WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto and Attorney General Karl Racine have introduced a new piece of legislation aimed at strengthening consumer protections in the District.

The Consumer Protection Procedures Amendment Act of 2022 is introduced to make the current law stronger. The bill will prohibit unfair, deceptive or misleading charitable practices and also clarify protections for vulnerable adults. Additionally, there will be higher penalties for those who are breaking the law.

“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. 

Consumer protection laws are in place so residents are treated fairly and can make well-informed decisions about the products and services they use. The protection often intersects with other critical issues, including civil rights, child safety, environmental justice, and tenant rights. 

As loopholes have been found by businesses, the existing consumer protection statute requires critical updates. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which plays a critical role in protecting consumers in the District, has recently flagged gaps in the current law.

In all, the Consumer Protection Procedures Amendatory Act of 2022 would:

  • Prohibit fraudulent practices in charitable solicitations, retaliation for filing consumer complaints, abusive practices, and aiding and abetting a merchant in a prohibited trade practice.
  • Clarify that businesses that provide “free” services, such as social media companies, are prohibited from engaging in unfair business practices.
  • Create enhanced remedies to secure greater compliance with consumer protection laws. Such remedies include injunctions against past unfair, deceptive, or misleading practices; asset freezes; receivership or dissolution of violating entities; and mandatory minimum penalties ($500 for first violation, $1,000 for repeat violations, and liability for costs and fees associated with enforcement).
  • Clarify that the injunctive relief sought in prosecutions for financial exploitation of vulnerable adults and elderly persons can include requiring the violator to take affirmative action.
  • Authorize OAG to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies to ensure that violations of the CPPA are appropriately prosecuted.
  • Improve investigation of consumer protection violations by expanding the tools available to OAG, including the ability to require companies to answer written questions under oath. The bill empowers the OAG to gather information in this way so that it can more efficiently investigate and resolve legal violations.
  • Authorize fines, costs, and fees for failure to fully comply with an investigative subpoena.
  • Ensure the District carries out the CPPA to best protect consumers by expanding the rulemaking authority of OAG
  • Require that, if there are conflicting Federal Trade Commission (FTC) interpretations of a term in the CPPA, the CPPA term should be construed in the manner most favorable to consumers.

Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Janeese Lewis George and Charles Allen co-introduced the bill.