Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- President Biden announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is making $15 million available to state attorneys general to increase collaboration with USDA on antitrust enforcement. State attorneys general will be able to submit requests for funding and partner with USDA to secure America’s food systems through more rigorous enforcement of competition laws.
- The Federal Trade Commission and a bipartisan coalition of ten state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against pesticide makers Syngenta and Corteva, alleging anticompetitive practices that have harmed farmers. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of North Carolina, accuses the defendants of using “loyalty programs” with pesticide distributors to exclude generic competitors from the market.
- A multistate coalition of attorneys general submitted a letter supporting the adoption by three of the world’s largest credit card companies (Visa, American Express, and Mastercard) of a new merchant category code for the sale of firearms and ammunition that will aid law enforcement efforts to combat gun violence.
- A coalition of 22 state attorneys general issued a letter in support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rule to restore and strengthen anti-discrimination protections for vulnerable patients under the Affordable Care Act. The new proposed rule would rescind a Trump Administration regulation that rolled back essential anti-discrimination protections in the ACA for people who are transgender, have limited English proficiency, or are seeking reproductive care.
- California Attorney General Rob Bonta, alongside Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman and Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, applauded Governor Gavin Newsom for signing Senate Bill 1311. Senate Bill 1311 strengthens financial and legal protections for active duty service members, veterans, and their families.
- Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody sent a memo to state attorneys in all 20 judicial circuits in Florida, outlining state law requiring that no defendant charged with a theft crime committed in an area under a declared state of emergency may be released prior to a first appearance hearing. Additionally, Attorney General Moody requests that state attorneys seek pretrial detention to the fullest extent possible for defendants who commit crimes during the current state of emergency.
- Attorney General Moody warned Floridians about price gouging, disaster scams and fraud in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
- Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr issued a warning for consumers to be on the lookout for price gouging and scams in response to Tropical Storm Ian.
- Attorney General Carr also released a consumer alert urging Georgia’s older adults and their caregivers to stay informed on how to recognize and avoid some common scams, including grandparent and virtual kidnapping scams, romance scams, law enforcement imposter scams, sweepstakes and lottery scams, utility scams, email scams targeting faith-based communities, and text message scams.
- Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul warned Illinois consumers to be on the lookout for flood-damaged vehicles that soon may be entering the used car market, which is facing shortages nationwide. Attorney General Raoul said while most automobile dealers are legitimate, there are some unscrupulous businesses and individuals who may try to sell flood-damaged cars without revealing a vehicle’s true history.
- Indiana Attorney General Rokita published a consumer alert about important consumer protection concerns for products recalled in September.
- Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced that his office has filed suit against a residential solar energy company, Power Home Solar, LLC, for violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act in selling solar panels to consumers across the country. The lawsuit against Power Home Solar, which re-branded earlier this year to “Pink Energy” amid allegations of improper sales practices, accuses the company of knowingly using defective components that both prevent its system from functioning properly and are at risk of catching fire while installed on consumers’ homes.
- The Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection will be sending restitution checks totaling $96,258 to more than 350 people who were deceived by operators of an alleged tech support scheme. The money was relinquished by a Butte man who assisted scammers in India.
- New York Attorney General Letitia James delivered $2 million to Erie County to bolster consumer protection programs in Western New York. The funding comes from a previous action that Attorney General James took to shut down a predatory debt collection operation that preyed on consumers nationwide. The debt collection operation, comprised of companies including JPL Recovery Solutions, falsely threatened consumers with harsh consequences if they did not pay and inflated the true amount of debts owed.
- Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti announced a consumer restitution program to provide refunds for cancelled “Fan Fest” events organized by Walker Stalkers, LLC. Consumers wishing to request refunds (either for tickets purchased or for fees paid to participate as a vendor) must act quickly, as this program will only accept claims for approximately 120 days.
- Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares publicized that Governor Glenn Youngkin’s declaration of a state of emergency has triggered Virginia’s anti-price gouging statutes designed to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for necessities during an emergency event. Enacted in 2004, Virginia’s Anti-Price Gouging Act prohibits a supplier from charging “unconscionable prices” for “necessary goods and services” during the thirty-day period following a declared state of emergency.
- Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against a Seattle business and its owner for preying on new immigrants by making deceptive promises to help them with legal assistance for immigration needs then later abandoning them in courtrooms after charging thousands of dollars.
- Attorney General Ferguson announced that Washington state is set to receive the maximum $518 million under a resolution with three companies found to have played key roles in fueling the opioid epidemic. All 125 eligible local governments signed onto the half-billion-dollar opioid resolution stemming from Ferguson’s lawsuit.