Department of Consumer Protection
At a Glance
EDWIN R. RODRIGUEZ, Commissioner
Jerry Farrell, Jr., Deputy Commissioner
Established - 1959
Statutory authority - CGS Chap. 416, Section 21a-1
Central office - 165 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106
Average number of employees - 172 (All Funds)
Recurring operating expenses - $ 12,642,673
General Fund Revenue - $ 27,975,817
Transportation Fund Receipts - $ 1,181,429
Total Revenue in Fiscal 2005 - $ 29,157,246
The mission of the Department of Consumer Protection is to ensure a fair and equitable marketplace, safe products and services for consumers in the industries that we license, regulate and enforce.
Office of the Commissioner: Sets the agency’s course by identifying priorities and by anticipating marketplace problems. The Office maintains close working relationships with federal and State agencies as well as the Office of the Attorney General and other officials at all levels of government and representatives of agency-relevant interests. The Office develops policy and procedures and proposes legislation tailored to meet the needs of Connecticut’s marketplace while protecting consumer interests, and provides leadership and direction to agency divisions for further development and action.
Athletic Unit: Sanctions and provides oversight to professional boxing events held within Connecticut outside of the casinos. Licenses and regulates all professional boxing contestants, managers, athlete agents, referees, announcers, seconds, promoters and timekeepers.
Business Office: Provides financial and administrative support services such as budgeting, accounting, accounts payable/receivable, payroll and procurement; administers consumer restitution funds.
Consumer Education: Proactively provides consumers with information helping them protect themselves and provides educational programs on issues such as preventing underage drinking and hiring registered home improvement contractors.
Communications: Informs and alerts the public to marketplace fraud, food and product recalls and the Agency's legal actions by providing information to the media and on the agency website. Also provides support to the Commissioner for research on emerging issues or problems.
Drug Control: Enforces laws concerning the manufacture, sale and distribution of all controlled substances and the adulteration and/or misbranding of all drugs, cosmetics and medical devices. The Division performs inspections of pharmacies in retail and hospital settings, and investigates thefts involving controlled substances as well as pharmaceutical errors in the marketplace. Provides support to federal agencies in investigations. The Division also assists the Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with drug distribution during public health emergencies.
Food and Standards: Oversees food safety and labeling and ensures accuracy of all weights and measures of food, fuels and other consumer commodities by regular inspections as well as inspections of accidents and other emergency sites. Operates the Measurement Laboratory, the only metrology certification laboratory in the state.
Human Resources: Administers all personnel, labor relations and affirmative action activities. Oversees agency ethics guidelines.
Technical Systems Unit: Provides information technology support to the agency. The IT system allows consumers to obtain information on Connecticut laws, verify licenses, download complaint forms and rosters and utilize many other services.
Legal Services Office: Handles the Agency's legal and enforcement activities, drafts legislative proposals and regulations, issues civil investigative demands and subpoenas, submits investigative information and legal cases to the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution, and conducts compliance meetings and formal administrative hearings.
License Services: Processes 208,000 licenses, registrations, certificates, and permits in 206 categories.
Liquor Control Commission: A three-member regulatory body within the Department that is chaired by the Commissioner, the Commission oversees provisional permits and holds formal administrative hearings as well as compliance meetings regarding unlawful activity by permittees or on permittee premises. The Commission also reviews and approves final liquor permits, substitute permittee applications, and other related issues.
Liquor Control Division: Enforces laws concerning sale of alcoholic liquor in Connecticut. Conducts inspections of licensed liquor establishments, investigates new liquor applicants for suitability, conducts investigations into complaints of violations of state liquor regulations and laws, works in a collaborative manner with local, state and federal law enforcement officers, refers cases to the Liquor Control Commission for review and action, and provides training on state liquor laws and regulations.
Occupational and Professional Licensing: The Division provides administrative support to and works closely with the following sixteen licensing boards, commissions and councils to administer and enforce laws relative to eligibility for licensure and to develop and administer testing procedures, which determine competency: Plumbing and Piping Work Examining Board; Heating, Piping and Cooling Work Examining Board; Electrical Work Examining Board; Elevator Craftsman Work Examining Board; Fire Protection Sprinkler Work Examining Board; Automotive and Flat Glass Work Examining Board; Home Inspector Licensing Board; the Architectural Licensing Board; the State Boards of Examiners for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors; the State Board of Landscape Architects; the Real Estate Commission; the Real Estate Appraisal Commission; the Board of Examiners of Shorthand Reporters; the Major Contractor Advisory Council; the Boxing Promotion Commission and the Mobile Manufactured Home Park Council.
Public Charities Unit: Registers professional fund-raisers and profiles charitable organizations to protect the public from charity fraud. Works jointly with the Attorney General’s Office to investigate and prosecute violators.
Trade Practices: Investigates violations of law involving Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, Itinerant Vendors, Health Clubs, Closing-Out Sales, Product Safety, Home Improvement and New Home Construction. Also, enforces the provisions of the New Car Warranty Act, known as “Lemon Law.” Provides a consumer complaint center that responds to written complaints and manages a consumer “hotline.”
The agency provided training to more than 500 police officers, retailers, and community members on state liquor
laws and regulations. Additionally, the Department provided training to 3,215 law enforcement officers, pharmacists and health care providers on topics including the identification of narcotic drugs, signs and symptoms of drug abusers, new drug laws, and prevention of prescription errors.
Each year, the Department provides monetary restitution to consumers who have been financially damaged as a result of unfair business practices in the areas of new home construction, home improvement, health club membership, and purchases from itinerant vendors. Persons wishing to seek compensation from one of the funds must meet certain conditions and follow certain steps and guidelines. Payouts to consumers in 2004-2005 included: $24,300 paid out from the Heath Club Guaranty Fund; $5,278 paid from the Real Estate Guaranty Fund, nearly $2.1 million paid to consumers from the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund, and $646,370 paid from the New Home Construction Guaranty Fund.
In partnership with local and state law enforcement officers and minors trained and provided by the Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking, DCP liquor agents conducted 392 compliance checks of licensed liquor retailers throughout the state to identify establishments that would sell liquor to minors. The number of compliance checks increased 36% over the previous year. Nearly one –third of the checked establishments failed by making actual sales of alcoholic liquor to minors.
The Legal Division carried forward the Department’s enforcement activities to effective resolutions. In this fiscal year the Division conducted 320 compliance meetings, issued 1137 formal complaints and six civil investigative demands, crafted and executed 241 Assurances of Voluntary Compliance and held 19 investigative hearings with persons and establishments regulated by the Department of Consumer Protection.
Heating oil and gasoline costs continued to be of great concern. The Department conducted numerous long-term investigations of heating fuel dealerships this year. In response to one investigation, the Division initiated the arrest of a licensed heating oil dealer on larceny charges. The agency sought and achieved passage of legislation to regulate the sale of prepaid heating fuel contracts, in order to protect consumers from financial harm.
The Department continued to upgrade its local area network and e-license software system to meet the needs of its customers.
The Department officially sanctioned two professional boxing events at the New Haven Athletic Center on April 1, 2005 and July 8, 2005. The two title matches were the WBC World Youth Middleweight Championship and IBF/USBA Featherweight Championship. The boxing events were broadcasted on live television by four major sports network to approximately 16 countries around the world, including the entire United States.
The Liquor Control Division investigated citizen complaints and police referrals about violations of the Liquor Control Act and its regulations, conducted undercover operations, assisted local and state law enforcement officers in the investigation of underage sales and sales to intoxicated patrons, and provided full-time enforcement at the state’s two casinos to deter underage service of alcoholic liquor and service to already intoxicated patrons.
In May, the agency concluded a major sting operation in Montville that netted 100 home improvement contractors for violating requirements of the Home Improvement Act. Enforcement actions have increased registrations to over 25,000 registrants and $2.3 million paid in restitution to consumers out of the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund.
The Department recovered and returned hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation to Connecticut consumers through administrative orders or litigation brought under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The Liquor Control Commission met 104 times during the year to rule on final and provisional permits, vote to proceed with formal enforcement actions or dismissals, review and approve transfer of stocks of backers, review and extend provisional permits beyond 90 days, and review and approve additional consumer bar applications, outdoor patio endorsements, substitute permittees, and requests for extension of permit premises. In addition, the Liquor Control Commission scheduled approximately 200 compliance meetings, of which 61 proceeded to a formal administrative hearing, and held approximately 48 formal hearings on matters involving new liquor applications. During the 2005 fiscal year, the Commission revoked the permits of two establishments and imposed suspensions and a total of $$664,246 in fines on 136 permittees for violations of State liquor laws.
Agency food inspectors responded to 41 traffic and highway accidents involving food and beverage products in 2004-2005.
The Connecticut Lemon Law program returned $3,767,000 to consumers in replacement value or refund of money spent on their new cars through manufacturers’ compliance with arbitration awards.
The Department issued 72 press releases on issues ranging from limousine services to recalled hot dogs, illegal pharmacies, home heating oil contracts, alcohol sales to minors, email scams and unregistered home improvement contractors. In addition, the agency launched an initiative to disseminate its press releases in Spanish to Latino media outlets and to translate consumer information into Spanish for public dissemination and posting to the website. The Agency participated at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Massachusetts for three days in September 2004 and provided literature and person-to person information to approximately 51,000 Connecticut residents who visited the DCP booth. In total, public speaking engagements, training sessions and appearances totaled 149 this year, directly reaching an additional 5,300 consumers, professionals and law enforcement officials.
The agency responded to thousands of consumer calls and nearly 8,000 written consumer complaints.
The Drug Control Division expanded its educational programs to other branches of the law enforcement community.
The agency completed a major initiative to upgrade its public website and migrate it to the Connecticut government portal. Over the year, the website was enhanced to include real-time announcements of liquor control permit suspensions, a comprehensive index of much sought-after consumer information, on-line completion of most application forms, and information on how citizens can object to the issuance of a new liquor permit or the renewal of an existing liquor permit.
Real Estate and Professional and Occupational Enforcement activities were merged into the Trade Practices Division to utilize best practices related to the intake, processing, investigation and resolution of complaints.
The Drug Control Division successfully investigated large volume distribution of controlled substances from a pharmacy, conducted an undercover operation involving the dispensing of expired medications from a pharmacy, and executed three separate arrests: a physician for illegally obtaining, possessing and prescribing controlled substances; a pharmacist for illegally dispensing medication to a family member; and a pharmacist for illegally dispensing prescription medications from an unlicensed pharmacy.
The Department put into service three new trailer-mounted gasoline provers. The new equipment is helping the agency to achieve greater efficiencies in gasoline inspections, to meet the agency goal of inspecting each licensed gasoline station once each year.
The agency, through the Commissioner’s Office, issues regular press releases on Department activities, agency consumer advisories and enforcement actions. This year, in order to provide more frequent and timely information to consumers and to keep the public apprised of important issues, the agency more than tripled the number of news releases from the prior year and began regularly releasing results of its local alcohol compliance checks to the press.
Information Reported as Required by State Statute
The Department of Consumer Protection is firmly committed to the principles and objectives of equal employment opportunity for all individuals. The Department's full-time Affirmative Action Officer coordinates and monitors the agency's programs and ensures compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Employment Practices Act, state Affirmative Action regulations and Contract Compliance laws.
In FY 2005, 49 percent of the Agency's employees were female and 51 percent were male, with the following composition: 73 percent white, 16 percent black, 7 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian and 2 percent Indian. The Department's Affirmative Action plan has been approved by the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.