April 11, 2018

BACP Fights On Behalf of Consumers, Levies More Than $5 Million in Fraud Charges

Reminds residents to report negligent businesses, Top consumer issues include home repairs, deceptive practices

Lilia.Chacon@CityofChicago.org (O) 312.744.5365 (C) 312.805-9385

The City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), as part of its work to protect consumers from fraud, negligence and abuse, today announced that, over the past year, it investigated hundreds of complaints and won more than $5 million in fraud judgments on behalf of Chicago consumers.

"Our partnership with the community is key to our efforts to hold Chicago businesses accountable and protect consumers from becoming victims of fraud," said BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno. "As always, we encourage residents who are victims of fraud or dishonest business practices to file a complaint by calling 311 so that we are able to investigate and ensure businesses are playing by the rules."

From March 8, 2017 to March 7, 2018, BACP investigated 405 consumer complaints against 367 businesses. As a result of these investigations, BACP won consumer fraud judgments totaling $5,009,760 and generated more than $95,000 in restitution for 46 individual consumers. The fraud judgment amount is the highest in four years, and almost double last year’s total.

BACP inspects and investigates thousands of businesses each year to ensure compliance with City laws and regulations, to safeguard consumer rights and to create a level playing field for law-abiding businesses. The top five categories of consumer complaints over the past year were in the areas of home repair, motor vehicle repairs, defective merchandise, booting cars in private parking lots and services never provided. The top five consumer issues that were most likely to result in a BACP citation over the past year were operating without a license, deceptive practices, prohibited acts, selling outdated merchandise and price marking.

In addition to responding to and investigating consumer complaints, teams of BACP investigators are proactively deployed to ensure businesses are in compliance with City rules and regulations. Over the past year, the following violations were most frequently discovered by these investigators: operating without a license; failure to post tax disclosures and bill of rights; outdated merchandise; and overcharging.

Before paying for goods and services from a business or company, BACP recommends that consumers do their research. BACP partners with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission to make sure consumers know their rights. Consumers may check business ratings with the Better Business Bureau. To find out whether a business is licensed by the City, consumers may visit the City's data portal at: https://data.cityofchicago.org/Community-Economic-Development/Business-Licenses/r5kz-chrr/data   

"Always check out contractors at bbb.org before hiring someone,” said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of BBB serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It's important to get multiple estimates and never pay for the job up front. A tipoff to the rip-off is anyone wanting money upfront, and someone knocking on your door unsolicited,” Bernas adds. “Always try to pay with a credit card to help protect yourself, and please report any scams to bbb.org/scamtracker.”         

BACP is On The Road hosting Small Business Expos five times a year to promote businesses that are good corporate citizens. If you suspect that you are a victim of fraud or dishonest business practices, you can file a complaint by calling 3-1-1 or emailing BACPconsumer-fraud@cityofchicago.org.

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