COVID-19 CONSUMER RESOURCES

Posted on Mar 12, 2020 in Main

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is closely monitoring the emergency situation involving novel coronavirus or COVID-19, and offers information on consumer rights and tips to protect yourself against potential scams.

LANDLORD-TENANT GUIDANCE

Governor David Ige’s recent emergency proclamations concerning the coronavirus has invoked special legal requirements applicable to Landlords and Tenants in Hawaii.

The Office of Consumer Protection is providing a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) for homeowners and renters pertaining to how these provisions impact their legal relationship. This FAQ along with more information regarding the Hawai‘i Landlord-Tenant code is available at https://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/landlordtenant/.

PRICE GOUGING

Price gouging refers to sellers trying to take unfair advantage of consumers during an emergency or disaster by greatly increasing prices for essential consumer goods and services.
Even though the Office of Consumer Protection cannot represent individuals, it may, on behalf of the public, investigate or prosecute someone who has engaged in price gouging. Anyone who believes that they have been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, is encouraged to immediately file a complaint with the OCP by going to the OCP’s website or by calling (808) 587-4272.

Read more information about price gouging at: https://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/price-gouging/.

SCAM ALERT

Consumers should be more vigilant as scammers attempt to take advantage of the public’s fear of the health situation by setting up charity scam websites, offering bogus medical treatment claiming to cure or prevent COVID-19, and disseminating misinformation about the disease through social media, text messages, and emails. Verify information through trusted governmental websites such as www.ftc.gov, www.cdc.gov, health.hawaii.gov, www.who.int, etc. Do not click on links from sources you do not know as it may lead to computer viruses or phishing attempts. Do not rush into making donations and do your due diligence to verify the charity’s legitimacy.

See March 16, 2020 Press Release on Scam Alert & Price Gouging and March 31, 2020 Press Release on Avoiding COVID-19 Scams.

TRAVEL CANCELLATION

When making travel plans, consumers should carefully review the terms and conditions of their reservation. Booking directly with the airline or hotel will usually result in receiving better cancellation policies than online travel websites. If a consumer finds that they need to postpone or cancel their trip they should escalate their request if the initial customer service representative does not provide them with the result that they are seeking. In this instance, they should demand to speak to a supervisor who may have more discretion or greater authority to provide them with relief. In view of current health emergency, many companies are being much more accommodating in addressing changes to consumer travel plans.

MORTGAGE RELIEF OPTIONS

If you’re among those financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, you might be concerned about how to pay your mortgage or rent. Federal and state governments have announced plans to help struggling homeowners during this time. Read the following information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to get information on what to do now, and what your options are for mortgage and rental relief. Guide to coronavirus mortgage relief options at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/guide-coronavirus-mortgage-relief-options/.

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (FCC) WARNINGS

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched a Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips webpage at https://www.fcc.gov/covidscams to alert consumers to the proliferation of scam phone calls and texts related to COVID-19. The webpage includes sample audio from actual scams, including:

    • Free home testing kits
    • Scams targeting diabetics who use insulin
    • Coronavirus HVAC cleaning

The webpage will be refreshed as the FCC becomes aware of new scams. You can also file a complaint about such scams at https://www.fcc.gov/complaints.

Hawaii Attorney General’s Office Resources 

Additional information and resources for consumers are also available on the Attorney General’s website at http://ag.hawaii.gov/covid-19-resources/.