OAKLAND – In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today highlighted ongoing efforts to protect California consumers and urged reporting misconduct or violations of state consumer protection laws to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) at oag.ca.gov/report. Complaints submitted by the public provide DOJ with important information about potential misconduct to help determine whether to investigate a business or individual. Enforcement priorities at DOJ include housing, debt collection, data privacy, higher education, telemarketing and consumer lending.
“The State of California has some of the strongest consumer protections laws in the nation—and we’re busy urging the legislature to make them even stronger,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Unfortunately, unscrupulous businesses continue to prey on consumers and take advantage of opportunities to profit from harm. During National Consumer Protection Week, and all year long, I urge Californians who have been taken advantage of by predatory businesses, individuals, or practices, or have knowledge of any potential legal violations to file a complaint with my office. The leads we get from the public help us identify where companies are trying to skirt the law — and help us to hold those seeking to harm California consumers accountable.”
HOUSING: California is facing a housing shortage and affordability crisis of epic proportions. In February, California Attorney General Bonta sent a letter to the City Attorney of Huntington Beach regarding the city and City Planning Commission’s consideration of a proposed ordinance that would seek to exempt the City of Huntington Beach from the Builder's Remedy provision of the state’s Housing Accountability Act designed to ensure access to affordable housing. The notice comes after Attorney General Bonta announced the creation of a Housing Strike Force within the California Department of Justice in Novemeber 2021, and launched a Housing Portal on DOJ’s website with resources and information for California homeowners and tenants.
The Housing Strike Force encourages Californians to send complaints or tips related to housing to email@example.com. The Housing Strike Force is particularly interested in tips relating to illegal evictions and rent increases, housing discrimination, and mortgage origination and servicing. Information on legal aid in your area is available at www.lawhelpca.org.
DEBT COLLECTION: State law protects Californians from abusive, unfair, or deceptive debt collection practices. Attorney General Bonta urges Californians who receive a notice from a debt collector to respond as soon as possible — even if they do not owe the debt. If you do not, the collector may continue trying to collect the debt, report negative information to credit reporting companies, and even sue you.
Debt collectors cannot repeatedly contact you over a short period of time to annoy or harass you, make false or misleading statements, or contact you at unusual or inconvenient times or places. In November 2022, California Attorney General Bonta filed a brief in support of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in its case against the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts for engaging in illegal debt collection of student loans.
If you believe a debt collector is violating the law, you can file a complaint at oag.ca.gov/report. More information on debt collection can be found at oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/debt-collectors.
DATA PRIVACY: The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) provides consumers with groundbreaking rights over their personal information, including:
- Right to Know – Consumers may request that a business tell them what specific personal information they have collected, shared or sold about them, and why it was collected, shared, or sold.
- Right to Delete — Consumers may request that a business delete personal information that the business collected from the consumer, subject to some exceptions.
- Right to Opt-Out — If a business sells their personal information, consumers may request that it stop doing so.
- Rights for Minors — A business cannot sell the personal information of minors under the age of 16 without their permission and, for children under 13, without parental consent.
- Right to Non-Discrimination — A business may not discriminate against consumers who exercise their rights under the CCPA.
HIGHER EDUCATION: There is a $1.7 trillion student loan debt crisis in the United States, and DOJ is committed to protecting California student loan borrowers from bad actors. In February, Attorney General Bonta co-led a multistate coalition in a comment letter supporting the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) proposed changes to income-driven repayment plans for federal student loan borrowers, helping ensure greater access to more affordable repayment terms. In June 2022, after a decade-long legal battle by DOJ to hold Corinthian Colleges accountable for its predatory conduct, the Attorney General commended ED’s decision to grant federal student loan debt relief to 560,000 borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges. Additionally, in April 2022, DOJ submitted a “borrower defense” application to the ED on behalf of California students defrauded by Education Corp. of America (ECA), seeking full relief for borrowers defrauded by ECA between June 2016 and December 2018.
If you believe you have been the victim of a predatory loan, deceived by a for-profit college, or otherwise taken advantage of, you can file a complaint at oag.ca.gov/report.
TELEMARKETING: Telephone scams, like robocalls and robotexts, can result in people losing millions through phishing texts, imposter scams, and links containing ransomware. Last year alone, consumers reported losing nearly $8.8 billion to scams. If you believe you have been a victim of telephone scams, you can file a complaint with your local authorities or with our office.
In February, Attorney General Bonta issued a consumer alert urging Californians to beware of romance scams and exercise caution in their dealings with strangers. In December 2022, Attorney General Bonta joined a bipartisan coalition in support of the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to require mobile wireless providers to block illegal text messages from phone numbers that are invalid, unallocated, unused, or found on a “do-not-originate” list, in an effort to fight against robotexts.
CONSUMER LENDING: Attorney General Bonta is committed to protecting vulnerable California borrowers from predatory lenders and others who would seek to take advantage of them. Last month, Attorney General Bonta secured a court decision against Curacao, a retail store chain in Southern California, for unlawfully selling insurance through unlicensed, unqualified salespeople as a means to profit from the chain's largely Latino immigrant customer base. In August 2022, the Attorney General announced a $15.5 million settlement against Rent-A-Center, one of the nation’s largest rent-to-own companies, for violations of state consumer protection laws relating to unlawful leasing practices and deceptive marketing. California consumers who have fallen victim to predatory lenders should file a complaint at oag.ca.gov/report.
Californians should also try to avoid certain loans when possible. To avoid getting stuck in a debt trap, avoid payday loans if you can. Payday loans can turn a short-term need for emergency cash into a long-term, unaffordable cycle of high-interest loans that you cannot repay. In California, payday lenders can loan up to $300 and charge a maximum of $45 in fees. Although this fee may not seem too high, the average annual percentage rate for payday loans is 372%. This is a much higher rate than most other loans or credit cards. You can contact the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation to check the license of a payday lender, history of disciplinary actions against a payday lender, or to file a complaint. You can also file a complaint with our office.