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 22 state attorneys general called on the heads of the U.S. Federal Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture to take swift action to eliminate toxic heavy metals in baby food. The letter outlines key strategies for the federal agencies that would allow them to take immediate and widespread action to drive down the levels of dangerous toxic metals in food for babies and young children.
- A multistate coalition of 15 state attorneys general sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, responding to its request for comments on possible causes of the nationwide baby formula shortage. In the letter, the coalition specifically responded to the commission’s request for information concerning “the impact of FDA regulations” on the shortage, as well as the impact of state competitive bidding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
- A coalition of 20 state attorneys general filed an amicus brief urging the United States Supreme Court to grant certiorari in Lowery v. Joffe, a case that stems from the settlement of a 2010 class action lawsuit where plaintiffs alleged that Google’s Street View cars collected millions of consumers’ private data from their WiFi networks without consumers’ knowledge. The parties settled and created a $13 million fund, but the affected consumers have not received any proceeds from the fund.
- 12 state attorneys general filed a brief in a lawsuit against the United States Department of Energy, asking the court to vacate the 2022 rulemaking called “Energy Conservation Program: Product Classes for Residential Dishwashers, Residential Clothes Washers, and Consumer Clothes Dryers.” The brief argues the DOE’s rule violates the EPCA, is arbitrary and capricious, fails to adequately explain the change in policy, doesn’t sufficiently consider reliance interests, and does not supply enough rationale for the DOE’s refusal to create specific standards for performance classes. The suit argues that the rulemaking rolls back 2020 regulations that created a new class for washing machines with shorter wash times and dishwashers with cycle times of 60 minutes or less.
- Alongside Consumer Counsel Claire Coleman, Attorney General William Tong announced a $3 million settlement with Public Power. The settlement resolves allegations that the company failed to publish “next cycle rate” information as required by law, thus denying consumers the chance to switch to another supplier to avoid a rate increase. As part of the agreement, Public Power and its sister companies will permanently exit the electric supplier market.
- Attorney General Tong issued a news release that urged consumers to be wary of potentially deceptive doorknob hangers asking residents to provide water samples for testing. These doorknob hangers reportedly contain a survey card requesting that consumers complete a survey and fill the vial with a sample of their home’s tap water for testing, but do not identify the nature of the solicitor’s business and are not affiliated with any government public health authority or any official water quality warning or advisory.
- Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution secured a multi-year prison sentence for a defendant who used stolen personal information to defraud a senior out of nearly $62,000. The defendant worked with an accomplice to trick a bank into sending a replacement credit card, which was then used by the defendant to purchase items that were not for the senior.
- Attorney General Moody launched the Summer Scams Series, which outlines common scams seen during the summer months, with a video alert about vacation rental scams. These scams involve false postings offering vacation rental properties, with the scammers often requesting an application fee or security deposit.
- Continuing the Summer Scams Series, Attorney General Moody issued a consumer alert to warn Floridians about potential online shopping scams. Scammers mimic summer sales to target consumers with malware, phishing texts and other messages designed to steal personal or financial information.
- Attorney General Daniel Cameron issued tips for service members, veterans, and their families to avoid financial scams. These tips highlighted identity theft, home rental scams, and impersonation scams.
- Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and his Consumer Protection Division reached a settlement of civil charges against Frederick County furniture sellers who were collectively charged with violating the Consumer Protection Act for collecting deposits and other monies from consumers to build custom furniture, and then failing to either provide consumers their ordered goods or to refund their money. The companies were also accused of going out of business to avoid repaying consumers, only to reopen under new names.
- Attorney General John Formella announced that a business called Camps for Grownups, LTD entered a plea of guilty and was sentenced on one felony count of committing unfair and deceptive acts or practices in violation of New Hampshire’s Consumer Protection Act. The business admitted to sending email solicitations, which encouraged consumers to register for a Jazz Camp and maintaining a website that allowed new consumers to register for the Jazz Camp that was scheduled to take place in 2019, despite knowing that the business lacked sufficient funds or a reasonable anticipated source of future funding to hold the camp as advertised.
- Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced the creation of a Reproductive Rights Strike Force, which will initiate civil and criminal enforcement actions and develop other strategic initiatives to protect access to reproductive health care and abortion care for New Jersey residents and residents of other states who travel to New Jersey to access such care. The Strike Force will work with the Office of the Attorney General to coordinate enforcement actions across the entire Department of Law and Public Safety.
- Attorney General Letitia James announced that she has reached an agreement with New York City landlord SGW Properties LLC and their related LLCs for failing to return approximately $296,272 in security deposits to New Yorkers following new changes to security deposit laws. Attorney General James found that SGW failed to comply with the 2019 changes to the state’s rental laws when they did not return security deposits to 129 tenants within 14 days of the tenant vacating the apartment or provide a written itemized list of their reasons for keeping the deposit.
- Attorney General James announced that her office recovered more than $122,000 for more than 690 consumers in New York City who paid for expedited COVID-19 tests but received their results later than the promised 24-hour timeframe.
- Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit seeking to squash a scheme responsible for bombarding U.S. consumers with billions of illegal robocalls. The complaint, filed in federal court in the Southern District of Ohio, names 22 defendants led by individuals who have previously been sued by the Federal Trade Commission for similar robocall practices. The Federal Communications Commission also issued cease and desist letters to some of the same targets in AG Yost’s complaint.