WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today released the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Consumer Complaint Report” about problems District consumers are experiencing during the District’s ongoing state of emergency. The report provides a snapshot and analysis of the 634 consumer complaints received by OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection from March 11 to May 11, more than double the number received in January and February. The report also highlights that District consumers complained most about billing and cancellation issues and that health clubs and spas were the most complained-about industry.
“The Office of the Attorney General has taken immediate steps to make sure that consumers are treated fairly during the pandemic and is closely monitoring all incoming complaints for any potential disparities they reveal,” said AG Racine. “I urge District residents to contact our office if they believe a business or individual is treating them unfairly or trying to take advantage of them.”
OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection works on behalf of District residents to stop deceptive and unethical business practices. The Office educates District consumers about their rights and investigates complaints regarding potential violations of the District’s consumer protection laws, and when appropriate, files suits against businesses and individuals that take advantage of District residents. They also assist consumers in resolving disputes through other means, such as mediation.
Since March 11, OAG has received 634 complaints from District consumers. Some of the findings in today’s consumer complaint report include:
- Complaint volume more than doubled during the state of emergency: Complaints received in March and April have more than doubled compared to complaints in January and February of this year. Nearly 70 percent of the complaints received since March 11 have been related to price gouging or other business practices connected to the COVID-19 emergency.
- Consumers in all eight wards complained about price gouging: Complaints of businesses price gouging have been reported in every District ward, with Wards 5 and 6 having the highest number of price gouging complaints. More than 23 complaints of price gouging were confirmed by in-person visits by OAG investigators, which resulted in cease and desist letters. Businesses in all wards except Ward 4 have received cease and desist letters. In addition to seeking compliance through cease and desist letters, OAG has filed one lawsuit against a Ward 7 retailer for price gouging, and the court ordered an immediate halt to the illegal pricing practices.
- Health clubs and spas are most complained-about industry: OAG has identified the top five industries in the District associated with COVID-19 complaints. Among the top three are health clubs and spas (33.4 percent), retail-general merchandise (30.3 percent), and retail-food/grocery (8.9 percent).
- Billing and cancellation is the most complained-about issue: The majority of complaints concern billing and cancellation (46 percent) and price gouging (36 percent). The first week of April had the highest surge in billing and cancellation complaints because that is when many consumers were first charged monthly membership fees for services not provided during the public health emergency.
OAG continues to monitor consumer complaints to understand how the pandemic is affecting District residents and to check for any disparities to low-income communities and people of color. OAG is working to enforce protections for consumers, workers, and tenants so our most vulnerable residents are not left behind during this crisis.
A copy of OAG’s “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Consumer Complaint Report” is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-05/COVID-19-Consumer-Complaint-Report-05-15-20-Final.pdf
Submit Consumer Complaints to OAG
If you would like to report a problem you are having with a business, please contact OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection by:
OAG’s COVID-19 Resources
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, OAG is teleworking until at least May 15. You can access OAG services online and over the phone during our telework period at:
- Website: oag.dc.gov
- Email: email@example.com and OAGCommunity@dc.gov
- Phone: (202) 727-3400
- Fax: (202) 347-8922
- TTY: (202) 727-3400
Consumer Alert: Protect yourself from scams, price gouging, discrimination, and get information about your rights during the pandemic by reading OAG’s Consumer Alert (available in Amharic, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese).
For More District Government COVID-19 Updates visit coronavirus.dc.gov.