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Attorney General Alerts

Be Responsible

Be Responsible

Fri, Apr 17, 2015

In an effort to keep our communities safe, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is encouraging those who consume alcohol to do it responsibly. April is Alcohol Responsibility Awareness Month. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility is asking everyone to learn more about the importance of alcohol responsibility. This month is also a good time to remind Arkansans about the dangers of drinking and driving.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the number of drunk driving fatalities in Arkansas has dropped 27 percent since 2009, but alcohol is still a factor in more than a quarter of all traffic deaths across the State.

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility notes that car crashes are one of the leading causes of death among teens, and in 2013, 29 percent of young adults killed in crashes had a blood alcohol level of .01 or higher. Also in 2013, Arkansas had more than 120 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, with 16 of those involving impaired drivers under the age of 21. More than 7,800 Arkansans were arrested that same year for driving under the influence.

Attorney General Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate the public about the dangers of drinking and driving and the importance of responsible alcohol consumption for those who decide to drink.

“For many years we have been hearing about the dangers of drinking and driving, but the problem persists,” said Rutledge. “Long-term alcohol consumption can decrease brain function and alertness. This is why it is imperative to educate Arkansans of all ages about alcohol responsibility.”

Responsibility.org advises parents to begin talking with their children about alcohol consumption when they are old enough to ask questions about what their parents are drinking or ask to taste. The conversation should continue through college to make sure teens and young adults know the health and safety risks of over consumption and impaired driving.

The Attorney General offered the following tips to consumers who make the choice to consume alcohol away from their home:

  • Designate a non-drinking driver before the event starts.
  • Don’t let your friends drive impaired. Take their keys away.
  • If you have been drinking, get a ride home or call a taxi.
  • If you’re hosting a party where alcohol will be served, remind your guests to plan ahead and designate their sober driver, offer alcohol-free beverages and make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.

The solution to this problem does not just rest in the hands of law enforcement. Individuals must make the conscious decision to not drink and drive.

For more information about alcohol responsibility, visit responsibility.org.

For consumer-related questions, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division (800) 482-8982.

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Don’t Let a Lemon Leave a Sour Taste

Don’t Let a Lemon Leave a Sour Taste

Fri, Apr 10, 2015

Arkansas’s Lemon Law provides a safety net for some purchasers whose vehicles have recurring problems. Any vehicle less than two years old or which has less than 24,000 miles is covered under the State's Lemon Law. Any recurring problem, including defects that impair the use, value or safety of the vehicle, could trigger this protection.

Many problems with newer cars can be repaired by the dealer at no cost to the purchaser. Occasionally however, a vehicle may experience the same issue or defect several times. When this occurs, Arkansas consumers have the right to request a refund or replacement of the vehicle through the Lemon Law dispute resolution process.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans on how they can protect themselves with the Arkansas New Motor Vehicle Quality Assurance Act, or Lemon Law. State Lemon Laws outline consumer rights and procedures if a vehicle develops a significant problem that cannot be repaired after a certain number of attempts.

“Lemon Law claims can be filed by following a few easy steps and without consumers hiring an attorney,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “My office has issued ‘A Consumer’s Guide to the Arkansas Lemon Law’ to help Arkansans who believe they may have purchased a lemon.”

Any consumer who buys, leases or licenses a new motor vehicle in the State of Arkansas is covered by the Lemon Law during the term of the manufacturer’s warranty for up to two years after the original delivery date of the vehicle, or for the first 24,000 miles, whichever is longer. If the vehicle is transferred to someone else during this period, that owner or person leasing the vehicle is also covered under the Lemon Law.

The Attorney General offered the following tips to consumers who notice nonconformities after purchasing a new vehicle:

Arkansas’s Lemon Law does not cover mopeds, motorcycles, the living quarters of motor homes or most vehicles weighing more than 13,000 pounds. The law also does not cover vehicles that have been substantially altered after its initial sale from the dealer.

For more information on consumer-related topics, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 482-8982 or ArkansasAG.gov.

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Hail Storm Could Come Twice

Hail Storm Could Come Twice

Thu, Apr 2, 2015

Spring is officially here, but with the milder temperatures comes the increased possibility of severe weather. Arkansans know all too well the damage that can occur from tornados, sudden downpours, lightning and hail.

Just this week, several storm systems passed through the Natural State, dropping hail as large as baseballs in some areas. These storms may be quick, but can cause lasting and severe damage to vehicles, sometimes even breaking windshields.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s alert to urge consumers to be cautious as they look for vehicle repair services, and to be aware of con artists who offer these services unsolicited following severe weather. Rutledge also wants consumers to be aware of their rights and beware of the risks when buying damaged cars post-storm in ‘hail sales.’

“After severe weather, scammers pose as ethical contractors offering to repair the dings and dents caused by hail,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Repairs can already be costly and time consuming without the threat of these con artists victimizing Arkansans. Further, some car dealerships will attempt to sell damaged cars to unsuspecting consumers at full price without disclosing the damage upfront.”

Oftentimes, repair con artists will charge higher than normal prices and demand up-front payment for services, but ultimately leave jobs incomplete or fail to begin the work at all.

The Attorney General offered the following tips to consumers who experience hail damage and need to repair their vehicles:

  • Select a reputable repairer. Seek advice from family and friends about servicemen they trust, and never be afraid to ask the person or body shop for references.
  • Get more than one estimate. This allows consumers to compare prices and avoid overpaying.
  • Get everything in writing. A contract should contain details about the price of the work and any agreement on financing. It should indicate the exact work to be done, the type, and quality of materials to be used and the expected completion date.
  • Never pay in advance. Consumers should always inspect the work before making the final payment to make sure the repairs meet their expectations.

Dents and dings caused by hail damage seldom affect the mechanics of a vehicle, but if consumers are planning to participate in a ‘hail sale’ they should be prepared. Buyers should obtain a disclosure of the damage in writing from the seller and also check with their own insurance carriers to see how the hail damage may impact coverage of future repairs.

For information on this and other consumer related topics, please call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline is (800) 482-8982, or visit the Attorney General’s website at www.ArkansasAG.gov.

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It is the Attorney General Calling…or is it?

It is the Attorney General Calling…or is it?

Thu, Mar 26, 2015

Unsolicited telephone calls can be annoying to Arkansas consumers, especially if the calls are from a business or marketing company trying to sell products or services that consumers do not want or need.

But what about when the telephone rings and it appears to be someone calling from a state agency, or even the Attorney General’s Office. Often times, consumers will listen and seek to comply with whatever the state agency needs from them.

Recently, the Attorney General’s Office has learned that scamming debt collectors are posing as the very state agencies that go after them, including the Attorney General’s Office.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to warn Arkansans about this new scam and to offer tips on how best to avoid falling victim.

“As the State’s chief consumer advocate, this scam which claims my office is after consumers is extremely disturbing,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “If an Arkansan receives one of these types of calls and they are suspicious of what they are being asked to do, then hang up and make a call directly to the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or state agency to verify the validity of the request. The Attorney General’s Office would never make such a call.”

Consumers should not be fooled into sending money to these threatening con artists or providing them with any personal or financial information such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or bank account information. Receiving an uninitiated phone call that demands any of this information should immediately raise red flags.

Consumers should keep the following tips in mind to avoid this scam:

  • The Attorney General, the congressional delegation, law enforcement or any federal or state agency do not work on behalf of third-party collectors or threaten arrest for unpaid debts.
  • None of the abovementioned agencies seek or accept a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
  • If a consumer owes money, legitimate collectors must send a written validation notice.
  • Do not confirm or provide personal or financial information over the phone or Internet.

Keep in mind that con artists do not follow the law anyway, so they disregard the do not call registry regularly. Technological advances allow for Caller ID spoofing, so that scammers can disguise the source of the call to evade prosecution.

When answering a suspicious, unwanted call, consumers should write down as much information as they can about the caller, including the name of the person calling, where they purport to be calling from and the phone number. Then, consumers should notify the Attorney General’s Office if they believe themselves to be victims of a scam.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline is (800) 482-8982, or consumers may visit the Attorney General’s website at www.ArkansasAG.gov.

To report violations to the Federal Trade Commission visit www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or call (888) 225-5322.

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What does the FOIA mean for you?

What does the FOIA mean for you?

Thu, Mar 19, 2015

As taxpayers who support governmental entities, Arkansans have a right to review an array of records at every level of government – state and local – and to attend the meetings of policy makers and private organizations that receive public funds and are intertwined with government.

That right is provided by the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a law enacted by the General Assembly in 1967 after a strong push from a coalition of citizens and journalists and with the support of then-Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller. The bill passed the House and Senate without a dissenting vote. Governor Rockefeller later reflected that passage of the FOIA was one of the most significant achievements of his time in office.

Months later, in a landmark decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court was faced with interpreting the FOIA after a court challenge. In its opinion, the Court said: “We have no hesitation in asserting our conviction that the Freedom of Information Act was passed wholly in the public interest and is to be liberally interpreted to the end that its praiseworthy purposes may be achieved.”

The FOIA allows for access to most public records and meetings. The state’s FOIA, a law that is highly regarded across the United States as one of the strongest and most comprehensive, gains greater attention during National Sunshine Week. The annual week in mid-March works to highlight the importance of open and transparent government.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert in recognition of National Sunshine Week and to give consumers a greater understanding of the Arkansas FOIA.

“In Arkansas and across the country, the people must be armed with the power of knowledge and encouraged to be active, informed citizens,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansas has a strong FOIA that helps hold the government accountable and inform citizens about the issues that affect them. As the people’s lawyer, the Attorney General’s Office is committed to protecting the democratic ideal of an open and public government through the FOIA.”

For consumers seeking to gain a greater understanding of the Arkansas FOIA, the Attorney General’s Office joins with a number of other organizations to produce and distribute the Arkansas Freedom of Information Handbook. Print copies of the handbook are available upon request from the Attorney General’s Office and electronic copies of the handbook are available on the Attorney General’s website by visiting http://arkansasag.gov/media-center/foia/.

The FOIA gives the public access to public meetings and public records with some exceptions. The Act defines a public record as essentially any writing, sound or video that is kept and reflects the performance or lack of performance of an official function. Some public records are exempt from disclosure, such as personnel records whose disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of person privacy, or those records that are kept as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Requests for records may be made in person or by phone, but most requests are submitted in writing to the custodian of the records. Since most documents fall into the category of being in “active use” or in “storage,” most entities have up to three business days to produce the information requested.

Arkansans also have the right under the FOIA to attend most meetings of governing bodies. Notice of public meetings must be provided to anyone who has asked to be notified, and notice of special meetings must be provided to members of the news media who have requested notice of such meetings. Governing bodies may only enter into closed sessions for a limited number of reasons, one of which is for the purpose of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of an individual officer or employee.

Consumers who want to learn more about the FOIA can contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit http://arkansasag.gov/media-center/foia/.

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Avoid Getting Swept Away in Fake Sweepstakes

Avoid Getting Swept Away in Fake Sweepstakes

Wed, Mar 11, 2015

Consumer answers their phone and a stranger immediately says, “Congratulations, you are a winner.” Over the past several weeks, reports of these types of calls have increased. Arkansans are being targeted by con artists posing as representatives of sweepstakes companies promising cash prizes.

Every year, thousands of Arkansans are notified by mail, e-mail, or phone, that they are winners in a sweepstakes or lottery. These million dollar prize packages or new cars can be tempting, but Arkansans should resist. These scammers usually ask for a “processing fee” related to the prize but it is a ruse to pocket the “fee” and steal financial information.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert on this common scam to caution Arkansans not to fall victim to these sweepstakes con artists.

“Con artists are looking for quick and easy ways to steal consumers’ money,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “What better way to do that than to convince consumers that they have won a big sweepstakes prize and need to pay a small fee to receive it? Arkansans should always remember that if they have not entered a sweepstakes competition or lottery it is highly unlikely that they are indeed a legitimate winner.”

Callers to the Attorney General’s Office are reporting receiving unsolicited phone calls from an individual claiming to be with Publishers Clearinghouse, a well-known sweepstakes company to most Americans. These callers are promising that consumers are winners and that if they pay a one-time fee, a representative of Publishers Clearinghouse will be on the way to present the consumer with their “winnings.” Most of the time these “winnings” are described as cash, but sometimes are a car or vacation package. Almost all of these calls request the consumer to wire money to a location outside the United States or provide the scammer with the number of a prepaid debit card.

By indicating that the “winnings” are ready to be delivered, these con artists can sound legitimate, but it is highly unlikely that the scammer knows the consumer’s location.

Legitimate sweepstakes or lottery winners are hardly ever notified through an unsolicited call, and legitimate businesses, such as Publishers Clearinghouse, would never require winners to wire money to receive a prize.

Regardless of how the consumer is notified, once the consumer turns over bank account information or wires the funds, there is a good chance the consumer will lose more money when their personal financial information is compromised. When money is wired to a foreign country, it is very difficult, if not almost impossible, to get it returned.

Attorney General Rutledge offers the following tips to consumers to avoid falling victim to sweepstakes scams:

  • Consumers should not try to collect winnings from a sweepstakes they don’t remember entering.
  • Never give out personal financial information.
  • Do not pay any money up front in an attempt to claim a prize.
  • Always remember, if it looks or seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

Consumers should ignore the bogus sweepstakes prizes and immediately call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division to report the call and the number from which it originated. Consumers can contact the office via the Consumer Protection hotline at (800) 482-8982 or by visiting www.ArkansasAG.gov.

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