Consumer Protection Section
The Consumer Protection Section includes five units: (1) the Counseling, Intake and Referral Unit (“CIRU”); (2) the Dispute Resolution Unit (“DRU”); (3) the Predatory Lending Unit (“PLU”); (4) the Charitable Solicitations and Deceptive Conduct Unit (“CSDCU”); and (5) the Antitrust Unit (“AU”).
Counseling, Intake and Referral Unit
The CIRU serves as the central clearinghouse in Virginia for the receipt, evaluation, and referral of consumer complaints, and operates the state’s consumer hotline through which consumers are educated about where specific complaints should be filed. Complaints received are handled within the CIRU, referred to the Section’s DRU or investigators, or referred to another local, state or federal agency having specific jurisdiction.
Dispute Resolution Unit
The DRU offers alternative dispute resolution services for complaints that do not allege or demonstrate on their face a violation of consumer protection law. Participation in this facilitative process is voluntary and allows both the business representative and the consumer to share their perspectives. Where a complaint alleges or demonstrates on its face a violation of law, the matter may be referred to a Section investigator, who may either attempt to resolve the complaint, or, where a pattern or practice of violations is found, work with Section attorneys in the PLU, CSDCU, or AU to prepare a law enforcement action.
Predatory Lending Unit
The PLU investigates and prosecutes suspected violations of state and federal consumer lending statutes, including laws concerning payday loans, title loans, consumer finance loans, mortgage loans, mortgage servicing, and foreclosure rescue services.
Charitable Solicitations and Deceptive Conduct Unit
The CSDCU investigates and prosecutes suspected violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (“VCPA”), the Solicitation of Contributions law, and other state and federal consumer protection laws. In addition to the VCPA, the Unit enforces a number of other industry-specific and subject-specific statutes enforceable through the VCPA, including the Virginia Health Spa Act, the Virginia Home Solicitation Sales Act, the Prizes and Gifts Act, the Virginia Travel Club Act, and the Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act. The Unit also enforces the Virginia Telephone Privacy Protection Act. Among other federal statutes, the Unit enforces the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, and its accompanying regulations, the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
The AU investigates and prosecutes suspected violations of state and federal antitrust laws, and provides advice to state agencies on antitrust issues. To enforce the antitrust laws and promote competition, the Unit: (1) conducts civil investigations for possible antitrust violations, (2) reviews proposed mergers and other transactions for their potential impact on competition, (3) files civil cases in state and federal courts (either alone or with other States) to enjoin restraints of trade, and to recover monetary losses and civil penalties, and (4) advises state agencies on the competitive implications of government actions.
The Section becomes aware of consumer protection and antitrust enforcement matters through a variety of means: (1) consumer complaints filed with the Section; (2) investigations we initiate and complete internally; (3) investigative referrals from the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; (4) multi-state investigations conducted by various groups of state attorneys general; and (5) referrals from, or joint investigations with, federal agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Richard S. Schweiker, Jr.
Consumer Protection Section
Office of the Attorney General
202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, VA 23219