Bruce Kim, Executive Director of the Office of Consumer Protection at the State of Hawaii Dept. of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, gave us an overview of the office and its responsibilities under the Hawaii Revised Statutes.
The OCP is consumer counsel for the State of Hawaii and is responsible for investigating and prosecuting allegations of unfair and deceptive trade practices in consumer transactions. OCP also promotes consumer awareness about important consumer protection issues through its programs, media releases and educational materials.
OCP enforces Hawaii’s unfair and deceptive practices laws over a wide range of commercial activities, from payday lenders, unaccredited degree granting educational institutes and mortgage failure rescue scams.
For OCP investigations, showing an entity’s capacity for deception is sufficient to issue a violation; intent or actual deceptions is not required – negligence is enough. Penalties can range from $500 to $10,000, with enhanced penalties against elder abuse. The OCP partners with other states on issues such as a lawsuit against T-Mobile for allowing third-party vendors to cram charges onto consumers’ bills.
Internet violations that cross state boundaries can result in joint enforcement action, as in the case of a Miami debt adjusting firm that contacted a Hawaii consumer online who was behind on their payday loans and accessed their bank account. In this case, they went after the payment processors who were charging fees and successfully obtained a judgment against them. Hawai‘i is at increased risk for mortgage failure rescue fraud due to the higher percentage of those who fall behind payments by more than 90 days. This is reported publicly in the Bureau of Conveyances Foreclosure Filings at Circuit Court, which fraudsters use a list of potential victims.
OCP also operates the Hawaii Residential Landlord-Tenant hotline, a free service that offers information to the general public about the Landlord-Tenant Code. Callers can access the Hotline by calling (808) 586-2634 or by visiting any of the OCP offices between 8 a.m. to noon.
Also, check out OCP’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HIConsumerProtection