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Be on the Lookout for Price Gouging

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Be on the Lookout for Price Gouging

Thu, Jun 13, 2019

Says, ‘will hold any business accountable that takes advantage of flood victims’

LITTLE ROCK – As Arkansans continue to recover from the recent historic flooding, some businesses may try to take advantage of consumers by raising prices beyond legal limits. Arkansas’s price-gouging law prohibits businesses from charging more than 10 percent above the pre-disaster price of goods or services.

“I will hold any business accountable that takes advantage of flood victims by illegally overcharging for needed supplies,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Businesses must follow the law and find a balance between supply and demand when pricing goods and services following a declared state of emergency.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to avoid price gouging:

  • Shop around before purchasing goods or services, especially for post-disaster home repairs.
  • Avoid “drive-by” quotes from door-to-door solicitors.
  • When possible, deal with established, reputable businesses in the community.
  • Always get estimates and price quotes in writing.

The price-gouging law is triggered whenever a state of emergency is declared by federal, State or local governments. The ban on price gouging remains in effect for at least 30 days on goods or services related to the emergency (e.g., medical supplies, storage services, motor fuel, etc.) and can be extended another 30 days by the local governing body, if needed. For home repair and cleanup services, the law remains in effect for 180 days. The scope of the law is broad and is intended to cover anything that may be needed in the event of a state of emergency.

While the law sets a general 10 percent cap on price increases during an emergency, businesses may lawfully charge a higher price if they can establish that the higher price is directly attributable to additional costs incurred by the retailer, by its supplier, or as the result of additional costs for labor or materials used to provide the goods or service. In such a limited situation, the business may charge no more than 10 percent above the total of the cost to the business, in addition to the markup which would customarily be applied by the business for the goods or service.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Use Caution When Giving to Those Affected By the Flood

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Use Caution When Giving to Those Affected By the Flood

Thu, Jun 6, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – The record-setting and devastating flooding in Arkansas means many people are looking for charities and organizations to assist those who are directly impacted by the widespread disaster. While there are many organizations collecting money and resources to help fellow Arkansans, there are also some bad actors who are lining their own pockets by posing as legitimate organizations or setting up crowdfunding sites claiming to be giving to those in need.

“It is despicable that some are preying on Arkansans in need and taking advantage of our kind-hearted,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “My office will investigate and go after those who choose to lie, cheat and steal.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tip for those considering helping their fellow Arkansans:

  • Do not fall prey to high-pressure sales tactics as they are often the first sign of an unscrupulous and fraudulent charity.
  • Before getting out a checkbook or credit card in response to a phone solicitation, make attempts to determine the validity of the organization by conducting research.
  • Watch out for similar but different organization names as some con artists will use names like those of existing, reputable nonprofits in order to trick consumers.
  • On crowdfunding sites, determine any relation the organizer has to the recipient and who is in control of the withdrawals.
  • Never send cash. Make check or credit card payments for increased security and for tax purposes.
  • If donating via text message, verify the organization’s number prior to sending information.

Also be wary of charities that pop up quickly in response to the recent flooding and other emergencies. Even if they are legitimate, they oftentimes do not have a system in place to get donations to those in need. Consider giving to an established organization which helps disaster victims in the area.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Beware of Flood Insurance Scams

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Beware of Flood Insurance Scams

Thu, May 30, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – As Arkansas experiences historic flooding and damage, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge warns Arkansans to beware of flood insurance scam artists who will look to steal your money in the midst of the chaos. As the most common natural disaster, flooding can strike at any time, and flood insurance is available to defray the costs of repair and property loss. Flood insurance, however, requires advance preparation and despite what scam artists may say, it cannot be purchased as a quick fix to ongoing flood disasters.

“My heart aches for the many who have and will suffer losses as the Arkansas River continues to rise to record levels this week,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Scam artists see disaster as an opportunity to steal from those in need. Remember, there are insurance options to help Arkansans navigate future threats of flooding disasters, but consumers should be mindful of the limitations and requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program.”

Rutledge released the following tips to help consumers considering flood insurance as an option to protect their property:

  • Flood insurance policies are not instantly effective and generally require 30 days before they become effective;
  • Consult with an insurance agent to purchase a flood insurance policy, and beware of insurance agents that accept the filing of a claim before purchasing a policy;
  • Most homeowners and renters insurance policies do not include flood insurance, and flood insurance must be purchased as a separate policy;
  • Properties that have been flooded in the past may obtain flood insurance policies;
  • The price of flood insurance may vary based upon the risk of flooding at the property location.

Consumers who have additional questions about flood insurance should contact the Arkansas Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2007 or the Arkansas Insurance Department at (800) 282-9134 or (501) 371-2600.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) administers the National Flood Insurance Program, and provides answers to specific questions at https://www.floodsmart.gov/faqs.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: The Vicious Trend of Vaping

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: The Vicious Trend of Vaping

Wed, May 22, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has become a dangerous trend in which too many Arkansas teens are participating. Eight years ago, just two percent of Arkansas teens vaped. Today, more than 20 percent of Arkansas teens vape. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling a vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term “vaping” is used because e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol that actually consists of fine particles containing varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, as well as seizures, respiratory and heart diseases.

“As adults, we need to be watchful of the young people around us and educate them about the dangers of vaping,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Manufacturers make these products to look flashy and appealing to teens. This is an extremely dangerous trend that is hitting Arkansas’s middle and high school students at alarming numbers.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to warn parents, teachers and children of the dangers of vaping e-cigarettes:

  • Review the ingredients carefully because many of them contain substances known to be carcinogenic, such as nicotine, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol.
  • Consult your physician about the risks associated with vaping. One pod used in an e-cigarette can have the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes. Exposure to nicotine can alter the structure and function of developing children’s brains.
  • Remember that studies have shown that nicotine products are highly addictive and is associated with later onset of cigarette smoking habits.
  • Investigate the incidence of product failure as some e-cigarette device batteries have exploded or caught on fire, causing burns or even death.
  • Remember to keep e-cigarette supplies out of the reach of small children as some have become sick or died from swallowing the pleasant-smelling e-juice.
  • Be mindful that e-cigarette pods can be used for illegal purposes such as for odorless marijuana oils based upon online tutorials.

There are many different types of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, most of which contain pods of nicotine-filled e-liquid, sweet-smelling flavorings, and other potentially harmful chemicals. With sweet-smelling aromas and catchy flavor names like Strawberry Watermelon POP, Sunrise Pressed eJuice, Pink Lemonade Risky and Ice Cream, teens are experimenting with, and ultimately becoming addicted, to e-cigarettes. Once they get hooked, teens are often able to hide their addictions from parents, teachers and other adults by purchasing widely available vaping devices disguised as everyday items like pens or USB flash drives.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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In the Market for an RV, Consider Options Before Buying

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: In the Market for an RV, Consider Options Before Buying

Wed, May 15, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – High pressure tactics from unscrupulous salespeople will result in many Arkansans paying for more than they bargain for when they purchase an RV this summer. Although most RV dealers in the state are straightforward and work with customers to find something within their price that suits their needs, the Attorney General’s office has received complaints about some unscrupulous salespersons who convince buyers to sign contracts with terms that unexpectedly raised costs on the final sale price. Consumers should use caution, ask questions and talk to other owners when considering a large purchase such as an RV.

“Unscrupulous salespeople will often try to pressure consumers into making an immediate purchase in the heat of the moment,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans should proceed with extreme caution, take their time and consider if this is the right financial decision for them.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans who are considering purchasing an RV, fifth wheel or camping trailer:

  • Before committing to purchase a travel trailer, take one on a test run or try out a rental.
  • Ensure the towing capacity of current vehicles and determine if any modifications will need to be made to the towing vehicle to ensure safe operation on the open road.
  • Ask if the dealer offers driving tips or training for new owners.
  • Consider where an RV or trailer will be stored when not in use.
  • Find out how to use and where dump stations are located.

Consumers should be mindful of the challenges and costs of repair. In the past, Rutledge has pursued legal action against a Conway County man who was deceiving consumers nationwide about the status of repaired refrigeration units in RVs. In that case, the Attorney General obtained a $1.5 million judgment against NuCold and its owner Jerry Collins.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Vacationers Scammed By Online Hotel Bookers

Vacationers Scammed By Online Hotel Bookers

Wed, May 8, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – Third-party travel websites are popular but some may charge Arkansans unnecessary, hidden fees. As Arkansans begin to make summer vacation plans, they should use caution when going online for services including booking travel through an online third-party vendor.

“Some unscrupulous online travel vendors use deceptive and misleading marketing tactics to convince consumers they are talking directly to a hotel,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “In these situations, the consumer is actually talking to a third party that may charge additional fees and may cause the reservation and any special reservation requests to be lost or incorrectly recorded.”

Attorney General Rutledge urges all Arkansans to observe the recommendations of the Better Business Bureau and the American Hotel and Lodging Association to ensure safe travel booking:

  • Whenever possible, book directly with the hotel or resort.
  • If using a third-party booking site, make sure the site is legitimate. Do not trust a website just because it appears to be legitimate or comes up near the top of online search results.
  • The best hotel deals are often available far in advance. Planning ahead will give the opportunity to research different sites, compare options and amenities, and lock in a good rate.
  • Avoid broad internet searches like “best deals” or “cheapest rates.” Broad search terms can sometimes lead to websites that look official, but are not. Deceptive travel sites often pose as the actual hotel’s website, even using the hotel’s name in the URL and its logo and copyrighted images throughout the site. Double check the website address before providing your credit card information.
  • Call the hotel a few weeks before the travel date to confirm the reservation.

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission settled a federal lawsuit with a third-party hotel-booking website accused of misleading consumers into believing they were booking directly with a hotel.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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