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Karl A. Racine
Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia

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Attorney General Racine Introduces Bill to Improve District’s Consumer-Protection Law

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Amendments to Consumer Protection Procedures Act Follow Best Practices from Other States

Rob Marus, Communications Director: (202) 724-5646; [email protected]
Marrisa Geller, Public Affairs Specialist: (202) 724-5448; [email protected]

WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced today that he has submitted legislation to the Council of the District of Columbia to update the Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), the District’s general consumer protection law. The legislation is designed to update the CPPA to reflect best practices from other states’ consumer protection laws, making it easier for the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to protect consumers in the District from fraud and other abuses.

“Since we launched our Office of Consumer Protection more than a year ago, its attorneys and staff have identified several ways to refine the District’s law to ensure that we are better able to protect consumers,” Attorney General Racine said. “We particularly want to do more to educate and safeguard vulnerable residents like seniors, immigrant communities, and lower-income residents. I look forward to working with the Council as they consider this legislation.”

The CPPA, which prohibits a wide variety of deceptive and unconscionable business practices, is codified at D.C. Official Code §§ 28-3901 to 28-3913. OAG’s proposal would update several portions of the CPPA, including:

  • Prohibiting “unfair business practices” under the CPPA: The CPPA as it currently stands does not prohibit business practices that are “unfair” – that is, practices that cause substantial harm to consumers, that cannot be easily avoided, and that provide no benefit to the marketplace. Many state consumer protection acts and the Federal Trade Commission Act prohibit both practices that are “unfair” and practices that are “deceptive” (e.g., capable of misleading consumers). Adding a cause of action for unfairness to the CPPA will aid OAG’s investigations in cases that cause substantial economic harm to consumers, such as abusive lending practices.
  • Bringing penalties for violating the District’s consumer protection law in line with other states: The CPPA currently provides for a penalty of $1,000 for each violation, which is the lowest per-violation penalty amount of any state consumer protection law. The proposed legislation raises the amount of civil penalties that OAG can assess for an initial violation of the act to $2,500, and to $5,000 per violation for a merchant who repeats the same violation. Raising the penalty amount will not only bring the CPPA in line with the penalties permitted under other state consumer protection acts, but will also help deter bad actors from taking advantage of District consumers.
  • Making it easier to enforce settlements reached by OAG: The legislation makes violations of a settlement with OAG addressing unlawful trade practice a separate violation of the CPPA. The practical impact of this amendment is to make it easier for the Attorney General to seek injunctions in court to stop repeat offenders that are violating their prior settlements with the District.
  • Allowing D.C. courts to consider decisions of the FTC: Many state consumer protection acts, including the CPPA, are modeled after, and contain provisions similar to, the federal FTC Act. The legislation clarifies that courts reviewing cases brought under the CPPA may consider and give due weight to decisions interpreting the FTC Act.

OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection
Attorney General Racine established the Office of Consumer Protection as a standalone unit in November of 2015 to focus and enhance OAG’s efforts to protect consumers. The office receives and mediates complaints from consumers, provides education and outreach to consumers and the media, brings enforcement actions under the CPPA, and recommends any legislative or policy changes necessary to help consumers. For more information about the services OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection provides, follow this link, which links consumers with several resources as well as a consumer protection library.