The challenges that consumers and businesses face during uncertain economic times can be demanding and stressful. However, there is a resource that can assist and educate both consumers and businesses when these challenges become difficult to resolve.
Established in 1977, the Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Division of Consumer Affairs has served as the state’s mediator, complaints clearinghouse and educator of the Consumer Protection Act. Consumer Affairs helps investigate violations of the state's Consumer Protection Act while educating consumers on how they can make smarter decisions.
As the nation recognizes March 3-9 as Consumer Protection Week, I want to remind consumers that they are not alone when they are concerned with a questionable charge, business practice or a potential scam. Delayed security deposits, unfinished contractor work and improper car repairs are some of the issues the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs mediates every day.
In state fiscal year 2011-2012, the Division of Consumer Affairs helped recover more than $5 million in products and refunds for consumers. During that same time, our office received almost 42,000 complaints, referrals and inquiries and had more than 60,000 website visits.
The Division of Consumer Affairs’ website offers consumers the opportunity to file complaints online for us to mediate their cases or to explore helpful information and links to other agencies and organizations that also assist Tennesseans.
I travel across the state speaking to different organizations about the importance of being aware and what to do if a person becomes a victim. In those trips, I meet with local sheriffs to establish partnerships in the fight to expose scam artists and others who would prey on the citizens of our state. These county sheriffs have aided our effort to deliver helpful consumer education materials that teach methods to avoid being scammed or red flags that alert citizens to potential fraud and criminal activity. Consumers can receive this information from the calendars, pamphlets and handbooks that are available at our office and our website.
Our division also works with the office of the attorney general to investigate businesses suspected of blatantly violating the Consumer Protection Act and fraud. The office can sue on behalf of the state of Tennessee if its attorneys identify a violation. In addition, the division works with other law enforcement agencies to identify and deal with scams and fraud.
If consumers have questions about the Consumer Protection Act, need to request a complaint form, or would like to report a scam or misleading business practice, they can visit our website at http://consumer.tn.gov or call 1-800-342-8385 if they live inside Tennessee.
Gary W. Cordell
Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs
The opinions expressed in this editorial belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.