Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General
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HERRING HIGHLIGHTS CONSUMER PROTECTION RESOURCES AS NATIONAL CONSUMER PROTECTION WEEK BEGINS
~ OAG's enhanced consumer protection operation has returned hundreds of millions to consumers and taxpayers, cracked down on abusive, deceptive, predatory, and illegal business practices ~
RICHMOND(March 5, 2018)-As National Consumer Protection Week gets underway, Attorney General Mark R. Herring is highlighting the resources available through his Consumer Protection Section to protect Virginians from being exploited by abusive, deceptive, predatory, or illegal business practices. Since 2014, Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $240 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators. The Section has also transferred more than $28.6 million to the Commonwealth's General Fund. Following a major reorganization and enhancement in 2016, the OAG's Consumer Protection Section has been even more effective in fighting for the rights of Virginians.
"As the Trump administration and Mick Mulvaney continue their assault on the CFPB and federal consumer protection resources, we're going to be ready to help pick up the slack at the state level," said Attorney General Herring. "We've gotten millions of dollars returned to consumers from predatory lenders, shady debt collectors, and businesses that play fast and loose with the rules. We'll fight just as hard for one Virginian who lost their money in a scam as we will when we're taking on a giant multinational corporation."
The Virginia Attorney General has significant consumer responsibilities as the primary investigator and enforcer of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. In 2016, Attorney General Herring completed a major restructuring and expansion of his Consumer Protection Section to ensure it aggressively enforces Virginia's consumer protection laws, provides exceptional customer service in resolving complaints and disputes, and provides robust consumer education to keep Virginians from being victimized by fraud, scams, or illegal or abusive business practices.
Virginians who have a question, concern, or complaint about a consumer matter should contact Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section:
- By phone: (800) 552-9963
- Online Complaint Form
- Online Contact Form
The OAG Consumer Protection Section is organized into five Units and an investigative team that work collaboratively to protect the interests of Virginia consumers:
Dispute Resolution Unit, which offers dispute resolution services to individual consumers and businesses to assist them in resolving consumer complaints. The Dispute Resolution Unit can serve as a neutral facilitator and point of contact between consumers and businesses as all parties voluntarily work towards a mutually agreeable outcome. In 2017, the Dispute Resolution Unit and Section investigators resolved or closed 3,213 consumer complaints and recovered $944,106 for consumers.
Counseling, Intake, and Referral Unit, which serves as the central clearinghouse in Virginia for the receipt, evaluation, and referral of consumer complaints, and operates the state's consumer protection hotline. In 2017, the Counseling, Intake, and Referral Unit received 24,135 calls through the consumer complaint hotline and received 3,932 written consumer complaints.
Predatory Lending Unit, which is a first-of-its-kind unit to investigate and prosecute suspected violations of state and federal consumer lending statutes, including laws concerning payday loans, title loans, consumer finance loans, student loans, mortgage loans, and more.
Charitable Solicitations and Deceptive Conduct Unit, which investigates and prosecutes suspected violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act ("VCPA"), the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions law, and other state and federal consumer protection laws.
Antitrust Unit, which investigates and prosecutes suspected violations of state and federal antitrust laws, including large mergers that could hurt consumers through reduced competition and choice.
The reorganization also included the creation of a user-friendly website and a more useful consumer complaint database that allows users to vet businesses by searching company name, industry, or complaint topic within a specified geographic area. Search results now include the date of the filed complaint, the nature of the complaint, and a description of the resolution, if available.
Notable consumer protection achievements under Attorney General Herring's leadership include:
USA Discounters- Virginia successfully led the negotiation of a settlement between 49 states plus the District of Columbia and retailer USA Discounters to resolve the states' claims of deceptive trade practices by the company against its customer base of largely military families and veterans. The settlement has resulted in nearly $100 million of forgiven debt and restitution nationwide, including $27.4 million to thousands of Virginia customers. This is the largest multistate consumer settlement ever led by Virginia.
Freedom Furniture- Virginia partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the state of North Carolina to protect military servicemembers from illegal debt collection practices. Virginia and our enforcement partners alleged that Freedom Stores, Inc., Freedom Acceptance Corporation, and Military Credit Services LLC used illegal tactics to collect debts, including filing illegal lawsuits, debiting consumers' accounts without authorization, and contacting servicemembers' commanding officers. The CFPB and the states filed a consent order in federal court to require the three companies and their owners and chief officers, John Melley and Leonard Melley, Jr. to provide over $2.5 million in consumer redress and to pay a $100,000 civil penalty.
VW settlement-The Commonwealth of Virginia is receiving more than $110 million and qualified Virginia VW owners are receiving tens of millions more in direct compensation under the terms of a settlement addressing Volkswagen's illegal modification of the emissions systems of certain vehicles and violations of state laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive trade practices. As part of the settlement, VW will fix affected vehicles, provide millions in compensation directly to the owners of the more than 20,000 affected VW and Audi vehicles bought or leased in Virginia, compensate the state for violations of consumer protection laws, and establish a trust fund for use on projects to improve the environment by reducing air pollution in the transportation sector.
Fake cancer charity enforcement action-Virginia joined state and federal partners to shut down a series of sham charities whose operators were accused of bilking more than $187 million from donors who thought they were supporting cancer patients. Virginia served on the multistate executive committee that led this unprecedented action brought by the Federal Trade Commission, all 50 states, and the District of Columbia.
E-book price fixing cases-Through two multistate settlements the Consumer Protection Section secured and oversaw the distribution of millions in compensation for Virginia consumers harmed by an illegal price fixing scheme involving e-books.
Mobile "cramming" cases-As part of three multistate settlements, Virginians received compensation for illegal charges by mobile phone carriers Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
Consumer advocacy-As the Commonwealth's chief advocate for consumers, the Section filed amicus briefs with the Virginia Supreme Court and comment letters with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in support of consumer interests.
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