Rutledge Expands Reach of Office, Protects Consumers During First Year
January 13, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge marked her first full year in office today and said that in 2015 her office resolved 8,000 formal consumer complaints to directly benefit the consumer. From $0.60 on a billing dispute for cable television all the way up to $186,000 on a billing disagreement for pharmaceuticals, the office has worked complaints from all 75 counties and obtained over $43 million in settlement funds, utility cases and informal complaint mediation.
As a result of individual complaints, nearly 75 investigations have been opened by the office and 15 matters have been resolved, including ExxonMobil, Educational Management Corp., Chase, Amgen, Cancer Fund of America, Standard & Poor’s, CMCS Credit Services, USA Publishing, Electronic Multi-Media Marketing Group, Tri-State Pawn, Equifax, Transunion, Experian, Sprint and Verizon. The resolution of these matters impacted more than 583,000 Arkansans.
“I am proud of the hard work of my office to educate Arkansans about scam artists, to mediate dozens of complaints and to push back against an overreaching federal government,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I have personally traveled over 21,000 miles this past year to meet with Arkansans about the services of the Attorney General’s office because I want citizens to know that we are here to do the fighting for them. My dedicated staff has worked consumer complaints in-person in all 75 counties for the first time in the history of the office, bringing a positive result to individuals in each county. In addition to complaint mediation, many investigations are ongoing and dozens of others have been opened over this last year in response to deceptive business practices. While much has been accomplished during my first year, I know we have more to do on behalf of hardworking Arkansans.”
Rutledge has expanded the reach of the office by bringing the office to each county. Under the mobile office program, which began in April, staff met with consumers in person to assist in filing consumer complaints and to answer questions. In total, 88 mobile offices were held in 2015.
Rutledge herself has also traveled to all 75 counties, meeting with business, government and civic leaders listening to their concerns and discussing local issues. Rutledge has hosted 85 roundtables across the State with more than 700 participants and has traveled more than 21,000 miles in her first year in office.
To keep the public informed about common and emerging scams, Rutledge has issued a consumer alert to Arkansans once a week, providing helpful tips to avoid becoming a victim. These alerts have been picked up by countless media outlets and shared repeatedly on social media platforms. Rutledge encourages all Arkansans to sign up to receive these alerts in their email and to share them with friends and family.
The office has updated its charities database with 492 new registrations, bringing the total number of charities registered to approximately 10,000.
Rutledge launched the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s office. This initiative has assisted active-duty military service members, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer-related issues, Veterans Treatment Courts and the Hiring Heroes Program. Rutledge has held roundtables in various regions across the State to hear directly from military and veteran stakeholders. The office has worked collaboratively with the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) in developing the ADVA Verified program, which helps educate donors about veterans’ charities to ensure their expectations are met. The Attorney General’s office also committed to contributing $170,000 to assist ADVA with opening District Veteran Service Offices across the State to help provide much-needed resources and services to Arkansas’s more than 250,000 veterans.
Rutledge has demanded action at the federal level to protect consumers, including urging U.S. House and Senate leadership to preserve the State’s enforcement authority for data breach laws and the Federal Communications Commission to maintain the current safeguards and filters used to protect consumers from spam and phishing text messages. Rutledge continues to push the major phone carriers to provide call-blocking technology to consumers.
Fulfilling a promise to Arkansans, Rutledge has gotten Arkansas off the sidelines and pushed back against an overreaching federal government. Arkansas has sued the Environmental Protection Agency numerous times in an effort to prevent unlawful regulations from harming Arkansas’s economy, small business owners and families. Rutledge’s lawsuit challenging the Waters of the U.S. rule resulted in an injunction nationwide. Other litigation has included challenging the so-called Clean Power Plan, the Ozone rule, regional haze and the State Implementation Plans governing excess emissions during startup, shutdown or malfunction.
Continuing to educate consumers remains a top priority for Rutledge, and in 2015, three summits and over 500 community presentations with more than 30,500 attendees were conducted on various topics, such as Internet safety, cyberbullying, identity theft, prescription drug abuse prevention and the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The Attorney General’s office has also had a presence at 29 conferences to provide educational materials throughout the year. More than 34,500 printed materials, including consumer and Internet safety education publications, Child ID kits and bracelets, and Identity Theft Passports have been distributed to Arkansans.