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2012 Consumer Protection Section Annual Report

2012 Consumer Protection Section Annual Report

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Published by Mike DeWine
2012 Consumer Protection Section Annual Report
2012 Consumer Protection Section Annual Report

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Published by: Mike DeWine on Feb 01, 2013
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 Dear Colleagues:
Consumers who wind up on the short end of a business transaction don’t need a hassle
when they look for help. They want their money back. Or their home improvement projectfinished. Or their credit record set right. At the Ohio A
ttorney General’s Office, we
understand that, and we work to get them the assistance they need as quickly and efficientlyas possible.
Ohio families are affected every day by the decisions they make as consumers. That’s whyour office’s Consumer Protect
ion Section
one of the primary places they turn for help
 takes an aggressive stand against fraud and unfair business practices and a customerservice-oriented approach with consumers.
The section’s work is wide
-ranging. It fielded more than 30,000 consumer complaints in2012. Based on information gleaned from such interactions and other sources, it conductslocal and statewide investigations and partners with other states and federal agencies toenforce consumer laws. The results often mean millions of dollars in restitution andremedies for Ohioans. Or sometimes they simply mean a home improvement project getsdone right.
To target consumer fraud of a criminal nature, the section’s Economic Crimes Unit, which we
created in 2011, assists local law enforcement and prosecutors in identifying, investigating,and prosecuting the worst offenders. In 2012, the unit cracked a fraud ring that bilkedmillions of dollars from consumers nationwide.We also established an Identity Theft Unit to help victims repair the damage caused byidentity theft and move forward. Individuals in the foster care system can be especiallyvulnerable to these problems, so we took special steps to help them.Thousands of Ohioans, including small businesses and nonprofits, receive help each year
through the section’s informal dispute resolution program and training from our consumer
educators. To advance partnership and raise awareness in the fight against fraud, thesection held five community fraud forums throughout the state in 2012, connecting local lawenforcement, caregivers, and other local leaders.
I am proud of these significant strides in protecting Ohio’s families, and you have my
commitment that we will continue to make consumer protection a priority.Very respectfully yours,Mike DeWineOhio Attorney General
Chapter 1345 of the Ohio Revised Code, the Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA), gives thestate Attorney General the duty and enforcement authority to prohibit a supplier fromcommitting an unfair, deceptive, or unconscionable act or practice in connection with aconsumer transaction. It is the primary consumer protection statute in Ohio and one of themost comprehensive consumer protection statutes in the nation. Since its adoption in 1972,the CSPA has proven to be a fair and effective regulatory tool, providing protection forconsumers and marketplace flexibility for businesses.Consumer protection in Ohio has expanded through the years, giving the Attorney General
sConsumer Protection Section the responsibility of enforcing many additional consumerprotection laws through civil legal proceedings. The section has concurrent jurisdiction toenforce numerous federal consumer protection statutes. Although no consumer protectionstatute gives the Attorney General original criminal prosecutorial authority, if a localprosecutor declines a referral, the Attorney General is authorized to prosecute violations of the Homebuyers
Protection Act, Telephone Solicitation Sales Act, and Credit ServicesOrganization Act. Additionally, the section
s Economic Crimes Unit works proactively withlocal law enforcement and prosecutors to assist in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting consumer fraud of a criminal nature.To further protect Ohioans from predatory and illegal business practices, the sectioneducates consumers and businesses about Ohio consumer law and offers a complaintresolution process to resolve disputes between consumers and businesses.The CSPA requires the Attorney General to report annually to the Governor and the GeneralAssembly about operations related to Chapter 1345 of the Ohio Revised Code and violationsof this chapter. Here is a summary of the Consumer Protection Section
s 2012 activities.
The Attorney General is empowered to investigate CSPA violations and enforce the law. Toaccomplish this, the Consumer Protection Section has several tools at its disposal. TheAttorney General may issue a cease-and-desist notice to address a supplier
s behavior. TheAttorney General has authority to enter into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, a formalout-of-court agreement between the Attorney General and the supplier in which the supplieragrees to cease violating the law, to reform business practices, to make appropriaterestitution, and when appropriate, to pay other monetary amounts. Finally, the AttorneyGeneral can pursue litigation to address possible violations. Some cases are handled asmultistate actions in cooperation with other state attorneys general.The Legal and Investigative units work together to ensure compliance with Ohio consumerlaws. In 2012, the Consumer Protection Section opened 322 investigations. It also initiated53 lawsuits for various unfair, deceptive, or unconscionable business practices and obtained43 judgments and Assurances of Voluntary Compliance totaling more than $20 million inconsumer restitution, civil penalties, costs, and other relief.

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