Prohibits a utility from requiring a deposit from a residential customer who has received disconnect notices but whose service has not been disconnected.
Consumer Protection Law
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Establishes a committee to study state protections from financial fraud.
Clarifies some of the language regulating prepaid petroleum contracts.
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.
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.
Prohibits financial institutions from demanding a check-cashing fee directly from an employee who does not have an account at such institution.
States that no public utility can charge a residential customer a deposit exceeding $250.
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.
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
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.
Extends the notice required prior to a foreclosure sale of certain properties from 25 days to 60 days
Makes "spoofing" (the use of misleading or inaccurate caller ID information) an unfair and deceptive act under the Consumer Protection Law
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.
Establishing a commission to study financial fraud laws and the rights of victims of financial fraud
Creating a commission to study New Hampshire foreclosure law, new federal regulations, and fair foreclosure practices
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
Adding various protections for consumers who sign pre-buy fuel oil contracts
Increasing penalties for violating the Consumer Protection Act
Giving the Banking Department more authority to investigate unfair or deceptive banking practices
Establishing a right to jury trial under the Consumer Protection Act
Creating a Consumer Protection Task Force
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?
There have been no recent efforts in the NH Legislature to change policy on this issue. As a result, this page is no longer actively updated.
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