Attorneys general are often the top consumer watchdogs in their states. Their consumer protection divisions review complaints against individuals, businesses and organizations that engage in deceptive or fraudulent behavior. Attorneys general protect consumers harmed by dishonest business practices, borrowers misled by predatory lenders, and students deceived by predatory for-profit colleges. They prosecute collection agencies that skirt state laws and banks that fail to follow state mortgage rules. They recover millions of dollars each year for consumers and taxpayers.
The attorney general’s role in protecting consumers has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Attorneys general safeguard the public from those who take advantage of misinformation and anxiety during a crisis. Many attorneys general have taken actions against scammers and established COVID-19 information websites to help consumers find accurate information. Attorneys general also ensure that the federal government plays by the rules and enforces federal laws meant to shield consumers.
Below are examples of recent actions taken by attorneys general to protect consumers:
- A coalition of eight AGs filed a lawsuit challenging the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s final rule that creates a loophole allowing predatory lenders to evade state laws that forbid excessive interest-rate charges.
- A coalition of 23 AGs submitted a comment letter opposing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed rule on the collection of time-barred debt. Time-barred debt is debt for which the statute of limitations has expired. The proposed rule failed to protect consumers from abusive and unscrupulous debt collectors.
- A coalition of 52 AGs encouraged the Federal Communications Commission to facilitate continued collaboration among attorneys general and telecom companies to coordinate tracing back illegal robocalls to their source.
- A coalition of 52 AGs sent a letter to the telecommunications industry trade group, USTelecom, urging them to continue to expand their enforcement efforts against illegal robocalls.
- A group of 22 AGs warned the nation’s three Consumer Reporting Agencies that they will not hesitate to enforce safeguards set in place to ensure consumers’ credit is properly protected and that their credit reports are fairly and accurately reported as Americans continue to struggle from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 public health crisis.
- Illinois AG Kwame Raoul urged residents to be vigilant and watch for scammers trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 federal economic stimulus payments to individuals.
- Washington AG Bob Ferguson sent cease and desist letters to Amazon sellers who significantly raised prices on coronavirus-related products like hand sanitizer and N95 masks, warning that continuing their conduct could result in a lawsuit under the state Consumer Protection Act.
- A coalition of 32 AGs urged Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Walmart, and Craigslist to more rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers using their services.
- New York AG Letitia James ordered TV host Wayne Allyn Root to immediately cease and desist marketing products as treatments or cures for coronavirus.
- Massachusetts AG Maura Healey announced that Walgreens entered into two separate settlement agreements totaling $2 million to resolve allegations that it overcharged MassHealth for prescriptions.
- A coalition of 43 AGs reached a settlement with Encore Capital Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries for using illegal tactics to collect unverified debts