This, the last of a four part series published to coincide with the National Consumer Protection Week, March 1-7 (NCPW), focuses on the CT Department of Consumer Protection (CTDCP). Since so many of our members reside in Connecticut, it just seemed appropriate.

The three previous articles:

CTDCP: Mission Statement: To ensure a fair and equitable marketplace, safe products and services for consumers in the industries that we license, regulate and enforce.

In a nutshell, the CTDCP looks out for consumers by the following:

We License: Each year, the Department of Consumer Protection issues over 200,000 licenses, registrations, and permits for more than 200 types of jobs and businesses, including pharmacies, liquor stores, casinos, mobile home parks, electricians, home improvement contractors, lottery agents and real estate brokers, to name just a few. We also oversee food and beverage industries, to ensure safety and wholesomeness. We regulate gasoline retailers and home heating fuel dealers, and oversee the production and distribution of all prescription medication in the state.

We Regulate: We enforce many federal and state laws, investigate consumer complaints and mediate disputes between consumers and businesses. The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act gives us broad authority over unfair business activity and offers the possibility of financial restitution for consumers who have been unfairly treated. The Pure Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the State Child Protection Act and the Weights and Measures Act also help us safeguard residents from harmful products and from unfair or dishonest treatment.

We Monitor: To protect citizens from unfair businesses and unsafe products, we continually monitor the marketplace and remove tainted, fraudulent, and dangerous products from store shelves. We inspect gasoline pumps, scales and all measuring devices used in business to ensure their accuracy. We prevent the illegal sale or prescribing of prescription drugs, and we work to put scam artists out of business and to keep alcoholic beverages away from minors and intoxicated persons. We also ensure the integrity of all forms of legalized gaming.

We Protect: A written complaint is the first step a consumer must take to alert us of a problem. We carefully review each complaint, investigate as needed, and work to find a solution that restores fairness, ensures legal compliance, and wherever possible and appropriate, provides monetary restitution to the consumer.

That’s a pretty broad sweep of responsibility. There’s no way that we could tell you all about it, except by republishing their web site, and nobody wants that.

But Be Informed!
Still, most everyone at sometime or other has need for services and products from providers that CTDCP regulates and monitors, so it really isn’t a bad idea to have a working knowledge of the CTDCP structure and what regulations it applies to protect us, the Connecticut consumers. So, read on for a short overview of the CTDCP organization and how it protects us. Not a bad idea to bookmark their web site as well: CTDCP.

The Department has seven divisions, each with its own area of expertise, that as a whole define the scope of CTDCP:

  • Drug Control Division — The Drug Control Division works to protect the health and safety of Connecticut residents by regulating all persons and firms involved in the distribution of all legal drugs, medical devices and cosmetics in Connecticut. It also oversees Connecticut licensing for pharmacies, pharmacists, controlled substance providers and laboratories, pharmacy technicians, and drug manufacturers and wholesalers.

  • Foods and Standards Division — Through the Food and Standards Division, the Department regulates all persons and businesses that manufacture or sell food products in the state, and ensures that weighing and measuring devices in Connecticut are accurate. Staff also test motor fuel octane, investigate complaints about gasoline stations and heating fuel, and inspect restaurants, bakeries and grocery stores for cleanliness and safety.

  • Frauds Division — The Frauds Division protects the public from unfair or deceptive business practices, fraud, and scams that affect the Connecticut marketplace, including those sometimes associated with home improvement and new home construction. The Division enforces the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) and helps to mediate disputes between buyers and sellers.

  • Gaming Division — The Gaming Division works to ensure the highest degree of integrity in the conduct of all forms of legalized gaming within the State of Connecticut and the federally recognized Tribal Nations within the State, by licensing or permitting all individuals and entities that are involved with legalized gaming and by monitoring and educating to ensure compliance with the gaming laws and the Tribal-State agreements.

  • Licensing Division — The License Services Division processes more than 208,000 licenses each year. Staff also responds to questions about renewals, payments, and other processing issues related to licenses, permits and registrations.

  • Liquor Control Division — The Liquor Control Division safeguards the health and safety of Connecticut citizens by regulating all persons and firms involved in distributing, selling, and dispensing alcoholic liquor in order to prevent sales to minors and intoxicated persons, maintain product integrity, and ensure that licensed premises are safe and sanitary.

  • Occupational and Professional Division — The Occupational & Professional Licensing Division protects the public health, safety, and welfare of Connecticut citizens by assuring that only qualified, competent persons are licensed in the occupational trades and in several professional licensing categories.

  • Trade Practice Division — The Trade Practices Division protects the public from unfair and deceptive trade practices and unsafe consumer products; enforces laws governing a large array of licensees and registrants, helps to mediate disputes between buyers and sellers, and administers funds and programs that provide restitution to consumers.

Complaint Center
One service the CTDCP provides that everyone should be aware of is the Complaint Center. This is a biggie and can affect anybody, so we are going into detail here.

Complaint Center
Welcome to the Department of Consumer Protection Complaint Center. The Complaint Center tracks, and attempts to resolve, disputes between consumers and businesses operating in Connecticut. Please take a few minutes to learn more about what we do and how you can help us help you.
Tips for Protecting Yourself
The Department of Consumer Protection can not resolve every consumer dispute. We rely on you – the consumer – to help us in our mission. You can do this in a few ways:
    • Research the business you will be dealing with. Ask for references and then contact them. If you are hiring a home improvement or new home construction contractor, visit other job sites they have worked on, if possible.
    • Check that your contractor or licensed professional has an active license or registration. Don’t take their word for it. Even if they give you their license or registration number, you should make sure it is active.
    • Read your contract before you sign and know your rights. Our Consumer and Publication pages have additional resources to help you protect yourself.
  • Do Your Homework:  Before making a significant purchase or hiring a contractor:
  • Try To Resolve Your Dispute Yourself:  Most Connecticut businesses are legitimate companies that want satisfied, repeat customers. If you have a problem with a business, call or write them a letter – explain the problem, show them the backup documents if you can and ask for a fair resolution. If you can help yourself, that gives us more time to go after the companies engaged in patterns of fraud or abuse. Read on for tips and resources to help you resolve your dispute.
  • Alert Us To Problems:  Although we cannot solve every problem, we do want to hear about them. From your information, we learn when a business has a pattern of acting badly or a new scam is moving into the State. Where we see a pattern of bad conduct, the law provides us with tools to go after the business, or we can alert the public to protect others from being victimized. Click here to see if your complaint is one we have authority to deal with and, if appropriate, to file a complaint.

Resources to Help You Resolve Your Dispute

If you have a complaint about a product or service, your first step is to contact the business.  Most companies want satisfied customers who will return with more business. If you can’t return to the store, toll-free phone numbers are usually available on product packaging or on marketing materials; you can even go onto the company’s website for customer service contact information.

  • Tips for Calling or Visiting the Business’ Customer Service Department
    • Inform the business about the problem you have with their product or service as soon as possible. Be specific and focus on your problem. Avoid confusing the issues by telling them information not relevant to your complaint.
    • Although you may be angry or feel cheated, when you talk to the business, be polite, patient, and keep your tone of voice calm and pleasant. Before you call, write down your discussion points so you stay on point and don’t let your anger take over.  If you start off by being hostile or threatening, the customer service representative is more likely to turn defensive, making a resolution less likely.
    • Gather any documents, receipts, and guarantee or warranty information before you call or visit. If you cannot bring in the product, make sure to provide the brand name, model, serial number or any other information that will help identify the product. Take a picture if appropriate and bring it with you. If you are complaining about a service, describe what was promised and what was received and take a picture if possible. It is also helpful to know who sold you the product or who performed the service and the date the transaction or service took place.
    • Before you begin to negotiate, figure out what needs to be done to resolve your problem. Be open to the business’ suggestions; they may offer an acceptable, new solution.
    • Do not demand to speak with the manager immediately. Instead, see if the first person with whom you made contact can help you. If they cannot resolve your complaint, remain calm and then ask to speak with someone who can help you such as a manager. If the business with which you are dealing has a customer service desk, begin there.
  • Inform the business what your needs are and have them offer suggestions for a resolution. Work together to find a solution that fits your needs.

There is lot’s more of good information for Connecticut consumers and business people. Give their web site a visit. CTDCP.

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