Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- The Attorney General Alliance hosted a symposium, “Colorado Privacy Act: Rights, Obligations, and Next Steps,” to discuss the Act, focusing on the impact of the bill and preparation for its July 1st, 2023 effective date. Colorado is the third state to enact a comprehensive privacy law, following the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act and California Consumer Privacy Act. The bill provides for a universal opt-out mechanism for consumers and a rulemaking provision that allows the Colorado OAG to issue opinion letters and interpretative guidance. Colorado’s OAG will solicit informal input on specific provisions of the Act over the next few months and anticipates the formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will begin in the Fall of 2022.
- A multistate coalition of attorneys general filed a brief with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts arguing that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) does not shield gun manufacturers and dealers from state consumer laws governing the marketing and sale of firearms. The brief was filed in Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc. et al. and supports the Mexican government’s lawsuit brought against seven U.S. gun manufacturers. The brief argues that the PLCAA preserves the right of plaintiffs to bring actions against gun manufacturers and dealers for knowingly violating state consumer protections laws.
- Alaska Attorney General Taylor filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Merry Studio, Inc. for allegedly labeling products as made in Alaska when they were imported from the Philippines. This practice violates Alaska’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.
District of Columbia
- Washington, D.C. Attorney General Racine secured a settlement with Elevate Credit, Inc., resolving a lawsuit alleging Elevate violated the Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) by deceptively marketing two high-cost loan products carrying interest rates up to forty-two times the legal limit. The settlement requires Elevate to pay at least $3.3 million to refund over 2,500 District consumers, waive over $300,000 in interest, and pay $450,00 in civil penalties to the District of Columbia.
- Georgia Attorney General Carr secured a settlement with Rent-A-Center, resolving allegations that the company engaged in deceptive sales and marketing practices in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Rent-A-Center did not admit to the allegations, but agreed to pay $145,590 in civil penalties, and maintain full compliance with Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act and Lease-Purchase Agreement Act.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey secured a consent judgment requiring the dissolution of three companies, New England Hardscapes, Inc., Aqua Outdoor Environments and R and R Consulting, LLC, owned by the defendant, Richard Capachione. The civil complaint alleges that Capachione and his companies collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in consumer deposits that were either never started or abandoned half-way through, thus violating state consumer protection laws and the Home Improvement Contractor Act. Capacchione will pay $150,000 in restitution for unfinished home improvement projects and will be banned from owning or managing any further construction companies.
- Michigan Attorney General Nessel issued a Notice of Intended Action against three pharmacies for alleged price gouging of consumers who purchased at-home COVID-19 test kits. The OAG alleges the pharmacies were charging prices “grossly in excess” of the prices similar kits were being sold at comparable retailers.
- New York Attorney General James announced that refunds were secured for New Yorkers wrongly charged administration fees from two pharmacies, Embassy Pharmacy and Fulton Drugs. Each pharmacy improperly charged a vaccine administration fee of approximately $25 to approximately 200 consumers and each pharmacy is required to reimburse all of the consumers who were improperly charged.
- Ohio Attorney General Yost announced an investigation into GoFundMe for the company’s decision to refund or redirect donations given to demonstrators protesting COVID-19 restrictions in Canada. GoFundMe, after public outcry, announced it will refund all donations in lieu of redirecting any funds.
- Oregon Attorney General Rosenblum testified before the Oregon House Business and Labor Committee in support of House Bill 4017, which creates a “data broker registry” for Oregon. The bill was introduced at the AG’s request and requires data brokers—companies that create and sell consumer profiles of American citizens that collect demographic information, internet use history, and other personal data—to register with the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services. Oregon consumers can use the registry to make inquiries of data brokers or request that the data brokers no longer sell their personal information.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that the OAG has taken legal action against two Pennsylvania used car dealerships, Cars R Us Erie and Martino Motors, for allegedly violating consumer protection laws. Cars R Us agreed to pay the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania $1,000 in civil penalties and follow Pennsylvania’s consumer protection laws under an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance. Martino Motors allegedly violated a previous Assurance of Voluntary Compliance and the OAG seeks to permanently ban Martino Motors from selling vehicles in Pennsylvania.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro secured a settlement with McKinney Properties, Inc. for allegedly charging an illegal administrative charge on top of damage and cleaning charges assessed against tenants’ security deposits, which is illegal under the Landlord Tenant Act. The settlement bars McKinney from charging any administrative costs or fees associated with remedying damages and requires McKinney to pay $25,000 in restitution to the tenants.
- The Washington House passed Attorney General Ferguson’s bill ensuring access to affordable healthcare for Washingtonians. House Bill 1616 will now move to the Senate for consideration. The bill greatly increases the number of Washingtonians eligible for financial assistance for out-of-pocket healthcare costs at hospitals and is designed to ensure medical emergencies do not bankrupt Washingtonians. In Washington, the OAG has the ability to enforce charity care laws by filing lawsuits against hospitals for violating Washington’s Consumer Protection Act if the hospital prevents low-income patients from accessing charity care.