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SD Task Force Takes Aim At Consumer Laws

September 22, 2013, 9:59 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

SD Task Force Takes Aim At Consumer Laws
PIERRE, SD -

Whether it's a check for two airline tickets on a fictitious airline or a self-promoted handyman who takes the money and runs before finishing the job – South Dakotans are hearing more and more about deceptive business practices in the state.

The South Dakota Attorney General's Office fielded 20,000 consumer complaints in 2012. It’s why a task force was formed this year to toughen up the state's consumer protection laws.

"We're contacted by small businesses every day that are being preyed upon by those bad actors, bad door-to-door salesmen," Shawn Lyons with the South Dakota Retailers Association said.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley convened the task force of nearly 70 members this summer to take a closer look at the state's consumer protection laws; laws that haven't been updated in more than 42 years.

"Last year alone we fielded over 20,000 consumer complaints, we recovered over $9 million in damages so it becomes apparent that with technology, and what is going on across the country we're seeing more and more scams and that's here in South Dakota," Jackley said.

The group made up of business owners, trade groups, and lawmakers recently developed proposed legislation to consider in the 2014 session.

"If there are things we can do to help protect everyone involved and frankly go after the people who are doing the harm that should be the purpose of all this," Lyons said.

The task force is looking to make the penalties more severe by developing a plan that would make any consumer crime of more than $1,000 a felony with the possibility of two years in prison. Any crime totaling more than $100,000 would constitute a felony that could land someone behind bars for five years.

"We see it across South Dakota and if we have an enhancement we're hoping that it will act as deterrence and allow the Attorney General's Office to deal with those companies, those bad businesses that come into South Dakota and try to rip off consumers," Jackley said.

The proposals also include new definitions and penalties for organized retail crime, involving thieves who operate large rings that steal and resell merchandise on the Internet

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