Consumer Protection Law

Citizens Count Editor

Note: This write-up was last updated in October 2015. 

State officials have long talked about how to amend the state's Consumer Protection Law to prevent another FRM from happening again in the Granite State.

2015 Legislation

Several legislators sponsored 2015 bills related to consumer protection; see the Legislation History section below for details on all of these bills.  Notably, Sen. Kevin Avard is the primary sponsor of SB 155, a 2015 bill that establishes a process for restitution assistance for victims of the Financial Resources Mortgage (FRM) fraud, using some funds from the Secretary of State. Supporters argue that the state could have done more to prevent the fraud, and therefore the state should contribute to restitution. Opponents point out that no state employee was charged with a crime, so there is no justification for restitution.  SB 155 is still being studied in committee, and may be considered in the 2016 legislative session.

2014 Legislation

In 2014 the state legislature passed two bills related to consumer protection.  First, Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) sponsored SB 306, a bill to create a commission to study New Hampshire mortgage foreclosure law, new federal regulations, and fair foreclosure practices.  Gov. Hassan also signed HB 1282, which protects consumers who purchase pre-buy fuel oil contracts.

2013 Legislation

SB 180, a 2013 bill sponsored by Sen. Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester), would create a fund for the state to pay restitution to victims of the Financial Resources Mortgage (FRM) fraud.  The House tabled SB 180 in January 2014.

HB 565, sponsored by Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter), would require that anyone filing a consumer fraud claim must first file a complaint with the relevant regulatory body (e.g. banking, Public Utlities Commission) and give that body first chance to take enforcement action.  The Governor signed HB 565 into law in 2014.

Previous Legislation

In 2010, the state Legislature took a stab at some reform with the last-minute passage of an amended HB 1490. The bill -- to create a task force to look at, among other things, the regulation of financial institutions -- included an FRM-prompted amendment that would have expanded the authority of the banking commissioner to "enjoin" bad behavior by financial firms. Then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed the legislation on July 13 of that year, saying it "would make changes to the Banking Department’s jurisdiction over consumer complaints against financial institutions that are inconsistent with the Attorney General’s Report concerning Financial Resources Mortgage, Inc. and recommendations for strengthening consumer protections and enforcement."

The state had sought more authority to regulate unfair or deceptive practices in the banking industry, particularly in banking, insurance and securities, which are exempt in the current law from Justice Department oversight. But some in the banking community were concerned about the proposed changes that put more regulatory control in the hands of the attorney general's office.

Gerald Little, president of the New Hampshire Bankers Association, said the changes might curtail business in a fragile moment of economic recovery. He added in a Union Leader article that the current system that allows the commissioners to order restitution is a better way. "The consumer is whole but they got whole without using an attorney," he said. "It's faster, it's quicker, it's neat and the consumer is better served under the legislation we have."

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

Prohibits a utility from requiring a deposit from a residential customer who has received disconnect notices but whose service has not been disconnected.

Killed in the House

Establishes a committee to study state protections from financial fraud.

Signed by Governor

Clarifies some of the language regulating prepaid petroleum contracts.

Killed in the House

Makes it a discriminatory and unfair insurance trade practice to charge higher premiums for automobile and homeowners insurance based on credit rating. This bill also prohibits requesting education level or occupation information and using such information to rate or underwrite casualty insurance.

Killed in the House

Removes the exemption from the Consumer Protection Act for commerce under the jurisdiction of financial institutions and insurance regulators of other state and federal regulators.

Killed in the House

Prohibits financial institutions from demanding a check-cashing fee directly from an employee who does not have an account at such institution.

Killed in the House

States that no public utility can charge a residential customer a deposit exceeding $250.

Killed in the House

Provides that any regulated public utility that fails to restore service to its customers within 3 days shall be liable for damages sustained by the customer.

Interim Study

Makes the failure to deliver home heating fuel in the winter, after the customer pays an arrearage or enters into a reasonable repayment plan, a violation of the consumer protection act

Signed by Governor

Establishes a process to compensate victims of the Financial Resources Mortgage (FRM) fraud.  The House amended SB 155 so that compensation can only come from private donations. The House version of the bill also establishes a private administrator for the program, paid with up to a 10% commission on donations.

Killed in the Senate

Extends the notice required prior to a foreclosure sale of certain properties from 25 days to 60 days

Killed in the House

Makes "spoofing" (the use of misleading or inaccurate caller ID information) an unfair and deceptive act under the Consumer Protection Law

Signed by Governor

Requires a mortgage foreclosure notice to include contact information for the mortgagee and the NH Banking Department, which can offer foreclosure assistance.  Also extends the notice required prior to foreclosure of residential property.

Killed in the Senate

Establishing a commission to study financial fraud laws and the rights of victims of financial fraud

Signed by Governor

Creating a commission to study New Hampshire foreclosure law, new federal regulations, and fair foreclosure practices

Killed in the House

Providing that in a class action lawsuit under the Consumer Protection Ac the amount of monetary damages awarded shall be the actual monetary loss of each class member

Signed by Governor

Adding various protections for consumers who sign pre-buy fuel oil contracts

Tabled in the House

Increasing penalties for violating the Consumer Protection Act

Interim Study

Giving the Banking Department more authority to investigate unfair or deceptive banking practices

Establishing a right to jury trial under the Consumer Protection Act

Killed in the House

Creating a Consumer Protection Task Force

Vetoed by Governor

Creating a task force to review the regulation of financial institutions, including an amendment that would expand the authority of the banking commissioner to "enjoin" bad behavior by financial firms

Should NH pass stricter consumer protection laws?

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