National Consumer Protection Week: Herring, SCC highlight consumer resources
National Consumer Protection Week is underway, and Attorney General Mark Herring and the State Corporation Commission are highlighting the resources available to consumers.
The AG’s office works through its Consumer Protection Section to protect Virginians from being exploited by abusive, deceptive, predatory, or illegal business practices. Since 2014, CPS has recovered approximately $356 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators and transferred more than $59 million to the Commonwealth’s General Fund.
“I am incredibly proud of the work my Consumer Protection Section has done and continues to do to return the millions of dollars Virginia consumers have lost to shady debt collectors, predatory lenders, and other bad actors who try to skirt the law,” Herring said. “As attorney general, a top priority of mine will always be to ensure that Virginia consumers have all the information and tools they need to make smart decisions and protect themselves.”
Virginians who have a question, concern, or complaint about a consumer matter should contact the Consumer Protection Section:
- By phone: (800) 552-9963
- By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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. Since 2014, the Dispute Resolution Unit and Section investigators have resolved or closed approximately 25,000 consumer complaints and recovered over $7 million 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. Since 2014, the Counseling, Intake, and Referral Unit has received more than 190,000 calls through the consumer complaint hotline and received approximately 29,000 written consumer complaints and approximately 22,500 emails and letters.
- 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 State Corporation Commission reminds Virginians that it stands ready year-round to answer inquiries, handle complaints, and provide information and assistance regarding industry sectors over which it has regulatory responsibility. Those sectors include insurance companies and agents, state-chartered financial institutions, investment firms and their representatives, retail franchises and investor-owned utilities providing electric, natural gas, water, and sewer, along with non-cellular and non-internet telecommunications services.
The SCC also offers many consumer guides and financial information resources on topics like mortgage loans and deposit account information, purchasing insurance, and more. Its specially trained staff can assist Virginians in making informed choices and, if necessary, submitting a complaint against regulated entities for things like an insurance company improperly denying a claim, a loan transaction or securities offering coming with an errant charge, or a utility company billing incorrectly.
The SCC encourages consumers to shop around and compare prices and terms; thoroughly evaluate any offer; keep written records of all transactions; find products and services that suit your particular needs; review statements and bills regularly; learn to spot scams, and verify that an individual or company is properly licensed or registered.
If a problem arises, the SCC urges consumers to try to resolve it with the regulated individual or company first. Consumers can contact the appropriate SCC division by phone, mail or email (using the online complaint) form if they still are not satisfied. Information about the complaint process along with related forms are available from the Consumers section of the SCC website at www.scc.virginia.gov.
To contact the SCC by phone, call toll-free (in Virginia) at 1-800-552-7945 or in Richmond, call:
- Bureau of Insurance – 804-371-9741
- Bureau of Financial Institutions – 804-371-9657
- Division of Securities and Retail Franchising – 804-371-9051
- Division of Public Utility Regulation – 804-371-9611
- Office of the Clerk – 804-371-9733
- Division of Information Resources – 804-371-9141
In the event the SCC does not have regulatory authority over a particular firm, individual, product or transaction, its staff will assist consumers by referring them to the appropriate local, state or federal authority for assistance.
These may include the Attorney General’s Office, local consumer protection office, law enforcement agencies, Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission’s toll-free helpline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
To learn more about National Consumer Protection Week, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov.