The Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) at UVM helps Vermont consumers resolve disputes with businesses, protect themselves from fraud and access available services. We:
Call us! CAP staff and student volunteers are available Monday – Friday, from 8:30 – 4:00 at 800-649-2424
CAP Connections, our consumer blog, provides helpful information about current consumer issues and alerts. Follow along!
Illegal scam and telemarketing calls lead the list of complaints filed with the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP).
The telephone system was simply designed: to get calls through. It works really well. But it is broken.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that almost half of the phone calls made every day in this country are robocalls. Making a phone calls is now so cheap that it is possible for robocallers to make a million calls a day. With such a high number, only a few people need to fall victim for such illegal activity to be highly profitable.
As of June 2021, there will be more federal protections against fake CallerID’s, but this effort will take time to implement. Many of these calls are from outside the country or by fly-by-night businesses.
The Vermont Attorney General is working with a national task force to analyze, and potentially take action against, companies that allow these illegal calls, in alliance with federal agencies such as the IRS and Social Security Administration. You can help us by reporting robocall violations to CAP.
Be alert: report scam calls.
In 2020, FTC figures showed scammers used phone calls 31% of the time and text messages 27% of the time to defraud consumers. These figures mean that the telephone is the weapon of choice in 59% of frauds—that expensive device in your pocket could rob you!
A quick suggestion: always verify with whom you are speaking or texting. You may be dealing with an international crime syndicate pretending to be a person or business or government agency that you trust. Illegal callers use fake CallerID to impersonate someone that you trust. Don’t be fooled! Let it go to voicemail. If the voicemail sounds genuine, then don’t use the callback number. Instead, look the correct number up yourself.
Use the protection built into your phone if you have a cellphone or VOIP landline.
What you can do to protect yourself from illegal traffic—before it rings to your phone—depends on the type of phone that you have and whether you run a business. We will assume that you have already put your phone number on the FTC Do Not Call registry.
Best solution for cellphones: Configure the phone to block unknown callers.
If you have a personal cellphone, the best solution is to set your phone not to ring except when you already know the caller. Everyone else goes to voicemail.
An alternate solution for cellphones and VOIP landlines: use third party apps to block illegal callers.
Another approach is to buy an app designed to block illegal phone traffic.
If you have a VOIP landline, the VOIP line can probably be configured to use the NomoRobo service. For business lines, you may need to get the service through third parties like Mutare or SkySwitch.
These services are not a perfect solution, but can save valuable time during the day in not having to answer robocalls.
For analogue telephone lines like Consolidated Communications POTS lines.
Unfortunately, the most reliable phones are old-style regulated analogue plain old telephone service (POTS) lines. POTS lines are not covered by new FCC regulations because the technology is analogue and obsolete. However, POTS phones are very reliable.
The only—but highly imperfect—approach for POTS lines is to buy an add-on device that connects to the phone. These devices present the user with another option: press the red button to block the call. These devices use an internal database that is incomplete and not updated as frequently as digital apps and cost $50 to $100. Nevertheless, for POTS phones, such imperfect devices are the only solution other than relying on CallerID.
Here are some options:
The telephone system has almost no built-in protection against scammers. Federal and state authorities are working to fix a broken system. In the meantime, protect yourself and your loved ones. And be alert. Report fraud to CAP.
PLEASE NOTE: THE LIST ABOVE IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES. THE VERMONT ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE DOES NOT ENDORSE ANY PRODUCT OR SERVICE. PRICES MAY VARY.
Vermont law defines identity theft as the unauthorized use of another person’s personal identifying information to obtain credit, goods, services, money or property (for more information on Vermont laws regarding privacy and data security, click here). In many cases, identity theft involves the fraudulent use of your credit card or bank account information. In some cases, your social security number and other personal information may be used to fraudulently obtain driver’s licenses, lines of credit, loans or other consumer accounts.
Identity theft is a complex issue facing consumers all over the country. Find out more about identity theft by visiting identitytheft.gov, the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft help and information site.
Vermont’s “lemon law” applies to vehicles that are within the original manufacturer’s warranty period (or, in some cases, within a year of the expiration of that warranty). If your vehicle is within the original warranty period and has:
then it may be eligible. There is no additional used car lemon law protection in Vermont. If you believe your situation may qualify, contact Vermont’s Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board for assistance.
At some point, every car will need to be serviced. Whether it is for regular maintenance or a major repair, there are ways to be sure you get the most value for your money.
A paid fundraiser is someone (not an employee of the charity) who is paid by a charity to conduct fundraising efforts on behalf of the charity. These payment arrangements vary widely. However, under Vermont law, paid fundraisers must report to the Attorney General with information about the campaign and their payment arrangements with the charity.
To find out more about how your donation is applied when you donate through a paid fundraiser, you can download our paid fundraiser information, sorted by charity name, or by the name of the fundraiser:
For outside “ratings” of charities based on how they use their funds, you can check Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability.
Under Vermont’s Charitable Solicitations Law, 9 V.S.A. § 2471 et seq., paid fundraisers for charities must file a “notice of solicitation” with the Attorney General’s Office in advance of each campaign, and a post-campaign financial report; post a $20,000 bond; make specific disclosures when soliciting donations; and comply with charity contract, script approval, donation deposit, record-keeping, and related requirements. In addition, fundraisers and charities are prohibited from making misrepresentations to prospective donors. The Attorney General’s Office is responsible for enforcing the Law. For more information on these requirements and prohibitions, please consult Vermont’s Charitable Solicitations Law and Consumer Fraud Rule (CF) 119.
Charitable organizations are exempt from the federal Do Not Call statute. However, you may request to be removed from their calling list. If you are having difficulty with a paid fundraiser, you may also file a complaint with our office.
If you intend to give tax-deductible contributions, you should verify an organization’s tax filing status with the IRS. Essentially, if the organization is tax-exempt or a 501(c)(3), donations should be tax deductible. There are several ways to check the tax filing status: request to see the organization’s IRS tax exemption letter, search for the charity using the “Exempt Organizations” tool on the IRS website, or call the IRS at 877-829-5500.
Home improvement problems are among the top ten complaint categories in Vermont and throughout the country. Because your home is probably your most valuable asset, it is particularly important that you protect that asset by making wise decisions when having work done on your home.
Contact us to find out if complaints have been filed against the contractor you are considering hiring. Keep in mind, however, that a lack of complaints doesn’t necessarily mean that the contractor is reputable, particularly if he or she is new to the area. Also, some disreputable contractors may change business names to keep a clean record. You should also contact the CAP if you have a complaint against a contractor. The staff at the CAP will contact the business on your behalf in an attempt to resolve your complaint. In addition, your complaint will become part of the public record, so that consumers who inquire about this contractor will become aware of your complaint.
If you believe you have been defrauded by a contractor, you may also file a police report of home improvement fraud with your local police department or other law enforcement agency. Home improvement fraud is a crime, and can be prosecuted in Vermont.
You may review the State registry of all persons who have been criminally convicted or resolved civil claims by the State of Vermont for committing “home improvement fraud”:
For information on lead in homes, visit the Attorney General’s lead in homes website. Is your contractor lead-certified? Search for EPA lead-certified contractors:
In Vermont, consumers have certain rights with regard to heating fuel service. Vermont law regulates fuel pre-buy contracts, and establishes authority for the Attorney General to regulate propane service. Fuel pricing is not regulated in Vermont.
Certain retail propane industry business practices are regulated by Vermont law. Propane sellers are prohibited from:
Additionally, propane sellers must refund consumers for fuel remaining in the tank within 20 days of disconnection or written notice from the consumer that the tank is no longer connected to the dwelling. Failure to issue a timely refund results in monetary penalties paid to the consumer that accrue daily until the refund and penalty are mailed or delivered.
The Vermont Energy Act of 2011 also restricted the kinds of delinquencies that can trigger a disconnection of propane service to those charges related to the delivery of propane as specified in the Act.
Vermont regulations establish certain rights and responsbilities for consumers with regard to propane service. Since 1986, Vermont Consumer Protection Rule 111 (CP111) has governed the business practices of propane service providers in Vermont. CP111 is enforced by the Office of the Attorney General, and includes some important additional protections for Vermonters.
Under the CP111 rules, propane consumers are entitled to, among other rights:
If you would like to know more about recent changes to CP111 and your rights under the amended rule, please visit our CP111 FAQs page for additional information.
If you have a complaint about a propane provider, or need more information about your rights as a propane consumer, please contact CAP for more information or file a complaint. In most cases, CAP can quickly resolve disputes between consumers and propane providers.
If you need help paying your fuel bill, dial 2-1-1 from your Vermont phone to be connected with an agency that can assist you.
Vermont law establishes certain rights and responsibilities for tenants and landlords in Vermont. To view the law, click here.
Generally, landlords are required to provide housing that is suitable for human habitation and has adequate access to heat, water, and hot water. Landlords must also ensure that the housing is safe for tenants, which may include requirements for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire alarms, alternate means of escape, and proper maintenance of electrical fixtures and equipment. Tenants are responsible for payment of rent, as well as for preventing damage or unreasonable wear to the premises.
Vermont law provides for certain notice requirements with regard to termination of tenancy and evictions, and provides both tenants and landlords with the right to bring legal action in the event of non-compliance with rental agreement law.
For more specific information about your rights as a tenant or landlord, review the handbook produced by Vermont Tenants, Inc.:
If you have a complaint against your landlord, you can file a complaint with CAP. You may also pursue a claim in small claims court for violations of the lease or non-compliance with the law. Vermont Law Help has small claims court forms on their website too. If you have a health concern about the property you rent, you can contact your local town health officer through the town clerk’s office.
Generally, the law prohibits the landlord from retaliating against you for filing a complaint. If you believe you are being retaliated against by your landlord, you can file a complaint with CAP.
Unfortunately, rental listing scams are pretty common and pose a challenge for those trying to find rental housing. Always do your research on a property you are interested in renting. Often, scammers will replicate recently posted real estate or other rental listings. For more information about rental scams, see the following:
Vermont law prohibits the following practices regardless of whether the debt is being collected by the creditor, an attorney or a third-party collection agency.
For example, debt collectors may:
Under federal law, if the collector is a third party collection agency, you may send the agency a Cease Contact letter, requesting that they no longer contact you regarding the debt. Alternatively, you may instruct them only to contact you by mail, at home, or through your attorney, using our sample cease contact letter text:
[YOUR NAME] [YOUR ADDRESS] [YOUR CITY, ST, ZIP]
By Certified Mail
[COLLECTION AGENCY NAME] [AGENCY ADDRESS] [AGENCY CITY, ST, ZIP]
Please cease all communication with me concerning account number with [COMPANY OWED].
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that you stop contacting me immediately
upon receipt of this letter.
Very truly yours,
Send this letter by certified mail, with return receipt requested so you have a record of who received it and when.
Check our Laws and Regulations page for links to state and federal statutes, as well as Vermont’s Consumer Protection Rules:
109 State St
Montpelier, VT 05609
Vermont’s lobbyist registration and disclosure law applies to certain communications with and activities directed at the Attorney General. Prior to any interactions with the Office of the Vermont Attorney General, you are advised to review Title 2, Sections 261-268 of the Vermont Statutes Annotated, as well as the Vermont Secretary of State’s most recent guide to compliance, available at https://www.sec.state.vt.us/elections/lobbying.aspx.