FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | February 9, 2022 | Contact: Genevieve Hulick, firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C. – Today, Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto introduced the Consumer Protection Procedures Amendment Act of 2022. As introduced, this legislation would strengthen the existing Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“CPPA”). The bill would prohibit unfair, deceptive, or misleading charitable practices; clarify protections for vulnerable adults and the elderly; enhance penalties for violators; and ensure that the District’s enforcement agencies have the tools necessary to enforce these protections. This legislation was co-introduced by Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Janeese Lewis George, and Charles Allen.
“The CPPA is one of the most effective legal tools the Office of the Attorney General [OAG] and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs [DCRA] has to protect consumers from a large array of violations––from civil rights and environmental justice, to employment, tenants’ rights, and many more consumer rights,” said Councilmember Pinto. “During Attorney General Karl Racine’s tenure, OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection has expanded its team and successfully prosecuted many consumer protection violations. This work is extraordinary and it has become clear that changes must be made so that OAG may most effectively bring these cases in support in pursuit of consumer protection for District residents.”
“At the Office of the Attorney General, we use the District’s consumer protection laws to stand up for District residents, especially vulnerable residents, and make sure they are not taken advantage of,” said Attorney General Karl Racine. “Thank you to Councilmember Pinto for introducing this needed bill and for her leadership. This bill would further strengthen protections for individuals and families across the District, and help my office continue to hold businesses accountable when they violate the law. I’m grateful to the Council for their continued partnership in our efforts to protect vulnerable residents.”
Consumer protection laws ensure that residents are treated fairly and can make well-informed decisions about the products and services they use. Consumer protection often intersects with other critical issues, including civil rights, child safety, environmental justice, and tenant rights. “We must remain vigilant against fraudulent behavior. The updates we have proposed today protect all of us. But we also know that these additional safeguards will especially help protect our residents who are older, immigrants, and have low-incomes, who are often specifically targeted for exploitation,” said Councilmember Pinto.
As wrong-doers have found ways to evade the safeguards in place, the existing consumer protection statute requires critical updates. OAG, which plays a critical role in protecting consumers in the District, has recently flagged gaps in the current law. For example, in a recent case brought by a non-profit advocacy organization against Facebook, Facebook sought to evade accountability under the law since its services were “free.” This bill would clarify the law to ensure that businesses like Facebook and other social media platforms are prohibited from engaging in unfair business practices that hurt District residents.
The bill would also provide greater protections against scams and prohibit retaliation against residents who report violations. There have been a growing number of incidents in the region when political action committees (PACs) and charitable groups have financially exploited area residents through fraudulent misrepresentations. This bill would authorize OAG to hold these organizations accountable, there by bringing an end to these abusive schemes and deterring future scams. Additionally, there have been incidents when businesses refused to complete the project or make necessary repairs after a resident filed a complaint about misrepresentations by a contractor. This bill would expressly prohibit businesses from retaliating against residents who report violations.
The bill would also expand and strengthen the tools and resources available to OAG to ensure consumer protections are enforced to the fullest extent available. For example, the bill would require that courts award a minimum penalty amount for consumer protection violations to serve as a proper deterrent from future violations. The bill would also give OAG greater authority to investigate consumer protection violations and to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies to ensure that violations are appropriately prosecuted.
In all, the Consumer Protection Procedures Amendatory Act of 2022 would:
This bill will help to ensure that District residents and visitors are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses and individuals and that OAG has the standing to prosecute any entity that violates these safeguards. “District residents deserve to be treated fairly. Our consumer protection laws are a critical safeguard of the dignity and financial well-being of our residents and visitors. I’m grateful for the work OAG does every day to protect District residents and I worked closely with OAG to propose needed updates to the CPPA in furtherance of our shared goal to protect consumers in the District of Columbia,” said Councilmember Pinto.