Bill would add consumer protection appeal

Should the Consumer Protection Bureau of the attorney general’s office be able to weigh in about matters involving the Consumer Protection Act currently handled by other regulatory agencies, such as the Banking Department?

State Rep. Neil Kurk, R-Weare, says it should, and is sponsoring a bill that would allow consumers to appeal decisions of the agencies to the attorney general, which can then decide to take the businesses to court.

Because those regulatory departments are primarily financed by fees from those they regulate, “it gives the appearance that the agency is not that independent,” Kurk said.

Consumer protection attorneys have long criticized the New Hampshire law, which exempts payday lenders, check-cashing companies, mortgage companies and even car dealers’ financing packages from provisions of the act, which would allow consumers to collect triple damages in court. Insurance and real estate companies also are exempted, because they are regulated by the Insurance Department and the Real Estate Commission.

Kurk said he thinks that the regulatory agencies do a fine job on the whole.

“Most disputes are adequately resolved,” he said. “But when they aren’t, they can go to the attorney general office. It provides a safety valve to the current system, not a wholesale reversal. If the banking department does a good job, it will make no difference.”

Officials from the AG’s office and the Banking Department could not be reached for comment by deadline. – BOB SANDERS

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