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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING HIGHLIGHTS CONSUMER PROTECTION RESOURCES AS NATIONAL CONSUMER PROTECTION WEEK BEGINS
~ OAG's enhanced consumer protection operation has returned hundreds of millions of dollars to consumers and taxpayers; cracked down on abusive, deceptive, predatory, and illegal business practices ~
RICHMOND(March 2, 2020)—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 $323 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators. The Section has also transferred more than $55 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.
"My Consumer Protection Section continues to do incredible work to return the millions of dollars Virginians have lost to predatory lenders, shady debt collectors, and other businesses that try to skirt the law,” said Attorney General Herring. "Unfortunately, the federal government continues to rollback protections for consumers, making it even more important for us to pick up the slack at the state level, and make sure that consumers have the information that 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:
- 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 2019, the Dispute Resolution Unit and Section investigators resolved or closed 3,825 consumer complaints and recovered $484,258 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 2019, the Counseling, Intake, and Referral Unit received 23,047 calls through the consumer complaint hotline and received 4,202 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.
Some notable consumer protection achievements under Attorney General Herring's leadership during the past year include:
Roanoke Robocallers – In June 2019, Attorney General Herring filed suit against two Roanoke-based telemarketing companies, and Roanoke resident Bryant Cass, for illegal robocalling and deceptive sales practices. Attorney General Herring alleges that Cass and his companies, Adventis, Inc. and Skyline Metrics, LLC, made hundreds of thousands of unsolicited robocalls nationwide pitching car selling services to people who listed cars for sale on Craigslist, Autotrader.com, or similar sites.
Equifax Settlement – Attorney General Herring announced in July 2019 that he and a bipartisan coalition of 50 attorneys general had reached a $600 million settlement with Equifax as a result of the investigation into a massive 2017 data breach. The investigation found that Equifax's failure to maintain a reasonable security system enabled hackers to penetrate its systems, exposing the data of 56 percent of American adults—the largest-ever breach of consumer data. The settlement includes a Consumer Restitution Fund of up to $425 million, a $175 million payment to the states, which includes $4,302,173.75 for Virginia, and injunctive relief, which also includes a significant financial commitment. This is the largest data breach enforcement action in history.
Generic drug price fixing lawsuit – Attorney General Herring and a bipartisan coalition of 44 states filed a wide-ranging lawsuit against Teva Pharmaceuticals and 19 of the nation's largest generic drug manufacturers alleging a broad conspiracy to artificially inflate and manipulate prices, reduce competition, and unreasonably restrain trade for more than 100 different generic drugs. The drugs at issue account for billions of dollars of sales in the United States, and the alleged schemes increased prescription drug prices for individuals, private insurers, and programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon, Inc. settlement – In October 2019, Attorney General Herring announced that he and 42 other state attorneys general had reached a $116.9 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Ethicon, Inc. to resolve allegations that they deceptively marketed and promoted their transvaginal surgical mesh devices. Virginia received about $3 million as its share of the settlement.
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