Press Release

Law Increasing Civil Penalties Should Provide Strong Deterrent for Consumer Protection Violations

August 2, 2006

(Anchorage) - Attorney General David Márquez applauded today's signing of House Bill 446, legislation introduced by Representative Lesil McGuire that updates and increases the civil penalties that can be imposed on individuals who violate the state's consumer protection laws.

The old law passed in 1974 provided for penalties up to $5,000. The new legislation in effect adjusts that maximum fine for inflation. A $5000 fine in 1974 would be approximately $22,500 in 2006 dollars. HB 446 increased the penalty range up to a maximum penalty of $25,000.

"Representative McGuire's legislation is a vital upgrade for the state's consumer protection efforts," said Márquez. "The increased range puts a lot of bite in the state's ability to combat unfair trade practices and any potential scammer better have second thoughts before targeting innocent Alaska consumers. Representative McGuire has given us a powerful tool to help us implement Governor Murkowski's directive to be effective in protecting Alaska consumers."

A new aspect of this law is the creation of a minimum fine of $1000, in addition to any restitution that is ordered. "When you don't have a minimum fine, some dishonest people will tempt fate because if they get caught they simply have to give consumers their money back," said Márquez. "This is like robbing a bank and thinking you make good just by giving the money back if you get caught. If you try to pull a scam you deserve to be punished."

In addition to the increased size of the penalty individuals who engage in fraudulent conduct can be subject to multiple penalties. Every transaction with a consumer is a separate violation that can result in significant penalties, and each transaction may also have several separate violations.

"This is good legislation and I appreciate Representative McGuire's substantial efforts in bringing it forth. I also want to acknowledge the attorneys on my staff that worked with her and others and the support it received by our state legislators," said Márquez. "It just doesn't pay to play with consumer fraud."

# # #