CHARLESTON – Most businesses are reputable, but when a home repair, a vehicle sale or other transaction goes wrong, our office looks out for consumers.
Our dedicated staff works to protect the consumer's money and personal information from predatory scams and practices. We achieve this through awareness, complaint mediation and, when necessary, vigorous litigation and enforcement.
Make no mistake, we want business to thrive in West Virginia, but every company, charity and organization must adhere to the state's consumer protection laws.
I will accept nothing less.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey
During the most recent reporting year, our office secured more than $113 million in payments to the state, consumer relief and in-kind compensation.
Since 2013, our total now exceeds $320 million. When you factor in protecting the tobacco settlement, that number increases to over $667 million.
That's money back into the pockets of West Virginians, money to improve high-speed internet access and much needed money to fight the scourge of prescription painkiller abuse.
It also demonstrates that no complaint is too large or too small. Our consumer protection hotline receives tens of thousands of calls each year.
Each filed complaint begins with mediation. Our mediators contact the business in question and request a written response.
This introductory step often proves very beneficial. For instance, our mediators closed out 5,870 cases during the most recent reporting year – success valued at more than $1.8 million.
All remaining cases are forwarded to a staff attorney for review. While our staff cannot act as a consumer’s private attorney, our lawyers enforce consumer protection laws in representing the State of West Virginia.
In 2015, our office’s review of high-speed internet complaints involving Frontier Communications led to a $160 million settlement – the largest independently negotiated settlement in the state’s history.
This guaranteed significant improvements in connectivity across West Virginia. It also provided reduced internet bills to more than 27,000 customers and will deliver to their homes an internet speed more in line with what they purchased.
In another case, we fought an abusive debt collector and loan agency all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It led to a $13 million settlement, of which more than $10 million was paid to consumers as restitution.
My office also secured the largest pharmaceutical settlement in the state’s history, which forced 12 drug wholesalers to pay more than $47 million to resolve allegations related to the suspiciously large amount of prescription painkillers shipped into West Virginia.
Our office works feverishly to make the public aware of scams, identity theft and general consumer advice. For instance, our Scam Protection and Awareness Division receives more than 320 calls a month from West Virginians reporting ever-increasing scam activity.
Our office also has consumer outreach and compliance specialists positioned throughout the state. These field representatives travel throughout their regions to assist consumers on a one-by-one basis. I urge every West Virginian to meet our talented staff whenever their mobile office visits a courthouse, senior citizens center or other facility near you.
I hope this strengthens your confidence in our office’s fight to protect consumers.
I urge anyone who feels they have been wronged by an unlawful, irresponsible business practice to file a complaint with my office. Oftentimes this process can begin with a visit to our website, www.wvago.gov, or a call to our Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-368-8808.
Our office is ready, willing and able to help. Together, we can help West Virginia reach her full potential.
Morrisey, a Republican, is West Virginia's Attorney General.