Arming yourself with information is vital to successfully navigating today’s complex marketplace. The State Corporation Commission encourages Virginians to take charge of their financial future by knowing how to protect their interests and where to turn for help when comparing insurance policies or loans; planning for retirement; reviewing charges on their phone or electric bills; spotting fraudulent offers, or using credit wisely.
In conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week March 4–10, the SCC reminds Virginians that it stands ready throughout the year to answer inquiries, handle complaints and provide information and assistance regarding those 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, sewer and telecommunications services.
The SCC offers numerous consumer guides and other information on a variety of topics. Its specially trained staff can assist Virginians in making informed choices and filing a complaint if they are not satisfied with the responses they receive from regulated entities.
Just a few of the many ways the SCC helps consumers include: facilitating payments by insurance companies for claims that were improperly denied; recovering monies improperly charged on loan transactions and securities offerings; ensuring that utilities provide reliable service and respond promptly to any customer billing issues; reaching out to Virginians before and after disasters, and much more.
“Know the difference between a real deal and a rip-off,” said Ron Thomas, director of the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising. “Don’t fall for high-pressure sales pitches promising sky high returns with little or no risk. Thoroughly evaluate any investment opportunity and get details in writing,” he said.
“When shopping for insurance, compare prices and terms and understand deductibles, co-pays and exclusions. Find products that are suitable for your particular needs and know your rights if a problem occurs,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott White.
“Check your utility bills regularly and question any charges you don’t understand. If your service provider is unable to explain the charges to your satisfaction, we can help,” said Bill Stephens, director of the SCC’s Division of Public Utility Regulation.
“Protect yourself financially by knowing how to spot fraudulent offers, unnecessary fees and unsuitable financial products,” said E.J. Face Jr., Virginia Commissioner of Financial Institutions.
The SCC urges consumers to thoroughly evaluate any offer; keep written records of all transactions, and verify that an individual or company is licensed or registered with the SCC. If a problem arises, consumers are encouraged to try to resolve it with the regulated individual or company first. They can contact the appropriate SCC division by phone, mail or email using the online complaint form if they still are not satisfied. The complaint process and forms are available by going to the SCC website at www.scc.virginia.gov and clicking on the appropriate division. 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, or product, 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, 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.ncpw.gov.