CONSUMER ALERT (COVID-19): New Emergency Protections for DC Residents
This week, the D.C. Council took swift action to pass emergency legislation to protect District residents during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Among other protections, the COVID-19 Response Act prohibits evictions and utility shut-offs, prohibits landlords from charging late fees, outlaws stockpiling of essential goods, and increases price gouging penalties to $5,000 per violation.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is educating residents about these protections and businesses about their legal responsibilities. Our office is also prepared to vigorously enforce the law against wrongdoers who seek to exploit District residents—particularly our most vulnerable—during this crisis.
Protections for Tenants
- Landlords may not evict residential or commercial tenants
- Landlords may not charge late fees for any month
Protections for Consumers
- Utility companies may not disconnect your gas, water, or electric service
- Companies and individuals may not illegally stockpile essential items, such as sanitizer. Violating this stockpiling provision will result in a $5,000 fine per violation.
- Penalties for price gouging (overcharging for goods or services) are increased to $5,000 per violation.
Submit Complaints to OAG
District residents should report violations of these new protections and consumer complaints to OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection by:
OAG has shifted its operating status to telework through April 1, 2020. All OAG offices remain available via email and phone.
COVID-19 Consumer Alert
You can learn about your rights and important tips during this public health emergency by reading our COVID-19 Consumer Alert in the following languages:
ANC Commissioners: Join OAG’s ANC Tele-Townhall on Friday, 3/20
OAG invites ANC Commissioners to join a Tele-Townhall on Friday, March 20, from 11:00am to noon to learn how to inform their community about protections for DC consumers, workers, and tenants, and how to report price gouging, scams, and discrimination. To join the Tele-Townhall, call OAG’s toll-free number at 866-393-0654 and use the Conference ID 2388608. To RSVP or for any questions, email OAGCommunity@dc.gov.
Joining Forces with USAO to Stop COVID-19 Scams
OAG and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have joined forces to deploy our vast criminal and civil tools to protect District residents from fraudulent, predatory, and illegal conduct by schemers and fraudsters. USAO has also launched a COVID-19 Pandemic Fraud Hotline (202-252-7022) and email (USADC.COVID19@usdoj.gov) through which citizens can report suspected scams related to the pandemic. These scams can include someone knocking on your door offering you coronavirus medical tests, or clicking on a link that offers you cash payments from the government. Now is the time to be cautious—take your time, do your research and be vigilant. District residents can also continue to submit complaints to OAG by calling 202-442-9828, emailing Consumer.Protection@dc.gov, or submitting a complaint online.
Viruses Don't Discriminate
This week, President Trump stoked the flames of racism and discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans when he referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus.” This kind of shameful rhetoric spreads discrimination and misinformation. The truth is that viruses do not discriminate—they can affect anyone, no matter your race, ethnic background, age, or gender. Prejudice and hatred are always unacceptable, but especially in this difficult and stressful time. We must pull together to protect our loved ones, coworkers, and neighbors and spread compassion. Learn about the District’s strong civil rights laws that protect residents and how you can report discrimination.
Supporting Small Businesses
Good news last week as a federal judge cleared the way for Safehouse, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, to open a "safe injection site” where high-risk users can consume opioids and receive immediate medical care in the event of an overdose. Last year, in opposition to Trump administration efforts, AG Racine led 8 Attorneys General in supporting the right of states to enact public health policies to combat the opioid crisis and save lives. The District ranks third among states with the highest rate of opioid overdoses. States are on the front lines of the opioid crisis and must have the flexibility to tailor solutions like safe injection sites that can save lives.