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- Following the FDA’s comment request on new over-the-counter hearing aid rules, the National Association of Attorneys General has urged the FDA to preserve states’ authority to enforce their consumer protection laws in connection to the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids. The FDA has been considering a proposal that would, for the first time, allow a new category of over-the-counter hearing aids to be sold directly to consumers without a medical exam or fitting by an audiologist. The bipartisan coalition of 43 attorneys general released a letter cautioning that the rules currently under review by the FDA may unintentionally hinder or repeal important consumer protection authorities—all 50 states currently have professional licensing requirements and protections for hearing aid consumers including advertising restrictions.
- Attorney General Racine sued Google, LLC alleging that the company deceived consumers to gain access to their location data, including making it nearly impossible for users to stop their location from being tracked. The AG asserted that Google collects data on the location of its users even after consumers turn off “Location History” in their account settings. Several other attorneys general, including Washington Attorney General Ferguson have also filed suit in a coordinated series of actions against Google.
- Led by California Attorney General Bonta, a coalition of state attorneys general have challenged an unconstitutional Arkansas law that prohibits healthcare professionals from providing transgender teenagers with medically necessary care. The coalition of 21 attorneys general filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit urging the court to affirm a district court judgment that blocked enforcement of Arkansas Act 626, the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation” or SAFE Act. In their brief, the attorneys general assert the importance of protecting access to gender-affirming healthcare—which adheres to well-accepted medical standards.
- Colorado Attorney General Weiser urged major online real estate marketplace companies to address the risk of illegal price gouging of rental properties on their platforms in the wake of the Marshall fire that destroyed hundreds of homes in Boulder County. In letters sent this week to AirBnB, Zillow, Vrbo, and REColorado, Weiser expressed concern over reports that some landlords excessively raised their prices after so many Coloradans were displaced from their homes after the fire.
- The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced the end of a 21-day emergency closure of commercial and recreational shellfish harvest of oysters, clams and mussels in the Rehoboth Bay that went into effect Dec. 28 after a spill from a residential sewer line in the Long Neck area of Sussex County discharged untreated wastewater into the bay. Fiero was charged with soliciting large, upfront deposits for work, and then failing to perform the work or so poorly performing the work that homeowners had to pay to have everything removed.
- Idaho Attorney General Wasden and the Idaho State Tax Commission released a warning about a scam targeting taxpayers. Individuals have reported receiving threatening letters from the so-called “Tax Processing Center” or “Tax Processing Unit,” claiming the State of Idaho will seize individuals’ property and garnish their wages for unpaid taxes. The letters are the latest iteration of a recurring scam meant to intimidate and steal money from unsuspecting victims.
- Illinois Attorney General Raoul issued a statement announcing that the Center for COVID Control based in Rolling Meadows, Illinois will not reopen in Illinois for the foreseeable future. This closure followed an investigation in response to a number of complaints, which ranged from testing results being delayed or not received at all, to results being provided to individuals who were never administered a test, to tests being stored improperly, and staff incorrectly using PPE and face masks.
- Michigan Attorney General Nessel and Governor Whitmer released an alert about the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, a benefit program now open for enrollment that helps households afford broadband. Continuing to prioritize this matter alongside her efforts to launch the Connecting Michigan Task Force and the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office, Governor Whitmer noted that the Affordable Connectivity Program program “can cut up to $30 from a household’s monthly internet bill and up to $75 on Tribal lands.”
- New Jersey Acting Attorney General Bruck and the Division of Consumer Affairs announced a lawsuit against the National Police Relief Association and several of its board members for allegedly misusing more than $200,000 in charitable donations that were raised primarily to benefit law enforcement officers and their families, and in particular families of officers killed or injured in the line of duty. Instead, the organization made direct payments to the board members and financed their personal expenses, including restaurant outings and vacations to Walt Disney World.
- New York Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against Major Energy Services LLC and Major Energy Electric Services, LLC (together, Major Energy) for overcharging and misleading New York consumers with false advertisements. An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that consumers throughout the state paid tens of millions of dollars more for Major Energy’s services than they would have paid to their local utilities, despite promises that they would save on their electric bill.
- New York Attorney General James and New York State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen today announced the sentencing of Dwight Fiero, a/k/a David Fiero, 44, for his role in a contractor fraud scheme perpetrated against numerous homeowners across the Capital Region. Fiero was charged with soliciting large, upfront deposits for work, and then failing to perform the work or so poorly performing the work that homeowners had to pay to have everything removed.
- New York Attorney General James announced a $600,000 agreement with EyeMed that resolves a 2020 data breach that compromised the personal information of approximately 2.1 million consumers nationwide, including 98,632 in New York state. In 2020, EyeMed experienced a data breach in which attackers gained access to an EyeMed email account with sensitive customer information—including consumers’ names, mailing addresses, social security numbers, identification numbers for health and vision insurance accounts, medical diagnoses and conditions, and medical treatment information.
- North Carolina Attorney General Stein posted an alert about North Carolina’s price gouging law following Governor Cooper’s declaration of a state of emergency ahead of forecasted winter storms. Under the law, which goes into effect after a state of emergency, charging too much for goods or services during a crisis is illegal. A few days later, Stein announced three price gouging settlements totaling more than $80,000 in restitution for North Carolinians who were forced to pay egregious prices during states of emergency.
- Texas Attorney General Paxton filed a lawsuit against Google LLC alleging that the company engaged in false and misleading practices in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. In the lawsuit, Texas seeks a temporary and permanent injunction ordering Google to cease its misleading practices, and civil monetary penalties for past misconduct.