A description of OCP’s mission with links to key services
What is the Office of Consumer Protection?
The Office of Consumer Protection is a division of the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, created in 1969 to protect the interests of consumers and legitimate businesses. The primary purpose of the office is to promote fair and honest business practices by investigating alleged violations of consumer protection laws, by taking legal action to stop unfair or deceptive practices in the marketplace, and by educating the consumer public and businesses regarding their respective rights and obligations.
What kinds of complaints does OCP handle?
OCP handles a wide variety of complaints, including:
- Unfair or deceptive acts or practices
- Deceptive advertising
- Door to door sales
- Mail order purchases
- Health clubs
- Refunds and exchanges
- Motor vehicle rental
Who are the people who help handle the complaints?
OCP’s staff includes attorneys, investigators, and other support personnel, and is headed by its Executive Director.
What other services are provided by OCP?
OCP knows that an informed consumer is his or her own best protection against being victimized. To this end, OCP assists in organizing, promoting, and conducting consumer education programs within the state.
OCP also collects and compiles information on consumer complaints and inquiries, and makes those records available for public review upon request. Summary information for complaints is also available over the phone (587-4272) or on-line .
OCP also maintains the Landlord-Tenant information hotline, which is staffed by investigators and volunteers. Interested parties can call the hotline to obtain information on Hawaii’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Code.
How do I file a complaint?
If your complaint involves one or more of the areas listed, simply call the Consumer Resource Center at 587-4272
and press 2.
How are complaints handled?
Complaints are reviewed to determine whether investigation or legal action is appropriate based upon a possible violation of law. Specific cases are then investigated by OCP staff to determine whether violations have in fact occurred. An OCP investigator may speak to you, the business and other relevant witnesses in order to get a complete understanding of the situation. If the investigation provides evidence that a violation of law has occurred, the complaint may be referred to OCP’s legal section for review and possible legal action.
Is there a fee for services provided by OCP?
No. As a state agency, OCP does not charge a fee for its services; however there are nominal fees to obtain photocopies of documents.
Are other government agencies charged with the responsibility of protecting consumers?
Yes. There are various federal, state and county agencies which are charged with specific consumer protection responsibilities. If your complaint or inquiry falls within the jurisdiction of one of these agencies, OCP will assist in directing your complaint or inquiry to the proper enforcement agency.
Can OCP recommend reputable businesses for consumers to deal with?
No. As a government agency, OCP cannot recommend particular businesses to consumers. However, OCP does maintain records of consumer complaints against businesses for five years after the case is closed. OCP’s closed complaint files are available for public review and may help consumers make more informed decisions. If you wish to review complaint records on a particular business, call first to determine whether complaints have been filed and make an appointment to review the records. OCP also provides a summary of complaint records over the telephone (587-4272) and online . Complaints under investigation or litigation are not available for inspection until the investigation or litigation is completed.
Can OCP initiate legal action on behalf of an individual consumer?
OCP initiates legal actions on behalf of consumers generally, but does not represent individual complainants as their private counsel. OCP does not have criminal prosecutorial powers. OCP cannot arrest alleged wrongdoers or seize their property based upon your complaint or upon any lawsuit filed by the office.
In an appropriate case, the office may file a civil lawsuit to stop specific unfair or deceptive acts or practices based on your complaint. OCP’s primary goal will be to obtain a court order to prevent or stop illegal conduct on behalf of the consumer public. Secondarily, OCP will also seek to obtain restitution for complainants and civil penalties.
The powers of OCP are defined by state law.