Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- A coalition of nine attorneys general successfully challenged bankruptcy plan in the forty-eight state lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for deceptive advertisement of OxyContin. The bankruptcy plan was approved in Sept. 2021. The nine states that challenged the plan settled for an additional $1.175 billion. Purdue Pharma has appealed the original bankruptcy plan, and the newly proposed settlement is contingent on the approval of the bankruptcy plan. The money must be used to help states, cities, and tribes tackle the continued harms of the opioid crisis.
- A bipartisan coalition of attorneys general launched a nationwide investigation into whether TikTok operates and promotes its social media platform to children and teenagers in a manner that either causes or exacerbates physical and mental health harms. Various attorneys general have expressed concern about the negative effects of social media platforms on young adults. The investigation will focus on methods utilized by the platform to encourage engagement, increase the duration of time spent on the platform and increase the frequency of use of the platform. The investigation is led by attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont.
- Many state attorneys general issued notices alerting consumers of the 2021 T-Mobile data breach and highlighted steps for consumers to protect their personal information. The T-Mobile data breach occurred August 2021, and compromised sensitive personal information of millions of current, former and prospective customers, affecting over 53 million individuals. Many states have warned consumers about possible identity theft attempts.
- A handful of state attorneys general issued notices warning consumers about potential issues related to the crisis in Ukraine. For example, New York Attorney General James issued a notice about potential price gouging and cybersecurity threats. Michigan Attorney General Nessel issued a notice about fraudulent charities and reminded consumers to be vigilant prior to sending money to an unknown entity.
- Many state attorneys general issued notices recognizing National Consumer Protection Week, offering consumers advice and warnings about common consumer protection issues and highlighting resources provided by the offices of attorneys general. The notices highlighted common issues such as construction fraud, vehicle fraud, telecommunications scams, consumer debt scams, online purchasing scams and identity theft.
- Colorado Attorney General Weiser announced three settlements, based on his ongoing investigation of the auto-lending guaranteed automobile protection (GAP) market. Ent Credit Union, Premier Members Credit Union and Credit Union of Denver distributed refunds to tens of thousands of Colorado borrowers totaling around six million dollars after failing to return GAP fees to consumers. Investigations into the GAP market, found that lenders neglected to refund unearned fees, which is required by Colorado law.
- Colorado Attorney General Weiser announced that he requested the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate Frontier Airlines regarding flight change policies and customer service practices. Attorney General Weiser has previously requested that the Department of Transportation investigate Frontier Airlines for similar issues and consumer complaints.
- Colorado Attorney General Weiser announced that the Unemployment Fraud Task Force referred 17 criminal cases for prosecution to Colorado’s district attorneys, the Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in its first year. The task force was launched last year to address pandemic-related fraud against the state and to investigate identity theft and employment fraud.
- Georgia Attorney General Carr announced a settlement with Evergreen Publishing Group, LLC, Readers Services, Inc. and their owner, Chris Sidhilall resolving allegations of deceptive telemarketing activities in the course of selling magazine subscriptions. The settlement required the companies to cease telemarketing and the collection of any payments, and to pay approximately $100,000 to the Office of the Attorney General.
- Illinois Attorney General Raoul announced that Edmund Kavanaugh pled guilty to charges of home repair fraud and theft. The defendant, using his business, Goliath Construction, defrauded customers out of thousands of dollars by failing to complete agreed upon home repairs.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced GM Financial agreed to pay more than $1.8 million to resolve allegations that the company’s business practices violated state consumer protection laws. GM Financial allegedly failed to pay legally-required interest after delaying refunds of guaranteed asset protection enrollment fees.
- Missouri Attorney General Schmitt announced a lawsuit against ProCare Pools, LLC for unlawful business practices. The lawsuit alleges the defendants received advance payments for pool installations and maintenance services that were never provided.
- Missouri Attorney General Schmitt announced a lawsuit against Rainworks Irrigation Co. for unlawful business practices. The lawsuit alleges the defendants received advance payments for irrigation system maintenance services that were never provided.
- New York Attorney General James announced a rulemaking process to investigate whether corporations are using the pandemic and inflation as an excuse to unfairly raise the price of basic goods. This marks the first price gouging rulemaking process by the New York Office of the Attorney General and it will examine evidence to determine whether recent price hikes were designed to increase profit versus address the increase in costs. The process may lead to the Office of Attorney General implementing new price gouging rules to address profiteering and corporate greed.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced the state legislature passed House Bill 1616 to increase access to affordable healthcare. The bill will expand charity care eligibility to more than one million Washingtonians and guarantee free hospital care to an additional one million Washingtonians who are currently eligible for discounted care. Attorney General Ferguson has previously filed three lawsuits against Washington hospitals for alleged violations of the state Consumer Protection Act for preventing low-income patients from accessing charity care. The bill was introduced as an “Attorney General Request” bill.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced the state legislature passed Senate Bill 5793 to reduce barriers for low-income individuals with relevant lived experiences to participate in state task forces and workgroups by paying a stipend for their work. Attorney General Ferguson introduced this bill as an “Attorney General Request” bill.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced the state legislature passed House Bill 1725 unanimously, creating an alert in Washington state to help identify missing Indigenous women and people. The system would operate similar to “silver alerts” for missing vulnerable adults and would send broadcast messages through varied public notice tools. Attorney General Ferguson introduced this bill as an “Attorney General Request” bill.