Op-Ed: Consumer Protection Is Everybody’s Business

Op-Ed published in the Home Reporter and the Brooklyn Spectator

By Eric T. Schneiderman

As attorney general, I am New York’s chief law enforcement officer. It is my job to prosecute major frauds, like the wrongdoing by big banks that caused the mortgage crisis and the Great Recession. But it is also my job to pursue local businesses that defraud hardworking New Yorkers.

In the last three years, I have investigated many companies for engaging in deceptive and fraudulent business practices, stopping their predatory behavior, punishing the perpetrators and getting victims their money back.

One egregious case occurred during Hurricane Sandy.  Thousands of New Yorkers, including many in Brooklyn, had to flee their homes, and hotel rooms were scarce.

My office warned against price-gouging in this time of emergency – yet, the operators of the Holiday Inn Express on Butler Street in Park Slope charged $400 to $519 a night for rooms that ordinarily cost an average of $155.

We settled with the hotel  and obtained refunds for 38 guests who had been overcharged.

In another case, we settled with the owner of the ReBar restaurant in DUMBO, who took $1.8 million in payment for wedding-related events from approximately 150 couples – including residents of Dyker Heights and Park Slope – then abruptly shut his doors.

Acting on complaints from victims, we sought restitution – and last month, a judge granted our request for a judgment against owner Jason Stevens for more than $1 million.

So far, 73 customers are eligible for restitution under the settlement, and there’s still time to file a complaint with my office. If you booked an event at ReBar, you have until Oct. 31 to contact my Consumer Helpline at the number below.

My office is most effective when you help us help you. If you know of a business that is ripping off the public, call us at 800-771-7755.

I am proud to be your partner in seeking justice for the people of New York, and I look forward to doing so as your attorney general for a long time to come.