California consumer laws in effect in 2013

We’re about to enter a new year and with it comes new laws affecting everything from preventing loan abuses by ‘buy here pay here’ automobile dealerships, authorizing credit unions to provide services to the unbanked, to requiring for-profit colleges to accurately report job placements.

Here is a look at some of the consumer rights bills that the Consumer Federation of California supported that were signed into law and will take effect in 2013:

Protection for Students at For-Profit Postsecondary Schools

The Consumer Federation of California called on state lawmakers to crack down on for-profit, private colleges that hoodwink students into programs that promised career advancement, yet deliver worthless diplomas and pile on debt that could lead to financial ruin.

AB 2296 (Block) was signed into law and requires for-profit colleges to inform prospective students and publish in the school catalog their accreditation status, actual salaries earned by former students, the most recent 3-year loan default rates, the percentage of students receiving federal student loans, and whether graduates have found work in the fields in which they were trained. The new law also requires that the institutions that maintain a website must provide the school catalog, a school performance fact sheet for each educational program offered, student brochures, and the institution’s most recent annual report.

Prevention of Potential Loan Abuses by Buy Here Pay Here Dealerships

The Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) automobile industry consists of used car dealers that lend to people with damaged credit by offering direct, in-house financing rather than using outside lenders like banks or credit unions. Borrowers have complained about inflated prices, lack of warranties, onerous payments and quick repossessions that often ruined their credit and pushed them into bankruptcy.

AB 1447 (Feuer) was signed into law and prohibits a dealer from forcing the buyer to pay in person, with the exception of the down payment, and would require that BHPH dealerships issue 30-day or 1,000-mile warranties on every car sold or leased. AB 1534 (Wieckowski) requires BHPH dealerships to display the market value of the vehicle and provide a copy of any information obtained from a nationally recognized pricing guide that the dealer used to determine the market value.

Information for Breast Cancer Detection Following Mammograms

Mammography is one of the key tools upon which women and their doctors rely on to detect breast cancer. Because dense breast tissue can obscure the results of a mammogram, a woman’s awareness of her breast density is critical to her continued health. SB 1538 (Simitian) requires that a facility providing mammograms will send the patient and her physician a report, if she is identified as having dense breast tissue, to raise awareness about her breast density so she can discuss the situation with her doctor and decide which screening options are most appropriate for her.

Elimination of Gag Clauses from Elder Abuse Settlements

California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act gives seniors, dependent adults, and their survivors the right to sue for civil damages when physical or financial abuse occurs. Victims often agree to settle in cases, which sometimes includes gag clauses prohibiting them from contacting or cooperating with some government agencies and their investigations.

AB 2149 (Butler) provides that an agreement to settle a civil action for physical abuse, neglect, or financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult shall not include any provision, among other things, that prohibits contact or cooperation with government agencies such as the county adult protective services agency, local law enforcement agencies, and the long-term care ombudsman.

Authorization for State Credit Unions to Provide Services to the Unbanked

Unbanked residents are unable to open bank accounts and are typically concentrated in lower income communities. They have often had to resort to using predatory financial institutions for basic services such as check cashing, purchasing a money order, or transferring money to family members. Before AB 2006 (Perez) was signed into law, state-chartered credit unions were prohibited from extending services to non credit union members. This law enables state-chartered credit unions to provide vital financial services to Californians who do not have bank accounts.

Additional Consumer Laws:

‘  AB 40 (Yamada) ensures that cases of elder and dependent adult abuse are reported to both the local long-term care ombudsman and local law enforcement.
‘ AB 1830 (V.M. P