Committee on
Consumer Affairs
and Protection

Audrey I. Pheffer - Chair
Sheldon Silver - Speaker

December 15, 2005

Honorable Sheldon Silver
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol, Room 349
Albany, New York 12248

Dear Speaker Silver:

It is my pleasure to forward to you the 2005 Annual Report of the Assembly Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection.

The work accomplished during the 2005 Legislative Session reflects the Committee’s dedication to and concern for consumers’ basic rights, safety, and interests. The Committee contributed to the enactment of legislation improving consumers' access to prescription drug prices. Chapter 293 of the Laws of 2005 requires the Department of Health to establish and maintain a database on its website enabling consumers to compare the retail drug prices of pharmacies.

Several other laws were enacted this year to protect individual privacy and consumers’ rights. Chapter 214 of the Laws of 2005 strengthens New York’s Do-Not-Call law. This new law removes an existing exemption and clarifies the law to ensure that consumers are able to stop unwanted telemarketing calls from a business with whom they have an existing business relationship. Chapter 574 of the Laws of 2005 will simplify and expedite the redemption of rebates by requiring businesses offering rebates to provide the rebate application form directly with the product and mail rebate checks to the consumer within sixty days.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Committee members for their continued contributions to this past year’s achievements. I would also like to express my appreciation for the assistance that the Committee received from the Committee staff in the course of our work. Finally, Mr. Speaker, I commend you for your continued leadership and support of our legislative initiatives to better protect New York State consumers.

Audrey I. Pheffer, Chair




Peter J. Abbate, Jr.
Michael R. Benedetto
Ginny Fields
Michael N. Gianaris
Andrew Hevesi
Margaret M. Markey
Jimmy K. Meng
Jose R. Peralta
Peter M. Rivera


David G. McDonough,
Ranking Minority Member
Robert Barra
Ann Rabbitt

Joanne Barker, Legislative Coordinator
Jeffrey O’Donnell, Legislative Analyst
Elizabeth Hogan, Associate Counsel
Nichole Hedglin, Committee Assistant
Kimberly A. Lease, Committee Clerk
Kathleen Quackenbush, Program and Counsel Secretary

Table of Contents
  1. Committee Responsibilities and Goals

  2. 2005 Committee Accomplishments

    1. Protecting Personal Privacy

    Strengthening New York’s Do-Not-Call Law

    Wireless Telephone Directory

    Caller Identification Fraud

    Credit Card Confidentiality

    Protecting Consumers from Phishing Scams

    1. Improving Business Practices

    Cleaning Rental Clothing

    Internet Drug Pricing

    Dial-up Internet Service Warning

    Credit Card Protection Disclosure

    Farm Equipment Lemon Law

    Rebate Protections

    Prohibiting Unfair Billing Practices

    Rental Vehicle Fuel Charges

    Magazine Renewal Disclosure

    Ensuring Fairness in the Rental Car Industry

    Free Estimates in Writing

    Protecting Consumers from Unfair "Universal Default" Policies

    Regulating Credit Card Charges

    Preventing Fraudulent Practices by Computer Industry

    Credit Card Holds in the Lodging Industry

    Increased Penalty for Deceptive Acts

    Credit Scoring

    Magazine Customer Service Number Disclosure

    1. Protecting Consumer Health and Safety

    Prohibiting Sale of Box Cutters

    Labeling Sunscreen Products

    Regulating the Sale of Laser Pointers

    Off Premise Food Consumption Labeling

    Extending Wheelchair Warranties

    1. Enhancing Motor Vehicle Safety

    Motor Home Consumer Protection

    Air Bags

    1. Increasing Consumer Recourse

    Lemon Law Arbitrations

    Victims of Price Gouging


    1. Hearing on Identity Thef

    2. Hearing on Home Equity Theft

    3. Hearing on the Regulation of Social Security Numbers and Personal Identifying Information

    4. Hearings on Gasoline and Home Energy Prices

    5. Hearing on Security Freezes

    6. Hearing on State Agency Implementation of the Enacted SFY 2005-06 Budget






I.  Committee Responsibilities and Goals

The Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee (the "Committee") is responsible for developing legislation aimed at protecting consumers’ rights and ensuring the public’s ability to make informed choices in the marketplace. Generally, the Committee has jurisdiction over legislation that amends sections of the General Business and Personal Property Laws and parts of the Agriculture and Markets and Education Laws. The broad interests of the Committee reflect the fact that today’s consumers can be victims of fraud, misinformation, or lack of information that is vital to their health, safety, and welfare.

To protect consumers’ rights and help them make informed choices, the Committee works with consumer groups and state and federal agencies. At the State level, these agencies include: the Department of Law; the Consumer Protection Board; the Department of Education; the Department of Environmental Conservation; the Department of Health; the Department of Agriculture and Markets; and the Department of State. The federal government agencies with which the Committee works include: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC); and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Committee also works with local agencies, such as the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, local consumer affairs offices, numerous Better Business Bureaus, and bar associations throughout the State.

In addition, the Committee works to help consumers in the development of legislation under the jurisdiction of other Assembly standing committees. Such committees include: Transportation; Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce, and Industry; Agriculture; and Insurance.


A.  Protecting Personal Privacy

The Assembly has traditionally been a strong advocate for the protection of consumers’ rights, including the protection of personal privacy. As technology continues to evolve, the potential for misuse of personal information has risen dramatically. The public is increasingly aware that it has less control over its personal and sensitive information. Privacy issues include a number of very broad topics, such as: the theft of identity; credit reporting; and telecommunications.

The Committee has taken great strides in promoting legislation that would protect the privacy of New York State’s consumers.

Strengthening New York’s Do-Not-Call Law (Chapter 214 of the Laws of 2005, Pheffer)

Since its establishment in 2000, New York’s Do-Not-Call Registry has been an extraordinary success, reducing the volume of unsolicited telemarketing calls received by New York consumers and, in many cases, eliminating them completely. Despite this success, the Consumer Protection Board has continued to receive complaints relating to an exception in New York’s law that allows telemarketers offering to set up a face-to-face meeting to market their product or service to call consumers who have placed their number on the Registry, commonly referred to as the face-to-face exception. This new law removes the face-to-face exception and makes a clarification to New York’s Do-Not-Call law to ensure that consumers are able to stop unwanted telemarketing calls.

Wireless Telephone Directory (Chapter 655 of the Laws of 2005, Dinowitz)

This new law prohibits any person or business entity from obtaining any wireless telephone numbers for the purposes of creating a wireless telephone directory without first obtaining prior authorization from each customer. Several wireless phone companies have announced their intention to establish a national directory of wireless phones used mainly for business purposes. This would ensure that any future wireless directory only contain the numbers of those wireless phone users who choose to have their number listed.

Caller Identification Fraud (Veto Memo 50, Lafayette)

This bill seeks to protect consumers from possible criminal activities associated with the fraudulent use caller identification devices. The bill would make it unlawful for any person to fraudulently use any device or service to misrepresent their name and/or telephone number on the caller identification device of the recipient of any telephone call. The bill would also require companies that provide local telephone directories to customers to publish a notice in such directories informing its customers of the prohibition and provide for enforcement by the Attorney General.

Credit Card Confidentiality (A.223, Dinowitz)

This bill would reduce the proliferation of unsolicited mail caused by the release or sale of cardholder information by granting consumers the choice of having personal information kept confidential.

Consumer resistance to unsolicited direct mail has been steadily increasing. Some responsible card issuers recognize the importance of consumer privacy and limit the release of cardholder information or notify their customers of the option not to have their personal data released. Unfortunately, not all consumers are aware of this option. (Passed Assembly)

Protecting Consumers from Phishing Scams (A.8025-B, Brodsky)

The purpose of this bill is to protect consumers from "phishing" scams by providing additional means for the prosecution of identity thieves engaged in the deceptive activity.

This bill would allow the Attorney General, internet service providers, and web page or trademark owners to bring a civil action against those engaged in a new form of internet fraud, commonly referred to as "phishing." Phishing fraudsters send e-mail messages asking consumers to divulge personal information such as their account passwords, account numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other sensitive information. These e-mails often claim to be from a business or organization with which the consumer may already be familiar, such as an internet service provider, bank, credit card company, online payment service, or government agency. (Passed Assembly)

B.  Improving Business Practices

Cleaning Rental Clothing (Chapter 64 of the Laws of 2005, Morelle)

This new law requires rented clothing to be cleaned prior to re-rental. Most consumers assume that rental clothing is cleaned prior to being rented. This law will ensure that consumers’ expectation for hygienic rental practices are met. Customers who are paying for the rental of clothing will now know that such item has been properly cleaned and cared for before it is available for rent.

Internet Drug Pricing (Chapter 293 of the Laws of 2005, Gottfried)

As prescription drug prices continue to rise, many New Yorkers who carry little or no drug insurance coverage are increasingly faced with tough choices. An April 2005 survey of prescription drug prices conducted by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) found substantial price differences in pharmacies located in the same community. The study revealed that consumers on Long Island, for example, could pay nearly $80 more than the lowest available price for the antidepressant Wellbutrin and consumers in Queens could pay nearly $30 more for the sleep aid Ambien.

This new law will make drug price information more accessible by requiring the Department of Health to establish and maintain a database on its website enabling consumers to compare the retail drug prices of pharmacies. The website will contain the one hundred and fifty most prescribed drugs and be searchable by zip code and other factors. This new law will allow consumers to comparison shop from home or their local library, providing easier access to drug prices and increasing consumers’ ability to save on prescription drugs.

Dial-up Internet Service Warning (Chapter 334 of the Laws of 2005, Rivera, P.)

This purpose of this new law is to inform consumers that some dial-up internet access numbers may result in long distance charges. Many consumers do not realize that numbers in their geographic region or area code are not necessarily "local" numbers for purposes of the charges made by the phone company. Such consumers often select numbers that appear to be "local," but actually involve toll charges.

This new law will require dial-up internet service providers to post a conspicuous warning on every screen page where dial-up access numbers appear, alerting users that some numbers may not be included in their local calling plans and could greatly impact their telephone bills.

Credit Card Protection Disclosure (Chapter 433 of the Laws of 2005, Pheffer)

For a small monthly fee, many consumers feel extra credit card protection is a good deal. Unfortunately, many credit card protection services do not provide more meaningful protection than is currently found in federal law. For example, under the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit card holders are only liable for up to fifty dollars in unauthorized charges, and some credit card companies will even waive this fee.

This new law will allow consumers to make an informed decision prior to entering into any credit card protection service agreement. This law requires any written solicitation offering credit card protection services to include a disclosure regarding the consumer's rights that already exist free of charge under the Fair Credit Billing Act. This new law will also prohibit the automatic renewal of credit card protection services and require written solicitations to disclose that the purchase of such services is not required to secure or retain a credit card.

Farm Equipment Lemon Law (Chapter 662 of the Laws of 2005, Magee)

Modern agricultural operations often require the purchase of expensive, highly-specialized farm equipment. This equipment represents a sizeable investment for many farmers, and its dependable operation is often crucial to the success of day-to-day farming operations.

This new law will protect farmers from the costs associated with defective farm equipment by requiring suppliers of such equipment to provide a one-year express warranty covering all material defects on new farm equipment costing over $1500. The law also provides important protections for purchasers during the express warranty period, including requiring suppliers and dealers to commence repairs within a reasonable timeframe, requiring suppliers and dealers to provide consumers with a replacement or refund in certain instances and establishing a dispute-resolution program administered by the Attorney General.

Rebate Protections (Chapter 574 of the Laws of 2005, Pheffer)

While some rebates offer consumers significant savings, businesses offering rebates often count on consumers not claiming them, never send the rebate check or funds, or send them months after receiving a request for redemption. In addition, some businesses employ potentially deceptive or unfair business practices that seek to deprive qualifying consumers of rebates by requiring multiple correspondences between the consumer and processor or through purposefully complex redemption requirements.

This new law will simplify and expedite the redemption of rebates by requiring businesses offering rebates to provide the rebate application form directly with the product or at the time and location of purchase and allow a minimum of fourteen days for the consumer to submit a request for redemption. The law will also ensure that properly requested rebates are received in a timely manner, by requiring businesses to mail rebate checks or transmit the rebate funds to the consumer within sixty days.

Prohibiting Unfair Billing Practices (Chapter Number Pending, Pheffer)

The purpose of this law is to prohibit creditors from charging an additional rate or fee based solely on the consumer’s choice of payment method.

This law will, subject to federal law and regulation, prohibit creditors from charging consumers an additional rate or fee, or a differential in any rate or fee, for selecting a payment option requiring the use of mail, paper billing or an electronic transaction involving the internet or telephone. The bill would also authorize enforcement of the prohibition by the Attorney General and provide for a civil penalty of up to two hundred and fifty dollars for each violation.

Rental Vehicle Fuel Charges (Veto Memo 7, Lafayette)

The purpose of this bill is to prohibit price gouging by rental car companies for gasoline used by renters.

This bill would cap the amount, per gallon, that rental car companies may charge renters to refill rental cars. The cap would be set at five percent (5%) above the average retail price for the same motor fuel graded product sold at self-service pumps in the region, as recorded by the Energy Information Administration of the United State Department of Energy. This bill would exempt from its provisions rental car companies that disclose their fuel charge policies to renters.

Magazine Renewal Disclosure (Veto Memo 48, Pheffer)

The purpose of this bill is to reduce the occurrence of unnecessary and superfluous renewals. Magazine subscribers are constantly bombarded with renewal notices, regardless of how may issues remain as part of their current subscriptions. Very often, these notices lead consumers to believe that their subscription will run out soon, causing an interruption of service. Many consumers do not read the fine print and renew, resulting in months and even years of unwanted pre-paid issues.

This bill would require magazine publishers to provide subscribers with enhanced disclosure of the month and year in which their subscription expires in any written renewal invitation. This bill was vetoed by the Governor over concerns that, in some instances, it fails to provide consumers with a convenient means of accessing their subscription status, by allowing publishers to refer subscribers to a customer service website and toll-free number for such information. The Committee intends to consider a revised version of this bill next year that will address the Governor’s concerns.

Ensuring Fairness in the Rental Car Industry (A.446, Gantt)

The purpose of this bill is to prevent rental car agencies from discriminating against drivers who do not present a credit card. Current law prohibits agencies from requiring the primary driver of a rental vehicle to own a credit card , but this protection does not extend to non-primary drivers. Some agencies are now requiring all designated drivers to own a credit card.

This bill would prohibit rental car agencies from preventing any person from operating a rental vehicle solely on the requirement of ownership of a credit card. (Passed Assembly)

Free Estimates in Writing (A.511, Greene)

This bill would prohibit the advertising or offering of free estimates unless the estimate is in writing and there is no charge for providing such estimate. Unscrupulous merchants sometimes offer "free estimates." After providing the offered estimate, the merchant then insists on being paid for a written estimate.

This bill would require that estimates advertised as free are indeed provided at no charge to the customer. This requirement would protect consumers from merchants who might try to employ misleading business practices. (Passed Assembly)

Protecting Consumers from Unfair "Universal Default" Policies (A.809, Rivera P.)

An increasing number of credit card issuers are including "universal default" clauses in their agreements, allowing them to raise a customer’s interest rate based on the customer’s indebtedness or late payments to other creditors. For instance, a late payment on a telephone bill could cause a card holder’s interest rate to increase. Notice of this policy is almost always buried in the fine print of the card agreement, leaving many customers unaware that their interest rate could be affected based on late payments to other creditors. This results in credit card holders being penalized, even if they have never been late on a payment to the credit card issuer imposing the penalty.

This bill would put an end to this unfair practice by prohibiting "universal default" policies and provide that any violation of the prohibition would be a criminal offense. (Passed Assembly)

Regulating Credit Card Charges (A.3558, Lentol)

The purpose of this bill is to prohibit credit card companies from imposing a fee on customers who choose not to carry a monthly balance. Paying off the monthly balance on a credit card is something many people strive to accomplish. Imposing a fee on such conscientious credit card holders to offset the losses incurred by other card holders is an unjust business practice.

This bill would send a clear message that companies should support their customers who pay off their bills in a timely manner and not penalize them. (Passed Assembly)

Preventing Fraudulent Practices by Computer Industry (A.3055, Brodsky)

This bill would protect consumers from fraudulent practices by computer manufacturers and retailers by prohibiting the industry from selling as "new" computers and computer accessories with old or recycled parts. For example, in 1996, the Packard-Bell Computer Company was caught and convicted of trying to pass off as new remanufactured and used computer parts.

This bill would mandate that the computer industry use only new computer parts when it sells "new" computer hardware, monitors, printers, and other accessories to consumers. It also would require retailers to affix a label or tag on the outside of the container box indicating that only new parts have been used on the computer. (Passed Assembly)

Credit Card Holds in the Lodging Industry (A.3745, Scarborough)

The purpose of this bill is to require temporary lodging establishments that accept reservations by charging a credit card to notify the credit company when that charge account was not used to make the final payment.

This bill would require temporary lodging establishments (i.e., hotels, motels, apartment hotels, inns, boarding-houses, rooming houses, or lodging houses) that require that a customer give a credit card for purposes of making a reservation to immediately notify the issuer of the credit card to remove the charge when the customer pays the bill by means other than the credit card. (Passed Assembly)

Increased Penalty for Deceptive Acts (A.4625, Peoples)

This bill would increase, from $500 to $5,000, the maximum penalty that may be imposed on a commercial enterprise that engages in an unfair or deceptive trade practice.

The New York law, which provides for penalties of up to $500 per violation of the state’s deceptive practices and false advertising statutes, went into effect in 1963 and the amount of the penalty has not been adjusted upward since then. This amount is grossly outdated and such an insignificant penalty does not provide a disincentive to the commission of deceptive acts and practices. (Advanced to Third Reading Calendar)

Credit Scoring (A.6303-B, Bradley)

The purpose of this bill is to prohibit consumer reporting agencies from lowering a consumer’s credit score based on that consumer’s comparison of available mortgage or automobile loan rates.

This bill would prohibit consumer reporting agencies from using inquiries of mortgage companies, banks, or other financial institutions concerning a consumer’s credit in relation to a mortgage or automobile loan in determining that consumer’s credit score. The bill would also prohibit consumer reporting agencies from causing a negative inference to be placed on a consumer credit report based on that consumer’s comparison of mortgage or automobile loan rates. (Passed Assembly)

Magazine Customer Service Number Disclosure (A.7812-A, Rivera, N.)

The purpose of this bill is to ensure that magazine subscribers are provided a reliable and accessible method of contacting magazine publishers with subscription-related inquiries.

This bill would require publishers of magazines sold by subscription to disclose a customer service telephone number on the billing statement or invoice of each magazine mailed to subscribers. (Passed Assembly)

C.  Protecting Consumer Health and Safety

Prohibiting Sale of Box Cutters (Chapter 243 of the Laws of 2005, Markey)

This new law prohibits the sale of utility knives or "box cutters" to persons under the age of eighteen. In the past few years, the incidence of assaults on students and teachers in New York State has escalated dramatically, and utility knives are sometimes being used as weapons by students. In addition, the law allows communities to enact stricter laws regarding the sale and regulation of box cutters.

Labeling Sunscreen Products (A.983-A, Weisenberg)

According to the American Cancer Society, over 800,000 new skin cancer cases of highly curable basal cell or squamous cell cancers are diagnosed each year. Since 1973, the incidence of skin cancer has increased about four percent per year. Many consumers use sunscreen products to prevent the risk of skin cancer. In light of how important these products are in combating skin cancer, it is important that the consumer be aware that sunscreen does not protect against the sun’s rays after a certain shelf life. This legislation would increase consumer awareness of sunscreen product effectiveness by requiring all products to be labeled with a "best if used before date" and storage recommendations. (Passed Assembly)

Regulating the Sale of Laser Pointers (A.935, Tokasz)

This bill would prohibit the sale of laser pointing devices to persons under eighteen years of age. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns parents that children may risk their eyesight if they play with laser pointing devices. The FDA has stated that the light energy that such devices emit can be more damaging than staring directly into the sun. Eye injuries have already been reported to the FDA as a result of improper use of such devices. In addition, this bill would set up restricted access for the sale of these devices in stores. (Passed Assembly)

Off Premise Food Consumption Labeling (A.5185, Englebright)

This bill would mandate labeling to inform consumers of the date of preparation of foods intended for off-premises consumption offered for sale in delicatessens, salad bars, and other food establishments by requiring a label indicating the date of preparation. By labeling the freshly prepared food, consumers will be given the information necessary to decide whether it is in their best interest to purchase the item. (Advanced to Third Reading Calendar)

Extending Wheelchair Warranties (A.4885, Sanders)

This bill would apply the same consumer protections that currently exist for purchasers of motorized wheelchairs to non-motorized wheelchairs. It would extend warranty, replacement, and quality standards to wheelchairs purchased by State agencies, non-profit medical, dental, health and hospital service corporations, and health maintenance organizations.

Wheelchairs and their customized component parts are absolutely essential to the mobility of many persons with disabilities. Wheelchairs are also very expensive, costing as much as $8,000. Much of this equipment is subject to frequent breakdown and is often not covered by warranties or other basic consumer protection. This bill would significantly reduce financial stress for those citizens who rely on wheelchairs to meet their basic transportation needs. (Passed Assembly)

D.  Enhancing Motor Vehicle Safety

Motor Home Consumer Protection (Chapter 26 of the Laws of 2005, Pheffer)

This new law makes an improvement to the New York State Lemon Law as it relates to motor homes to reflect the complex nature of motor home repair.

This law decreases the number of days that a new motor home with a nonconformity or defect must be out of service before consumers may pursue legal remedies pursuant to the New York State Lemon Law, including the return of such vehicle to the manufacturer, from thirty-six to thirty days.

Air Bags (A.654, Pheffer)

This bill would require airbags to be sold without such sale being tied into the sale of other goods and services. The requirements under this bill are applicable to new motor vehicles only and would not apply to airbags required to be installed by federal law. A motor vehicle dealer shall not be in violation of this section if the dealer, after due diligence, is unable to acquire from the manufacturer a vehicle equipped with airbags as an option without the purchase of a package of options. (Passed Assembly)

E.  Increasing Consumer Recourse

Lemon Law Arbitrations (Chapter 611 of the Laws of 2005, Pheffer)

This new law will ensure that consumers are provided with a speedy, inexpensive, and expeditious means of resolving disputes involving new vehicles that are believed to be "lemons." Under the Attorney General’s New Car Lemon Law Arbitration program, consumers are allowed to choose a site from among fifty-six locations throughout the State for their arbitration proceeding. This law provides consumers with a similar level of convenience by providing that any subsequent judicial proceedings arising out of any New Car Lemon Law arbitration be brought either in the county where the consumer resides or where the arbitration was held or is pending.

Victims of Price Gouging (A.662, Pheffer)

Price gouging occurs when businesses take unfair advantage of consumer during abnormal disruptions of the market by charging grossly excessive prices for essential consumer goods and services. Unscrupulous businesses that gouge consumers during difficult times must be held accountable. Currently, only the State Attorney General is empowered to bring legal action against violators of the price gouging statute. This bill would leave the Attorney General’s powers intact, but would also permit individual victims of price gouging to sue the price gougers directly. (Passed Assembly)


A.   Hearing on Identity Theft

On April 7, 2005, the Committee held a joint public hearing with the Committee on Banks and the Committee on Codes to examine the effectiveness of the State’s Identity Theft Law, to address several identity theft issues that have arisen since its enactment and to explore Legislative solutions to these concerns. In recent years, methods of committing identity theft have increased dramatically alongside fast-paced advances in technology. Identity thieves are now employing new and increasingly deceptive methods in their efforts to gain access to personal information. Some of these new technologies were unavailable when the Legislature enacted the Identity Theft Law (Chapter 619 of the Laws of 2002), which criminalized the theft of identity and enhanced consumers’ ability to recover damages suffered due to identity theft.

The Committees heard testimony from the Office of the Attorney General, the New York State Banking Department, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, and representatives of the financial services industry. These witnesses provided the Committees with information regarding new forms of identity theft, policy options to facilitate the prosecution of persons engaged in these financial crimes and suggestions on legislation to combat identity theft. The Committee will use this valuable information as it continues to examine and advance legislation to protect New York residents from identity theft.

B.   Hearing on Home Equity Theft

In order to examine the home equity theft issue and explore how these crimes can be prevented, the Committee, along with the Committee on Banks, the Committee on Housing, and the Committee on Codes held a joint public hearing on May 17, 2005. In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in homeowners falling victim to home equity theft scams. These homeowners, many of whom are low- and middle-income or elderly, fall behind on their mortgages, at which point they are approached by unscrupulous individuals or businesses who promise to help solve their problems. Instead of receiving assistance, however, the homeowners are misled into transferring the title to their property.

The Committees received valuable testimony from the New York State Banking Department, housing and consumer advocates, legal services organizations and affected homeowners. Several witnesses recommended passage of the Home Equity Theft Prevention Act (A.7667-A). This measure would implement several consumer protections related to home equity purchasing, most notably requiring home equity purchasers to be licensed with the Department of State. This legislation passed the Assembly, but has not been acted on by the Senate.

C.  Hearing on the Regulation of Social Security Numbers and Personal Identifying Information

On September 15, 2005, the Committee, along with the Committee on Governmental Operations and the Committee on Banks, held a public hearing to examine federal and state law regulating the use of Social Security numbers (SSNs) and other personal identifying information and how the practice regarding such use affects consumers, particularly whether such use increases the risk of identity theft. A number of bills have been introduced in the Committee on Consumer Affairs and the Committee on Governmental Operations seeking to regulate the use of SSNs and personal identifying information by businesses and state agencies. Issues of federal pre-emption, alternative identifiers, and state actions regarding this issue were also addressed.

The Committees received useful testimony on this important issue from the federal General Accountability Office, the Office of the New York State Attorney General, the Consumer Protection Board, identity theft experts, consumer advocates and industry representatives. The hearing marked a successful dialogue on possible legislative solutions to protect consumers from identity theft resulting from the misappropriation of Social Security numbers. The Committees plan to continue the dialogue with government, consumers, and industry participants.

D.  Hearings on Gasoline and Home Energy Prices

The Committee held three joint public hearings with the Committee on Energy on gasoline and home energy prices; the first in Albany on September 14, 2005; the second in Hauppauge on September 29, 2005; and the third in Rochester on November 1, 2005. The purpose of these hearings was to investigate the dramatic increase in the price of gasoline, home heating oil, natural gas, and other fuels, which occurred during the second half of the year and to explore effective short-term and long-term solutions to this issue. The hearings also examined several related issues, including the extent to which gouging has impacted gasoline prices, the need for an increase in Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) funds for low-income and senior citizens, the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the availability of both transportation fuels and heating fuels, the fiscal impact that escalating fuel prices have on the state, county, and local governments, including school districts, businesses and not-for-profits, and the effect of federal, state, and local taxes on the price of fuels of all types.

E.   Hearing on Security Freezes

On November 21, 2005, the Committee held a joint public hearing with the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection to examine the need for security freezes to combat identity theft. In 2004, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 17,000 complaints of identity theft from New York residents. One potential tool in the fight against identity theft is locking, or freezing, access to consumer credit reports. This prevents identity thieves from taking out new loans and credit in the name of their victim. A consumer who places a security freeze is provided a unique PIN or password that must be given to a credit reporting agency each time the consumer wants to allow access to their credit information.

The purpose of this hearing was to examine the need for a security freeze law to combat identity theft in New York State and, if there is such need, what form should a law authorizing security freezes take. The hearing also investigated procedures for placing and removing a security freeze, the advantages and disadvantages of placing a freeze, and the experience of states that have implemented laws that allow their residents to place a security freeze.

F.  Hearing on State Agency Implementation of the Enacted State Fiscal Year 2005-06 Budget

On December 16, 2005, the Committee, along with the Committee on Agriculture, will hold a public hearing on state agency implementation of the enacted State fiscal year 2005-06 budget. The purpose of this hearing will be to review the budget implementation initiatives of the Consumer Protection Board.


The 2006 Legislative Session promises to present many challenges to the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee. The Committee will pursue many of the issues it addressed during the 2005 Session, and new issues will emerge for consideration. As in the past, the Committee will continue to address issues brought to its attention by legislators, the executive branch, staff, and by the people of the State of New York.



A.26 Pheffer Reduces the period during which a nonconforming mobile home must be out of service before the manufacturer may be required to accept the return thereof Chapter 26 of the Laws of 2005.
A.75-A Pheffer Relates to written solicitations for various credit card protection services. Chapter 433 of the Laws of 2005.
A.204 Markey Prohibits the sale of utility knives or box cutters to persons under eighteen years of age. Chapter 243 of the Laws of 2005.
A.1551 Morelle Regulates the rental of articles of clothing. Chapter 64 of the Laws of 2005.
A.5403-A Gottfried Requires the posting of drug retail price lists on the website of the state department of health. Chapter 293 of the Laws of 2005.
A.6548-B Magee Relates to express consumer warranties of farm equipment. Chapter 662 of the Laws of 2005.
A.6886-A Rivera, P Requires that dial-up Internet service providers provide a warning relating to the selection of access telephone numbers. Chapter 334 of the Laws of 2005.
A.7180-A Dinowitz Provides that no person shall obtain wireless telephone numbers from a wireless telephone service provider without permission for the purpose of creating a directory. Chapter 655 of the Laws of 2005.
A.7381-A Pheffer Relates to proceedings arising out of lemon law arbitrations. Chapter 611 of the Laws of 2005.
A.7710 Pheffer Relates to certain exceptions to the no telemarketing sales calls statewide registry. Chapter 214 of the Laws of 2005.
A.8436 Pheffer Requires rebate redemption forms to be provided to consumer at the time of purchase. Chapter 574 of the Laws of 2005.



A.223 Dinowitz Would authorize cardholders to prohibit credit, charge, and debit card issuers from renting, selling, exchanging, or otherwise making available cardholder information.
A.446 Gantt Would prohibit motor vehicle rental agencies from discriminating against a person because any of the authorized operators do not have a credit card.
A.511 Greene Would prohibits advertising or offering free estimates except in writing and at no charge.
A.654 Pheffer Would provide that airbags (not required by federal law) sold and installed by motor vehicle dealers or manufacturers must be offered as standard or as single options.
A.662 Pheffer Would create a private right of action for unlawful price gouging for injunctive relief and recovery of actual damages or $1000 whichever is greater.
A.935 Tokasz Would prohibit the sale of laser pointers to persons under the age of 18.
A.983-A Weisenberg Would require sunscreen products to be labeled with best if used before dates and storage recommendations.
A.3055 Brodsky Would require that new computers be sold with only new parts unless otherwise labeled.
A.3558 Lentol Would prohibit imposition of certain credit card charges against holders who elect not to carry balances forward or who elect to pay off balances during grace period.
A.3745 Scarborough Would provide that hotel and motel keepers who require customers to use credit cards must notify the issuer of the card if payment is made by other means.
A.4885 Sanders Would extend the wheelchair warranty to all wheelchairs, whether motorized or not.
A.6303-B Bradley Would provide that a consumer reporting agency may not consider that a person requested a rate quote when determining that person’s credit score.
A.7812-A Rivera, N Would require publisher of magazine subscriptions to disclose on the billing statement or invoice a customer service telephone number.
A.8025-B Brodsky Would enact the "anti-phishing act of 2005", prohibiting the misuse of the internet to obtain identifying information by misrepresenting oneself as an online business.
A.8838 Sweeney Would define telephone number for the purposes of the no telemarketing statewide registry.
A.8919 Pheffer Would prohibit creditors from charging consumers an additional rate or fee, or a differential in any rate or fee, for selecting a payment option requiring the use of mail, paper billing or an electronic transaction involving the internet or telephone.


VETO’S of 2005

A.3494-A Pheffer Would provide that all renewal notices for magazine subscriptions include the month and year of expiration or a referral to a source of such information. Veto Memo 48.
A.6340 Lafayette Would prohibit certain fuel charging practices by rental vehicle companies except for companies which disclose their fuel charging policies prior to rental. Veto Memo 7.
A.7925-A Lafayette Would prohibit certain persons from fraudulently impersonating others on caller identification devices. Veto Memo 50.



Final Disposition of Bills Assembly Bills Senate Bills Total
Bills Reported With or Without Amendment      
To Floor; Not Returning to Committee 6   6
To Floor; Recommitted and Died 0   0
To Ways and Means 1   1
To Codes 36   36
To Rules 1   1
To Judiciary 0   0
Total 44   44
Bills Having Committee Reference Changed      
To Health Committee 1    
To Agriculture Committee 1   1
To Governmental Operations Committee 1   1
To Education Committee 1   1
Total 4   4
Senate Bills Substituted or Recalled      
Substituted   4 4
Recalled   3 3
Total   7 7
Bills Defeated in Committee      
Bills Never Reported, Held in Committee 204 4 208
Bills Never Reported, Died in Committee 0 0 0
Bills Having Enacting Clause Stricken 2 0 2
Motions to Discharge Lost      
Total Bills in Committee 254 11 265
Total Number of Committee Meetings Held 9