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Vermont Attorney General Hails Major Changes To Consumer Protection Laws
CONTACT: Wendy Morgan, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-5507
June 1, 2012
Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell hailed a series of recent legislative enactments as representing “the most important enhancements to the state’s consumer protection laws in years.” The changes cover everything from illegal internet lending to security breaches to toxic lead in food, which will, according to Attorney General Sorrell, mean a “safer, more secure marketplace for Vermonters.”
Attorney General Sorrell praised the efforts of legislators—and especially the members of the committees that considered the bills, the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs—and of Governor Peter Shumlin, who signed the bills into law.
The following measures, among others, are or will become the law of the State on July 1:
Unlicensed lenders (H.730)—allows a person who has taken on a loan from an unlicensed lender, most often an internet lender, to get a refund of all monies paid from the lender’s processor or, in some instances, from the lender’s bank.
Cause-related marketing (H. 730)—requires companies that market their products by promising to contribute a portion of the purchase price to charity to provide consumers with up-front information on how much money will be donated. The company must also retain records of their sales and contributions.
Lead in food (H. 730)—sets aside the currently lax limit on toxic lead in food, vitamins and other supplements, thereby allowing the Attorney General’s Office to take legal action where appropriate.
Discount membership programs (H. 254)—regulates the sale of discount membership programs by limiting billings to 18 months without a new signup, requiring freestanding quarterly notices, and prohibiting other companies from providing consumers’ billing information to the discount program sellers.
Security breaches (H. 254)—provides for notice of security breach to consumers within no more than 45 days of the breach, and to the Attorney General (who posts the notices).
Structured settlements (H. 778)—provides procedural and substantive standards for Vermont courts when reviewing a proposed buyout of any guaranteed stream of payments stemming from the settlement of a tort lawsuit.
Antitrust collusion (H. 778)—criminalizes price fixing, bid rigging and market allocation among multiple competitors, and prohibits retaliation against persons who oppose anticompetitive acts or assist in prosecuting them.
Recent enactments also specifically help the business community:
Gift certificates (H. 73)—makes Vermont law consistent with federal law and provides a way for businesses to offer promotional gift certificates with expiration dates of less than five years.
Unsolicited goods and services (H.730)—extends protections to businesses which receive unsolicited goods or services, and protects businesses which deliver in error.
Expansion of Consumer Assistance Program (CAP)—additional funding for CAP will allow the program to increase support for Vermont businesses to operate in compliance with Vermont law and minimize exposure to fraud and predatory practices.
In addition, with the Attorney General’s leadership, Vermont has enacted some of the strictest laws in the nation to ensure that Vermont continues to be eligible for the $25 million annually in tobacco settlement money. This year’s amendments enable the state to efficiently collect escrow payments and also to reduce the risk of increased youth smoking and avoid cigarette tax revenue by banning commercial cigarette rolling machines.