Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Michael Kelly, Director of Communications
Phone: (804)786-5874 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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 4, 2019)-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 $292 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators. The Section has also transferred more than $33 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.

 

"State consumer protection efforts have become increasingly important as the Trump Administration continues to dismantle and undermine federal consumer protection efforts, especially from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau," said Attorney General Herring. "My consumer protection section has returned millions of dollars to Virginia consumers who were scammed by predatory lenders, shady debt collectors, and businesses that try to skirt the law. I will continue to fight for Virginia consumers and make sure they have the tools they need to protect themselves."

 

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
  • By email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • 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 2018, the Dispute Resolution Unit and Section investigators resolved or closed 3,635 consumer complaints and recovered $657,295 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 2018, the Counseling, Intake, and Referral Unit received 23,014 calls through the consumer complaint hotline and received 4,054 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:

 

Predatory lending enforcement-The Section has successfully brought enforcement actions for violations of Virginia's car title loan, consumer finance, payday loan, and pawnbroker statutes.

 

Mortgage foreclosure practices enforcement-The Section has brought action in conjunction with multistate partners for illegal mortgage foreclosure practices (1, 2, 3).

 

Purdue Pharma - Herring filed a lawsuit in June 2018 accusing Purdue Pharma of profiting from an opioid crisis that it helped create and prolong through a decades-long campaign of lies and misrepresentations in violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. Since 2007, 8,000 Virginians have died from an opioid overdose, including 5,000 from a prescription opioid overdose. During the same period, Purdue made false claims about the purported safety, efficacy, and benefits of its opioids, including OxyContin, pumped tens of millions of pills and patches into the Commonwealth of Virginia, and reported billions in profits.

 

Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers - Attorney General Herring filed a lawsuit in May 2018 against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, Inc., a Virginia-based company that sells purported service dogs to consumers nationwide, and its CEO, Charles D. Warren, Jr., for alleged violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions law. The suit alleges that Service Dogs and Warren sold so-called "diabetic alert dogs" for tens of thousands of dollars, when they were often delivering poorly-trained puppies with significant behavioral issues and inadequate skills or training to notify a customer of a potentially life-threatening high or low blood sugar situation. Service Dogs and Warren also misled customers and charitable donors about certain aspects of the business's payment structure, and lied about Warren having served in the armed forces.

 

Wells Fargo - Virginia was part of a $575 million 50-state settlement with Wells Fargo that resolved claims that the bank violated state consumer protection laws. The settlement alleges Wells Fargo opened millions of unauthorized accounts and enrolled customers into online banking services without their knowledge or consent, improperly referred customers for enrollment in third-party renters and life insurance policies, improperly charged auto loan customers for force-placed and unnecessary collateral protection insurance, failed to ensure that customers received refunds of unearned premiums on certain optional auto finance products, and incorrectly charged customers for mortgage rate lock extension fees. Virginia received $11,546,080.46 as its share of the settlement.

 

Consumer advocacy-As the Commonwealth's chief advocate for consumers, the Section filed an amicus brief with the Virginia Supreme Court and comment letters with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in support of consumer interests.

 

Since 2014, Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $292 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators. The Section has also transferred more than $33 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.

 

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