From the Capitol: Protecting Consumers

May 2, 2014

Protecting consumers is one of my top priorities. If we want to create a fair marketplace and a healthy business environment, we need to guarantee that consumers will always have strong protections here in Connecticut. As new services and businesses materialize, we also have to revisit current law to make sure our protections meet emerging needs and concerns.

This legislative session, the Connecticut General Assembly is considering multiple bills that would strengthen protections and address new anxieties. The Connecticut State Senate has already voted unanimously in favor of three important consumer bills, moving them one step closer to becoming law. Here’s what each bill would do for consumers.

Protect Consumer Privacy

Senate Bill 208 protects consumers by requiring pharmacies to provide more information on privacy rights and waivers. In order to sign up for some prescription drug rewards programs in pharmacies, individuals have to sign a waiver to relinquish their medical privacy rights (rights provided by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – HIPA). This bill would require pharmacies to notify customers in plain language about what information becomes accessible when they sign that waiver. The bill would also require pharmacies to tell consumers which third parties have access to their private medical information after signing a HIPA waiver.

Protect Personal Phone Numbers

Senate Bill 209 bans unsolicited commercial text messages and strengthens the penalties for violations of the Do Not Call Registry. In today’s world, telemarketers do not only call people, they also send text messages. Some consumers end up paying to receive these messages under certain data plans. This bill would prohibit businesses from sending commercial text messages to those on the Do Not Call Registry. The legislation would also strengthen penalties by increasing the fines for contacting those on the Do Not Call list from $11,000 to $20,000 for each violation. Finally, the bill requires phone service providers give consumers more information on how to sign up for the Do Not Call list and how to file complaints if a telemarketer violates the Do Not Call list. For more information about the Do Not Call list visit

Protect Electricity Consumers

Senate Bill 2 proposes legislation that would protect electricity consumers from unanticipated future spikes in their electric rates and clears up confusion in the system. This is a start in the right direction. In the deregulated electricity industry in Connecticut, many suppliers now exist in Connecticut. Over the past year, we have seen some of these suppliers sharply raise prices, without warning. We have also seen some companies engage in deceptive marketing, misleading customers. This legislation would require suppliers provide advanced notice of price changes and would make it easier for consumers to compare prices. It would also prohibit suppliers from misleading customers with new standards and rules in place.

Each of these bills seeks to help improve the business environment for consumers and owners alike. As the close of session approaches, I hope they will all be successful.