The Attorney General will continue to advocate for important changes to the state’s consumer protection law; Office to share consumer tips, alerts and stories throughout the week
PROVIDENCE, RI – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha will join the Federal Trade Commission and more than 100 federal, state, and local agencies, consumer groups, and national advocacy organizations in participating in the 23rd annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), now through March 6, 2021.
As part of the Office’s responsibility to ensure that consumers are adequately protected from unfair business practices, Attorney General Neronha is once again proposing legislation that would restore the legislatively intended scope of the state’s consumer protection law to reach unfair and deceptive practices impacting consumers.
“To put that in context, I can point to the National Grid gas outage on Aquidneck Island a few winters ago and the ensuing calls by legislators and gas customers for my Office to look into what happened,” said Attorney General Neronha. “Under the current statutory framework, my Office, the State’s consumer protection advocate, could do very little in terms of seeking accountability on behalf of Rhode Islanders.”
Regionally, Rhode Island stands alone in how few protections our consumer protection laws afford. The National Consumer Law Center refers to Rhode Island’s statute as one of the “terrible two” that, along with Michigan’s, have been gutted by court decisions interpreting the law as being applicable to almost no consumer transactions.
In spite of the state’s weak consumer statute, our service to Rhode Island consumers has been stronger than ever. Over the past year, the Attorney General’s consumer protection team has helped thousands of Rhode Islanders navigate through new consumer issues stemming from the pandemic. In fact, of the over 4500 complaints that made up our top five consumer issues from the last year, more than half (56 percent) concerned scams or other COVID-related problems such as cancelled events or travel. Another 900 complaints (or nearly 20 percent) concerned fraudulent unemployment claims.
“From the beginning, COVID-19 created a perfect storm for scammers seeking to take advantage of vulnerable people. From stimulus checks to price gouging to unemployment benefits fraud to false promises of a ‘cure,’ calls to our consumer protection team in the past year have skyrocketed,” said Attorney General Neronha. “In addition to scams, the pandemic caused a whole host of new consumer concerns. People couldn’t go to their gyms, restaurants for which people had gift cards closed, travel was cancelled, events were postponed. I’m proud of the way our Office was able to help people during this time and I know that work is far from over.”
The Office continues to take legal action to combat the opioid crisis in Rhode Island. Earlier this month, the Attorney General brought in $2.59 million for Rhode Island as part of a multistate settlement with McKinsey & Company. This is the first multistate opioid settlement to result in substantial payment to the state and will be used solely to address the impact of the crisis on Rhode Islanders, through treatment, rescue, recovery, and prevention programs. Our lawsuit against a group of major opioid distributors and manufacturers seeking to hold them accountable for their role in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic in our state remains ongoing.
After a year unlike any other, NCPW 2021 will focus on the importance of keeping consumers informed while providing them with tips and information to protect themselves from scams and understand the resources available to them.
Rhode Islanders can follow @AGNeronha on Twitter all this week for the Office’s Top 5 Consumer Complaints and other videos, consumer protection tips, scam alerts, and real stories of Rhode Island consumers who were able to resolve their consumer issues by reaching out to the Attorney General’s Office.
If you have a consumer issue that you need help with, contact our Consumer Protection Unit at (401) 274-4400 or fill out an online complaint form.