Digest 11.19.2020: COVID-19 Fake Cures | Accuracy in Debt Collection Reporting | North Carolina AG Reelected

2020 AG Elections

Just Called: Incumbent Attorney General Wins Second Term in North Carolina

Democratic Attorneys General Association Announces New Leadership Team


FTC Continues to Battle Flood of Fake COVID-19 Cures

  • The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) sent letters to 20 companies warning them to stop making false and unsupported marketing claims about their products’ ability to cure or prevent COVID-19 in violation of the FTC Act.
  • The letters were sent to companies marketing a wide range of products and therapies, including bead bracelets, copper water bottles, light therapy, ozone therapy, injectables, fitness classes, supplements, and water filtration systems.
  • The letters advise recipients that they must immediately stop making COVID-19-related health claims and notify the FTC of their remedial actions within 48 hours of receipt of the letter.
  • As previously reported, the FTC has sent multiple rounds of similar letters to over 330 companies since the pandemic came to the United States.

Alleged Price Gouging at the Pump

  • District of Columbia AG Karl Racine sued gasoline retailer and distributor Capitol Petroleum Group, LLC and related companies (collectively “CPG”) over allegations that CPG illegally price-gouged consumers on gasoline sales during the COVID-19 emergency in violation of the District’s Natural Disaster Consumer Protection Act and Consumer Protection Procedures Act.
  • The complaint alleges that, among other things, CPG price gouged during an emergency and used unfair trade practices by marking up the price of gasoline at its retail gas stations, including, for example, increasing its markup on premium gasoline from nearly 42% before the pandemic to nearly 178% in March 2020.
  • The complaint seeks injunctive relief, restitution, damages, civil penalties, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

CFPB Ensures Debt Collector Reports Accurate Information to Credit Reporting Agencies

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) reached a settlement with non-bank debt collector Afni, Inc. to resolve allegations that it provided inaccurate credit information to consumer reporting agencies (“CRAs”) in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and its implementing rule, Regulation V, and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
  • According to the consent order, the CFPB found, among other things, that Afni knew or had reason to believe that it was providing inaccurate information to CRAs, including incorrect dates as to when customer accounts became delinquent. Afni also allegedly did not investigate consumer disputes in a timely manner or provide the required notices to consumers about the results of its investigations.
  • Under the terms of the consent order, Afni will pay a civil penalty of $500,000 and will take steps to ensure the accuracy of the information it provides to CRAs and to better address consumer disputes, including conducting monthly reviews of account information and of consumer disputes and its responses to these disputes, among other things. Afni is also required to retain an independent consultant to review its activities, policies, and procedures with respect to credit reporting for compliance with the law.


Down the Drain: Waste Disposal Company Agrees to Pay $500,000 for Alleged Money-Saving Scheme

  • Massachusetts AG Maura Healey reached a settlement with waste disposal company Midstate Sewerage to resolve a 2018 lawsuit over allegations that it dumped septage and waste into a municipal system in violation of Massachusetts’s Clean Waters Act, the False Claims Act, and the Hazardous Waste Management Act.
  • According to the AG’s office, among other things, Midstate Sewerage saved thousands of dollars in costs by dumping its waste in a municipal sewer pump station instead of paying the required disposal fees at a water pollution abatement district. Midstate Sewerage also misled the state’s Department of Transportation about its practices to receive payment under a state contract for the proper transportation and disposal of waste.
  • Under the terms of the consent judgment, among other things, Midstate Sewerage will pay $500,000 in penalties and damages, $150,000 of which will be suspended pending compliance with the settlement. In addition, Midstate Sewerage is barred from contracting with state or municipal entities for a period of two years.

Labor & Employment

Court Rules States Can Continue Facilitating Voluntary Paycheck Deductions from Medicaid Workers

  • Six Democratic AGs, led by California AG Xavier Becerra, obtained a decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California that vacated a Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) rule that would have banned state payroll systems from processing voluntary deductions, like health insurance, union dues, and taxes, from the paychecks of Medicaid in-home supportive services workers.
  • According to the complaint, the rule, titled “Medicaid Program; Reassignment of Medicaid Provider Claims,” was promulgated under an erroneous reading of the Medicaid Act’s prohibition against the reassignment of payments for care received to anyone other than the provider of those services. The states argued that the misreading of the Medicaid Act’s provision was a pretext to create a barrier for workers to pay union dues. The complaint further alleged that HHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the rule was not in accordance with the Medicaid Act.
  • The court’s decision vacated the rule and remanded it back to the agency for further consideration.