Planning a Trip During the Pandemic? Add Reliability of Travel Agency to Your Worry List
- Massachusetts AG Maura Healey sued online travel agency BookIt Operating, LLC, d/b/a BookIt.com, and its CEO (collectively “BookIt”) for allegedly knowingly collecting money from consumers for travel made impossible by COVID-19 in violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.
- The complaint alleges that, despite suspending its business in March 2020, BookIt continued to take payments from consumers for planned travel, did not forward those payments to the hotels and resorts that consumers booked thereby forcing some consumers to pay double for the same reservation, and has refused to issue refunds to consumers.
- The complaint seeks injunctive relief, restitution, civil penalties, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Attorneys General Bring Down the Hammer on Alleged Price Gougers
- California AG Xavier Becerra sued pharmacist Katrin Golian, d/b/a RxAll Pharmacy, for allegedly selling KN95 masks at a 100% markup in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order on COVID-19 price gouging, which prohibits businesses from selling emergency-related items for more than 50% above the seller’s cost of purchase. A violation of the order is punishable by imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine.
- Ohio AG Dave Yost sued e-commerce sellers Marcus and Ellen Fultz, d/b/a Danielle’s on 2nd, for allegedly hoarding bottles of hand sanitizer and selling them at a markup between 242% and 1,017% the average cost for such products in violation of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, restitution, civil penalties, and attorneys’ costs.
2020 AG Elections
West Virginia Primary Voters Choose a Democratic Nominee for AG
- Labor lawyer Sam Petsonk has been declared the winner of West Virginia’s Democratic primary for AG, which was held on June 9, 2020.
- State Delegate Isaac Sponaugle conceded the closely contested primary, decided by less than 200 votes. As previously reported, the nominee will face incumbent Republican AG Patrick Morrisey, who ran unopposed, in the general election this coming November.
- For more AG election news, insights, and polls, visit Cozen O’Connor’s State AG Election Tracker.
New York Takes a Second Bite: Debt Relief Company Pays Another $3.6 Million over Allegations of Settlement Breach
- New York AG Letitia James reached a settlement with debt relief companies Freedom Debt Relief, LLC and Freedom Financial Network, LLC (collectively “FDR”) to resolve allegations that FDR used misleading advertising to attract consumers in violation of its obligations under a 2011 assurance of discontinuance it entered into with the New York AG’s office.
- According to the AG’s office, under the terms of the 2011 assurance of discontinuance, FDR paid over $1.2 million and agreed to change a number of marketing practices to comply with state and federal law, including refraining from advertising certain savings its programs could help consumers achieve unless those savings were really achieved by the majority of consumers or unless it disclosed specifically which defined group of consumers achieved such savings. But FDR allegedly failed to comply with its advertising obligations, and the majority of its New York customers saw less than half of the savings FDR advertised.
- Under the terms of the proposed consent order, FDR will pay $3.6 million to the AG’s office to be used for restitution, provide an electronic database of New York consumers eligible for restitution, and be subject to additional injunctive terms, including more stringent disclosure requirements.
18 Republican AGs Urge Supreme Court to Stay National Injunction on Energy Pipeline Permitting
- 18 Republican AGs, led by Texas AG Ken Paxton and West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. Corps of Engineers v. Northern Plains Resource Council, No. 19A1053, urging the Supreme Court to stay, pending appeal, a district court order vacating the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 (“NWP-12”) as applied to construction of new oil and gas pipelines anywhere in the United States.
- The brief argues that NWP-12 creates an efficient, cost-effective permitting process for energy infrastructure projects, including pipelines, which are critical to the economies of the amici states, and that the amici states will be negatively impacted by the application of the district court’s order nationwide. The brief notes that the original case involved a single pipeline and none of the parties sought a nationwide injunction for all oil and gas pipelines.
- The brief argues that a stay is appropriate because, among other things, the district court’s order is likely to be overturned for being flawed and overbroad, and because an appeals court had already upheld a prior, substantially similar version of the permit.
Massachusetts Attorney General to Mortgage Servicer: Play by the Rules or Pay a Steep Price
- Massachusetts AG Maura Healey reached a settlement with mortgage servicing company Bayview Loan Servicing LLC (“Bayview”) to resolve allegations that it harassed homeowners in violation of the AG’s debt collection regulations.
- According to the AG’s office, Bayview excessively called hundreds of homeowners about their late mortgage payments and failed to provide homeowners with the required written notice of their right to request a verification that the amount due on their mortgage is accurate.
- Under the terms of the assurance of discontinuance, Bayview agreed to pay $565,000 to the Commonwealth, changed its business practices to comply with the AG’s debt collection regulations, and agreed to be monitored by the AG’s office for compliance with these regulations.