Consumer Protection Quarterly Newsletter

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Consumer Protection Newsletter

Winter 2020

Covered in this Edition: 

Attorney General Herring Warns Virginias to Watch Out for Coronavirus Scams


Price Gouging Protections In Effect During Coronavirus State of Emergency


Unredacted Complaint Reveals Fentanyl Manufacturer’s Illegal Marketing Practices


Attorney General Herring Shuts Down Deceptive Homeless Veterans Charity


Attorney General Herring Obtains Pro-Consumer Protections in Settlement Concerning T-Mobile, Sprint Merger


Attorney General Herring Sues VA Certificate Service, LLC for Scamming Virginia Businesses


National Consumer Protection Week


Top 10 Consumer Complaint


National Consumer Protection Week

Attorney General Herring joined the Federal Trade Commission and other consumer protection agencies in recognizing March 1-7, 2020 as National Consumer Protection Week. Throughout the week, General Herring highlighted common consumer protection challenges, ways Virginians can protect themselves, and enforcement actions taken by his Consumer Protection Section. Read more about the week here . . . 

Top 10 Consumer Complaints 

Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section serves as the central clearinghouse in Virginia for consumer complaints. In 2019, the Section received approximately 4,200 complaints. Here are the Top 10 complaint categories for 2019:
1.  Auto Sales
2.  Credit, Loans & Debt Collection
3.  Home Improvement, Service & Repair
4.  Internet Sales & Service
5.  Auto Service & Repair
6.  Warranties
7.  Medical/Health Professions
8.  Timeshares
9.  Moving & Transportation Services
10.  Direct Sales & Scams
 

Attorney General Herring Warns Virginians to Watch Out for Coronavirus Scams

As public health concerns continue to increase regarding the coronavirus, Attorney General Herring is urging Virginians to be wary of any coronavirus-related scams. Scams could include selling products that purport to prevent the coronavirus, spreading misinformation, pretending to be public health or other government officials, or fraudulently soliciting donations for victims of the disease. Read more about the scam warning here . . . 

Price Gouging Protections In Effect During Coronavirus State of Emergency 

Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency due to the spread of the coronavirus has triggered Virginia’s anti-price gouging statutes designed to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for necessary goods and services during an emergency. The anti-price gouging law is enforced by Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section. Read more about the law and how to report suspected price gouging here . . . 

Unredacted Complaint Reveals Fentanyl Manufacturer’s Illegal Marketing Practices

Newly unsealed information showed for the first time the extent to which Teva Pharmaceuticals, USA, Inc. and its predecessor Cephalon Inc. lied about the uses and risks of their fentanyl drugs to boost sales. The scale of their deception was revealed in an unredacted Complaint that was made public in Attorney General Herring’s lawsuit against the companies for their role in creating and perpetuating the opioid crisis. The unredacted Complaint shows how the companies took opioids the FDA had only approved for treating cancer patients’ pain and aggressively marketed them for a wide variety of prohibited off-label uses and encouraged non-cancer treating doctors to misprescribe these powerful drugs; discloses the FDA’s previously unknown stern warnings about the drugs, which the companies ignored; and shows how the companies manipulated clinical trial data to hide what they knew about their drugs’ addiction and overdose risks and how they exaggerated the drugs’ overall efficacy and benefits. Read more about the information disclosed in the unredacted complaint here . . .

Attorney General Herring Shuts Down Deceptive Homeless Veterans Charity

Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section recently shut down a deceptive organization that exploited goodwill towards those in the military and misused more than $13 million that was supposed to help homeless veterans. The settlement involves Center for American Homeless Veterans, Inc. and Circle of Friends for American Veterans, two Virginia-based organizations, and their founder Brian Arthur Hampton, who raised funds across the country ostensibly to provide education and assistance for homeless veterans, but a majority of which actually went to pay telemarketers and the salaries of the founder and staff. The settlement shuts down the organizations, permanently bars Hampton from soliciting charitable contributions and holding a fiduciary position with any charitable organization, and requires the payment of $100,000 to charities that provide real assistance to homeless veterans. Read more about the enforcement action here . . .

Attorney General Herring Obtains Pro-Consumer Protections in Settlement Concerning T-Mobile, Sprint Merger

The Attorney General’s Antitrust Unit reached a settlement with T-Mobile, resolving the Commonwealth’s challenge to the company’s merger with Sprint. The agreement includes terms to protect low income subscribers, extend access to underserved communities, and protect current T-Mobile and Sprint employees. T-Mobile also will reimburse Virginia for the costs and fees of its investigation and its litigation challenging the merger. This agreement resolves the legal challenge brought by Attorney General Herring and several other states, which alleged that the merger was unlawful and would lead to reduced competition and increased prices for consumers. Read more about the settlement here . . . 

Attorney General Herring Sues VA Certificate Service, LLC for Scamming Virginia Businesses

Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section filed suit against VA Certificate Service, LLC (VACS) for sending allegedly deceptive mailings to numerous Virginia businesses. VACS purportedly offered services for nearly ten times the price that the same service would cost from the State Corporation Commission (SCC). The suit alleges that VACS sent advertisements to businesses registered with the SCC seeking a $67.25 fee in exchange for a “Virginia Certificate of Good Standing,” a document that can be obtained from the SCC for only $6.00. The mailers also gave the false impression that they came from an official state agency. Read more about the suit here . . . 

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