Keeping the Car in an Unlawful Yo-Yo Sale

by Jeremiah Ross

I often field calls from people that have been ripped off by an Oregon car dealer in a Yo-Yo Sale. Yo-Yo Sales are also referred to as “bushing scams.” These scams start when a car dealer sells a consumer a vehicle and offers to finance the vehicle. The consumer signs financing paperwork and takes the vehicle home. Usually, the consumer is under the impression the financing is complete and the vehicle is theirs. Unbeknownst to the consumer, the dealer may have made little, if any, effort to find financing on the agreed-upon terms.  Days, weeks, or even months later, the dealer contacts the consumer and informs them financing could not be obtained at the agreed upon terms. The scam is complete when the dealer has the consumer agree to new, less favorable, financing terms for the vehicle. This often results in the consumer paying a higher interest rate, extending the loan terms, and putting an additional down-payment down on the vehicle. Dealers also use this technique to attempt to sell the consumer accessories and add-ons that the consumer initially refused to purchase. Yo-Yo Sales are all too common in Oregon and they are legal, but only if the dealer strictly complies with Oregon law.

Yo-Yo Scams put consumers in a difficult position. The consumer feels pressure to comply with the dealer’s new demands because they have become attached to the new vehicle. If a consumer pushes back and refuses to either sign new loan terms or return the car, the dealership will often threaten to repossess the vehicle or report the vehicle as stolen to law enforcement. If consumers refuse to comply with the dealer’s demands the dealership will usually re-possess the vehicle and may claim that the down payment or trade-in vehicle is being used to offset the damage or mileage on the purchased vehicle. Consumers usually eventually succumb to the dealership’s bullying tactics and end up paying much more for the purchased vehicle than they can afford. I have even represented consumers in cases where the dealerships sent employees to the consumer’s place of employment to attempt to get them to sign new documents with less favorable terms.

Once a lawyer gets involved the dealership may continue those threats and attempt to force the consumer to return the vehicle and then return the down-payment. If the consumer agrees to return the vehicle, the dealer may be at risk for an unlawful trade practices violation (ORS 646.608(1)(ss), ORS 646A.090, and OAR 137-020-0020(3)(p), (x), (y), and (z)) but the dealers will often try to make the case about damages and whether the consumer suffered an “ascertainable loss,” which the consumer must show to prove an unlawful trade practice has occurred.  The dealer sells the purchased vehicle and argues to the court that the consumer has not suffered any loss because the dealer returned the consumer’s down payment, and the consumer was able to drive around in a vehicle for a few weeks or months without a car payment. That is not a good outcome for the consumer.

However, if the dealer broke the law, the consumer can fight to stay in the vehicle by seeking  a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and preliminary injunction after filing a lawsuit. ORCP 79 permits the court to issue a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to prevent illegal conduct from occurring and also in situations where it appears a party’s conduct will render the judgment ineffectual. In other words, ORCP 79 allows the court to issue a restraining order preventing the car dealership from continuing to violate the law or repossessing the vehicle and re-selling it prior to the case being resolved.

This is an aggressive strategy that puts the dealership in a difficult position at the beginning of the case. The dealer will have to explain within a few weeks after the start of the suit why they broke the law during the Yo-Yo Sale. This rapid timeline is more consumer-friendly if the consumer possesses evidence to support their case and can also assist in keeping the case out of private arbitration.

In order for the consumer to seek a TRO, the consumer will have to file a Complaint in Circuit Court. The consumer can simultaneously file the Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause why a preliminary injunction should not enter. In Multnomah County, you must do this through Civil ex parte. A party is not required to do this at the same time as filing the Complaint, but it often makes sense to do so in these cases to prevent the dealership from selling the purchased vehicle.

A TRO may be granted with or without notice.  ORCP 79B.  However, it is best to fax and email a copy of the Complaint, Motion, and any supporting documents to the car dealer prior to appearing at ex parte. It is also a good practice to send a letter informing the dealership that you intend to appear at ex parte and provide them information regarding the time and location of the appearance and to document your efforts to provide notice in your Motion and supporting documentation.

At the hearing on the TRO, the judge can consider a “verified copy of the Complaint” and any other documents, affidavits, or declarations that you present. However, keep in mind that these hearings go very quickly, and the judge will not have much time to review the pleadings and submissions.

The consumer must emphasize in their memorandum in support of the motion and at the hearing that the TRO is needed to prevent the continuation of the Yo-Yo Sale that is in violation of the UTPA, federal statutes, or Oregon administrative rules. ORS 646.636 specifically permits the court to “make such additional orders or judgments as may be necessary to restore to any person in interest any money or property, real or personal, of which the person was deprived by means of any practice declared to be unlawful in ORS 646.607 or 646.608 or as may be necessary to ensure the cessation of unlawful trade practices.” The TRO and Preliminary Injunction is an order to ensure the cessation of the unlawful trade practices and is necessary to restore the consumer’s interest in the property. It is good to have evidence that the dealer has threatened to repossess the vehicle and how repossession would affect the consumer.

The other issue to highlight to the court is that the consumer has suffered an “ascertainable loss.” An “ascertainable loss” is not synonymous with damages. Simonsen v. Sandy River Auto, LLC 290 Or App 80 (2018) affirmed that an ascertainable loss can be more than a quantified measurement of diminished market value.  If the consumer was unable to obtain financing on the promised terms, that is an ascertainable loss.  If the consumer provided a down payment or had a trade-in vehicle that was not returned, that is an ascertainable loss.  However, there are also subtler ascertainable losses such as not being able to have the vehicle registered in their name. This loss occurs because the dealer has yet to submit the documents to the DMV.  Another ascertainable loss may be loss of use of the vehicle after having to park the vehicle in a garage or other area to prevent it from being repossessed. Moreover, any modifications made to the vehicle or repair work done on the vehicle could be an ascertainable loss if the consumer must return the vehicle.

Once you have made a prima facie case that the dealership has violated the UTPA (ORS 646.608, et seq.), then you must address the issue of “security,” usually in the form of a bond. An applicant for a preliminary injunction is required to give security, “in such sum as the court deems proper, for the payment of such costs, damages, and attorney fees as may be incurred or suffered by any party who is found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.” I have argued successfully in these circumstances that the security should be the amount of the monthly payment that the consumer had agreed upon in the initial retail installment contract or financing agreement. The court ordered that the consumer’s monthly payment be made to the court and be held by the court until otherwise ordered. If the court refuses this type of arrangement, then security bonds can be purchased through commercial brokers.

It is good practice to bring a pre-drafted Order with you that incorporates the necessary requirements under ORCP 79B(2). If the court grants the TRO it will sign the order and set a hearing on the preliminary injunction within 10 days, unless good cause exists to extend that time. Then you must prepare for the preliminary hearing.

You must provide the dealership at least five days’ notice of the preliminary injunction hearing. The hearing on a preliminary injunction is essentially a mini bench trial and the party seeking the injunction must make prima facie showing on each element.  You must put on evidence, which may require you to subpoena a witness or documents. You should also prepare a pre-hearing memorandum explaining why a preliminary injunction is necessary. These are typically the same reasons articulated in your memorandum in support of the TRO. You may need to request discovery and will have to move the court to do so either during the hearing on the TRO or before the preliminary injunction hearing. Every case is different and will present unique tactical and strategic decisions regarding how to present evidence, the types of evidence, and how you will introduce it. Additionally, you can consider stipulating that all evidence that is received into evidence at the preliminary injunction hearing also be considered received into evidence at trial. Again, these are strategic and tactical decisions that must be made and considered.

Another thing to consider is that the legal authority on Oregon’s provisional process rules is scant. ORCP 83C prevents using the “provisional process” statute in cases arising from consumer transactions. This may be an issue that comes up at your hearing. However, it is important to remind the court that ORCP 83 and 85 are tools for the dealerships and finance companies to use when someone isn’t honoring their end of the contract. ORCP 79 is available for consumers that are victims of consumer scams and Yo-Yo Sales.

Consumers should not be forced into a difficult decision because of the dealership’s disregard for the law. TRO’s and preliminary injunctions are a way for the consumer to level the playing field, maintain the status quo, and prevent the dealership from repossessing the vehicle. They are time-consuming and they can be risky, but they also can be powerful tools to stop the dealership’s unlawful conduct.

If you or someone you know has been ripped off or is a victim of auto dealership fraud call Oregon Consumer Attorney Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658. Please remember that the law is constantly changing, and this is not to be considered legal advice.

Recent Court Decisions Impacting Consumers

April 2021 was a big month for consumer related cases.  This article will provide a brief overview of four recent court decisions throughout the country with the potential to have a big impact on consumers moving forward.

AMG Capital Management, LLC v. Federal Trade Commission

On April 22 the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 9-0 decision, made it much harder for the Federal Trade Commission to timely seek redress for consumers by holding that section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which allows the FTC to seek “a permanent injunction,” concerns only prospective injunctive relief and does not allow the FTC to seek retrospective monetary relief in the form of restitution or disgorgement.  The Supreme Court noted that other sections of the Act do allow the FTC to seek such redress, but only after they have adjudicated the claims before an administrative law judge and exhausted any necessary review by the FTC and any appeals.

The FTC had relied on section 13(b) to bring enforcement cases for over four decades and the FTC’s authority to do so had been upheld by several Court of Appeals decisions.  In a statement responding to the decision, the FTC argued that the court had “deprived the FTC of the strongest tool [it] had to help consumers most,” noting that Section 13(b) enforcement cases have resulted in “$11.2 billion in refunds to consumers during just the past five years” and urged Congress to act to restore the agency’s powers.  https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2021/04/statement-ftc-acting-chairwoman-rebecca-kelly-slaughter-us

The Court’s opinion can be read here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-508_l6gn.pdf

Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid

The AMG Capital Management ruling came on the heels of SCOTUS’ April 1 ruling in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid.  In another 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court narrowed the types of devices that qualify as an “automatic telephone dialing system” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA).

As defined by the TCPA, an “automatic telephone dialing system” is a piece of equipment with the capacity both “to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator,” and to dial those numbers.  In its decision, SCOTUS determined that the phrase “random or sequential number generator” qualified both “store” and “produce” meaning that a database designed merely to store and call phone numbers inserted into it does not fall under the TCPA.

Given the changes in technology since the TCPA was first enacted and the fact that the majority of companies no longer use equipment that actually randomly generates numbers, some consumer advocates worry the decision will lead to an increase in robocalls, while proponents of the decision note that other provisions of the TCPA – notably those prohibiting prerecorded calls without the consent of the receiver – remain intact and argue that, under a broader interpretation of the statute every smartphone would qualify as an “automatic telephone dialing system.”  See, e.g., https://www.nclc.org/media-center/supreme-court-deals-blow-to-protections-against-robocalls-advocates-urge-congress-to-act-to-prevent-a-tsunami-of-unwanted-calls-and-texts-to-cellphones.html  and https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/facebook-v-duguid-robocall-ruling-its-about-time.

The Court’s opinion can be read here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-511_p86b.pdf

Online Merchants Guild v. Cameron

On April 29 the Sixth Circuit overturned a ruling by a judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky which had cited the dormant commerce clause’s extraterritoriality doctrine to severely limit the Kentucky Attorney General’s power to enforce Kentucky’s anti-price gouging laws against online sellers.  In March 2020 the Kentucky Attorney General served a subpoena and a civil investigative demand on a Kentucky company because the AG had “reason to believe” the  company had engaged, was engaging in, or was about to engage in violations of Kentucky’s anti-price gouging law in regards to sales of hand sanitizer and respirators sold on Amazon.  The Online Merchants Guild, of which the target company was a member, initiated a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Kentucky AG from enforcing its anti-price gouging laws against the Guild’s members alleging, in part, that Kentucky’s anti-price gouging laws set an unlawful ceiling for online sales beyond its state lines because Amazon did not allow users to set different prices for different states.  After the district court agreed with Online Merchants Guild and issued an injunction, the Kentucky Attorney General appealed, and the Sixth Circuit reversed noting that it was not Kentucky’s law that dictated a price ceiling but Amazon’s structuring of its online marketplace so that there can be only a single national price for goods.  As such, Kentucky’s anti-price gouging law did not “by its express terms or by its inevitable effect” control wholly out-of-state commerce and did not violate the dormant commerce clause.

The Court’s opinion can be read here: https://cases.justia.com/federal/appellate-courts/ca6/20-5723/20-5723-2021-04-29.pdf?ts=1619708417

Krakauer v Dish Network, LLC

Also on April 29, the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina adopted in large part the recommendations of an appointed special master regarding how to distribute cy pres funds stemming from a $61 million dollar judgment awarded to over 18,000 class members that received unlawful telephone solicitations in violation of the Do Not Call Registry.  Previously the parties had agreed that over $10 million in judgment funds would not be distributed to class members because they failed to fill out the required claim form and that money was ready to be disbursed.  After soliciting applications from organizations that work to address one or more of the objectives of the TCPA, the special master identified 12 organizations they recommended receive cy pres funds.  Among other recipients, the district court’s order will provide nearly $3.0 million dollars for the National Legal Aid and Defendant Association, $2 million for state Attorneys General, and over $1.7 million for the National Consumer Law Center, Inc.

The Court’s order can be read here: https://www.anylaw.com/case/krakauer-v-dish-network-l-l-c/m-d-north-carolina/04-29-2021/d_QdKHkBoz_ZJneprDRt

Tracking Consumer Related Bills In the Oregon Legislature

A number of bills impacting consumers and consumer law are still actively being debated in the Oregon legislature.  The consumer law section is tracking these bills and you can too by clicking the following link:

https://www.osbar.org/pubaffairs/reports/BarGroupBillSummary.html?bargroupid=838

Is there a consumer-related bill that you think we should be tracking?  Let us know by e-mailing the executive committee at: [email protected]

Checking In With the CFPB 2020 Consumer Response Annual Report

By Matt Kirkpatrick

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provided Congress with its 2020 Consumer Response Annual Report on March 24, 2021.  As one might expect, the Report shows that 2020 was a particularly difficult year for consumers.  Before the pandemic the CFPB received approximately 300,000 consumer complaints each year.  In 2020, more than 540,000 consumers filed complaints, an 80% increase from the pre-pandemic average.  While the Report notes that only 32,100 complaints (about 6%) used words related to the pandemic, this article highlights ways the pandemic impacted consumer complaints to the CFPB last year.

Interestingly, the number of complaints related to debt collection tactics and threats actually decreased last year.  Citing the CFPB’s March 2021 FDCPA annual report, the Report speculates this decline may be related to pandemic-related restrictions states have placed on debt collection activities.  However, debt collection was the second most complained-about issue among servicemembers.  There were complaints from tenants being pursued by debt collectors after vacating their apartments.

It is perhaps unsurprising that many consumers reported issues with online banking and mobile banking applications, given pandemic-related stay-at-home orders and limited access to physical bank branches.  One large provider reported a 200% increase in new mobile banking registrations early in the pandemic.  Complaints included access issues, errors and delays in online bill payments, and deposit discrepancies.

With respect to mortgage-related complaints, the Report notes that CARES Act’s homeowner hardship forbearance provisions and the federal- and state-issued foreclosure moratoriums appear to have had their intended effect.  While mortgage-related complaints increased in spring 2020, they decreased for the rest of the year.  Overall, in 2020, complaints about struggling to make mortgage payments were down 32% from the average for the prior two years.  In contrast, complaints about applying for a mortgage increased 88%, which the Report attributes to increased activity due to low interest rates.

Complaints related to student loans were similarly a mixed bag in 2020.  Such complaints were down 45% overall from the prior two years’ average, probably due in large part to the CARES Act’s borrower relief provisions.  However, complaints were generated by the considerable confusion over pandemic relief measures, including the different treatment of Education Department-owned loans in contrast to, for example, student loans owned by states, commercial lenders, schools, and other private entities, which do not qualify for relief under the Act.  Difficulties enrolling in or recertifying income driven repayment plans also lead to many complaints, including by borrowers whose payments increased after they were incorrectly required to recertify their plans.  Borrowers also continued to complain about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, now including servicers incorrectly treating pandemic-related suspended payments as non-qualifying payments, contrary to the CARES Act.

Money services complaints increased significantly in 2020, with complaints about domestic money transfers up 47% compared to the prior two years’ average, digital wallet complaints up 126%, and fraud scam complaints up 41%.  The Report found it notable that delays in fund deliveries exacerbated consumers’ difficulties in responding to the pandemic.

Given that the pandemic’s effects discussed above cut both ways in terms of the volume of consumer complaints, one might ask what drove the overall 80% increase in complaints in 2020.  The answer: consumer reporting agencies.  The CFPB received 319,300 credit or consumer reporting complaints last year.  Already the complaint leader and trending upwards in years past, credit report-related complaints increased 129% in 2020 from the prior two years’ average.  The Report found this increase to be concentrated in complaints about inaccurate information and the “Big Three” credit reporting agencies (“CRAs”)—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—a significant portion of which were related to identity theft.  Complaints about incorrect information increased 147% and complaints about investigation problems increased 139%.  The Report further noted that CRAs stopped providing complete and accurate responses to many complaints last year.  It promised to issue a separate report later this year to further analyze the credit reporting complaints and the CRAs’ responses.

It has been a difficult year for most of us, including as consumers.  It will be interesting to see how the trends identified in the CFPB’s 2020 Report translate into new demand for consumer legal services.

 

The Top Consumer Complaints of 2020

In March the Oregon Department of Justice released its list of Top Ten Consumer Complaints for 2020.  Leading the way with 1,035 complaints were issues related to Telecommunications.  Complaints relating to “Grocery, Food and Beverage” made the list for the first time due to allegations of price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 Top Ten List is:

  1. Telecommunications (1035 complaints)
  2. Auto Sales & Repairs (602 complaints)
  3. Imposter Scams (534 complaints)
  4. Health and Medical (526 complaints)
  5. Financial, Credits and Lending (513 complaints)
  6. Grocery, Food and Beverage (416 complaints)
  7. Travel Services & Products (331 complaints)
  8. Real Estate & Property Management (218 complaints)
  9. Recreation (183 complaints)
  10. Construction Contractors (170 complaints)

For more information visit: https://www.doj.state.or.us/media-home/news-media-releases/top-10-list-of-consumer-complaints-for-2020/

Recent Litigation Highlights Problems with Tenant Screening Algorithms

By Emily Rena-Dozier

Many landlords use tenant screening companies — like RealPage, AppFolio, and CoreLogic — to vet tenant applications for credit history, rental history, and criminal history. Unfortunately, while these services provide greater efficiency for landlords, they come with significant risks for tenants. As recent investigative reports have shown, these automated background checks are rife with errors. As a result, tenants may be denied housing based on records from other individuals who merely share a last name, or a previous address.

What recourse do tenants have when their applications are denied based on faulty information? Even if a tenant is able to determine what the error was, the time-sensitive nature of rental housing applications means that a landlord has often moved on to the next applicant by the time the problem is identified and corrected. Even identifying the error can be difficult; in Oregon, the landlord is only required to provide the tenant with the contact information for the screening service.

Tenant screening services — largely automated and algorithm-based — rely heavily on credit reports and scrape information from court records and other sources of public information. Although tenant screening companies are regulated under consumer protection laws, the rules are more lax for tenant screening than they are for other forms of credit reporting. Unlike with credit reports, there’s no central system that a tenant can consult for a copy of their screening record. This means that tenants may have no recourse other than to sue screening companies for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or, in at least one current case, violations of the Fair Housing Act.

Consumer lawyers have an important role to play in advocating for stronger protections for tenants, greater regulation of the tenant-screening industry, and, where necessary, litigating on behalf of tenant applicants when screening errors have harmed them.

OREGON HOMEOWNERSHIP STABILIZATION INITIATIVE COVID-19 MORTGAGE SUPPORT PROGRAM

By Hope Del Carlo

Homeowners who’ve experienced a financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for help from the Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative (OHSI). OHSI distributed the U.S. Treasury’s Hardest Hit funds that were allocated to Oregon homeowners in the wake of the Great Recession. Those programs have ended, however the new COVID-19 Mortgage Support program is open.

Borrowers who qualify receive forgivable assistance, as long as they don’t sell the home or refinance for cash for at least five years.

In order to be eligible to receive COVID-19 Mortgage Relief, the applicant must:

  • Have experienced a financial hardship due to unemployment, reduced hours, decline in self-employment earnings, divorce, death, medical costs or disability.
  • Own and occupy a 1- to 4-unit home in Oregon as your principal residence.
  • Be a borrower who is obligated on a mortgage of not more than $491,050, secured by    your principal residence (some exceptions apply).
  • Be less than $40,000 behind on mortgage payments.
  • Have been current on the mortgage until January 1, 2020.
  • Have a current monthly housing expense to income ratio of not more than 45%.
  • Not be in an active bankruptcy.
  • Meet OHSI’s annual income limitations (generally, not more than 160% of the state median income).
  • Not have been convicted of certain finance-related crimes within the last ten years.

For more information on the program and how to apply, visit oregonhomeownerhelp.org.

District of Oregon Court Ruling Confirms That Reliance Is Not Required For Diminished Value Ascertainable Loss Under the UTPA

By Emily Templeton, Lewis & Clark Law School, 2021.

It’s been over two years since Oregon class action lawyers Michael Fuller and Kelly Jones filed a false advertising lawsuit against national food retailer Fred Meyer. Class members allege Fred Meyer violated Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UPTA) by charging customers hidden bottle deposit fees on exempt beverages that could not be refunded under Oregon law.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges Fred Meyer made false misrepresentations and
omissions when it charged customers more than certain beverage items were
actually worth in violation of Oregon’s consumer protection laws.

In its motion to dismiss, Fred Meyer argued that (1) the district court lacked subject
matter jurisdiction; and (2) plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. In support of the latter, Fred Meyer urged the court to require plaintiffs to
establish reliance in order to prove they incurred an ascertainable loss.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman made two important findings in his
opinion issued on November 20, 2020:

(1) The court found jurisdiction was proper in federal court because plaintiffs
were not seeking to “enjoin, suspend, or restrain” the collection of any state
“tax”; and
(2) The court found plaintiffs were not required to establish reliance when
alleging ascertainable loss under a diminished value theory.

Fred Meyer had argued that plaintiffs must demonstrate subjective reliance on a
representation, act, or omission that violates the UTPA in order to prove they
incurred an ascertainable loss.

In Pearson v. Philip Morris, Inc., 361 P.3d 3 (2015), the Oregon Supreme Court’s
majority opinion left open the question of whether a diminished value theory
requires “reliance to establish the requisite causal connection.” Judge Mosman,
citing Justice Walter’s concurrence in Pearson, affirmed plaintiffs’ assertion that
reliance is not required under a diminished value theory of liability.

Backed by the UPTA’s plain language and Justice Walter’s concurrence, the court
determined plaintiffs had adequately established ascertainable loss by showing
Fred Meyer had charged customers a price over and above the objective market
value of certain beverage items such that reliance was irrelevant. The court
reiterated, however, that a plaintiff may be required to show reliance to prove
ascertainable loss under a “refund of the purchase price” theory.

ReportFraud.FTC.gov – the Federal Trade Commission’s New Consumer Fraud Reporting Tool

By Colin D. A. MacDonald

On October 22, the Federal Trade Commission launched ReportFraud.FTC.gov, the Commission’s new consumer fraud reporting portal. The new site replaces the FTC Complaint Assistant and provides a more user-friendly, informative, and visually appealing experience for consumers. From government imposter scams to phony weight loss claims, from abusive debt collection to deceptive auto sales, and all sorts of unwanted phone calls, text messages, and emails – we want to hear about all of them. Please help us spread the word and keep Oregonians safe from scams.

After making a report, consumers will be given tailored educational information about next steps that they can take to protect themselves. These materials will be specific to the kind of report that consumers make. If consumers wish to update a report later, they will be given a report number to do so.

The system gives consumers plenty of options for how to report scams that they are concerned about. Consumers can make reports in Spanish at ReporteFraude.FTC.gov. Reports can also be made in French, German, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Spanish, or Turkish at the Commission’s econsumer.gov website. If consumers have questions, the system has a live chat feature or consumers can still call the FTC Consumer Response Center at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357) to make reports by phone. Consumers who prefer to make their report anonymously can do so (but they won’t be able to update the report later).

What happens with your reports? Like its predecessor, ReportFraud.FTC.gov sends reports into the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network. The FTC and its more than 3,000 law enforcement partners across the country and around the world use Consumer Sentinel to fight back against scams that hurt consumers and businesses who play by the rules. We don’t publicly post the reports and we don’t contact businesses about individual reports. We use them to build larger law enforcement actions to put an end to the fraud.

Who is reporting fraud to the FTC? Between the old FTC Complaint Assistant and our partner organizations, we gathered more than 3.2 million reports of consumer fraud in 2019 alone. Oregonians accounted for more than 33,000 of those reports, with government imposter scams and identity theft by far the most common reports from the state. You can learn more about the most common reports in the country, state, or metro area on the FTC’s website.

Protecting Oregonians – particularly the most vulnerable consumers – is a team sport. Filing a report with the FTC and seeking help from a private attorney are not mutually exclusive. This new tool in our shared toolbox will help us fight back against scammers and unscrupulous businesses. If you or an organization you are involved with have a website or social media, please consider linking to ReportFraud.FTC.gov using some of the images, videos, and social media badges available at ReportFraud.FTC.gov/Partners.

Colin D. A. MacDonald is a consumer protection attorney for the Federal Trade Commission’s Seattle-based Northwest Region. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Commission or of any individual Commissioner.

Award of Merit & Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients Announced: Congratulations to Kyle Iboshi, Craig Colby & Michael Baxter

Every year the OSB Consumer Law Section considers nominations for three distinct awards: the Award of Merit, Lifetime Achievement, and Professionalism Award. These awards are only given to nominees who meet the highest standards and each award is not given every year. For 2020, Kyle Iboshi, Investigative Reporter at KGW news will receive the Award of Merit, Craig Colby, now retired attorney at law, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Michael Baxter of Baxter & Baxter LLP will also receive the lifetime achievement award.

About the Awards:

The Oregon State Bar Consumer Law Section’s Award of Merit recognizes an individual’s or entity’s recent efforts that have significantly advanced consumer rights in Oregon. These efforts could include a case, advocacy initiative, program or any other work that attempts to advance consumer protections. Particular attention is paid to such achievements which required the recipient to overcome adversity and/or which improved access to justice. It may be awarded to both legal professionals and members of the public.

The Oregon State Bar Consumer Law Section’s Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an outstanding individual who has dedicated their career to consumer protection and made a significant and sustained impact on the practice of consumer law.

About the Recipients:

Kyle Iboshi is an award-winning investigative news reporter with KGW who dedicates a substantial amount of his coverage to consumer protection issues. Last year, Iboshi’s in depth consumer protection reporting helped cause positive changes in the lives of Oregon’s most economically vulnerable citizens. His 2019-2020 series of reports titled “The Cost of Collections” examined the aggressive tactics used by the City of Portland to force people to pay up. Specifically, Iboshi’s reporting shed light on how Professional Credit Service sued an Oregon consumer twice to collect on a debt, at least a portion of which was never owed in the first place. https://www.kgw.com/article/news/investigations/city-of-portland-sent-evicted-homeowner-to-collections-then-sued-him-twice-for-water-he-never-used/283-b3aa1d5f-31f6-4f23-9a69-ce9aa7ef417b Thanks to Iboshi’s consumer protection reporting, the City of Portland actually changed the way it collects debt from Oregon’s most vulnerable consumers. Iboshi also operates as a public watchdog for consumer fraud scams. In November 2019 he dedicated an episode of his program Straight Talk to sharing some of the most common consumer complaints he gets, including the “grandparent scam.” He has helped countless Oregon consumers through his investigative reporting, and makes the job we do as consumer advocates easier by informing the public of the work we do.

Michael Baxter: Throughout his career as a trial lawyer Baxter was a champion of consumer protection in Oregon. Baxter is responsible for the landmark Oregon Supreme Court case, Parrott v. Carr Chevrolet, Inc., 331 Or 537 (2001) that assists attorneys trying UTPA cases or seeking punitive damages in a consumer protection case. Baxter is also responsible for the single largest individual consumer protection verdict in Oregon history, Miller v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, No. 3:11-CV-01231-BR, 2014 US Dist LEXIS 70885 (D Or May 23, 2014), which garnered him recognition by The New York Times and other newspapers. In addition to being an incredible advocate for his clients, Baxter has also always been generous to younger lawyers, and has always been happy to share his knowledge with the consumer protection bar. Baxter, along with other consumer protection stalwarts, was responsible for reviving the Oregon Consumer League in the 1990s, an organization that continues to help Oregon consumers to this day. Baxter retired this year. Congratulations on his well-deserved retirement.

Craig Colby: For the last thirty years Craig has contributed substantially in the area of landlord tenant law. For years Colby  maintained hundreds of pages of Annotations to the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act which he provided for free to legal aid and related organizations to make it possible for more lawyers to represent tenants successfully and increase access to justice. Three decades ago lawyers for tenants settled eviction cases by conceding judgments of eviction to the landlords in return for delays in enforcement and tenants then had eviction judgments in the public record that blocked them from finding new rental housing. Colby created the idea of dismissing the eviction cases in return for tenant promises to move out by some agreed date down the line, coupled with stipulations for reinstatement of the case and immediate judgment that landlords could file if tenants didn’t vacate on time. The legislature adopted Colby’s scheme in ORS 105.145(2) – 105.165.  Congratulations on his well-deserved retirement.

Kyle Iboshi & Craig Colby will be presented with their awards, remotely, over the lunch hour at the “Law of Landlords and Tenants” CLE on Friday, October 16, 2020. Michael Baxter will be presented with his award sometime in the future when in-person gatherings become possible again.