The Antitrust and Consumer Law Section has enjoyed another successful year of providing our members and the general public with timely and interesting programs and activities at minimal costs.
New Cochair Tracy Rezvani launched an initiative to expand the section’s role as commenter and advocate on issues of public importance. New steering committee member George Slover has played an important role in moving the initiative forward. As discussed below, we have commented publicly on proposed new local consumer legislation, and on certain real estate foreclosure practices. Consumer Law Committe Chair Wendy Weinberg has stepped up the section’s community outreach efforts.
We have continued our efforts to partner with related organizations, including bar organizations (the Bar Association of D.C. and the American Bar Association (ABA)), local educational institutions (George Washington University School of Law) and national consumer groups (the Alliance to Help Owners Maintain Equity “AT HOME” and The D.C. Consumer Rights Coalition.) Our section is involved in the Bar’s yearly Youth Law Fair, and the section once again made a financial donation to the Bar’s Pro Bono Program. We are very proud of our outreach on all fronts and will certainly continue to commit further time and resources to these efforts.
The section began the year with a "Meet–and–Greet" in October 2012. The welcoming speakers were Cochairs Don Resnikoff and Tracy Rezvani, and George Slover, who presented on the advocacy work of the section. The purpose of the Meet–and–Greet was to welcome our newly elected steering committee members. The event allowed current and new members to meet in person and enjoy conversation and refreshments.
In addition to co-sponsoring numerous events throughout the year, the section also sponsored the following CLE events for members and nonmembers alike:
- Health Plan Most Favored Nations Provisions with Providers in Metropolitan Areas;
- Recent Developments in Mandatory Arbitration;
- Recent Developments in Whistleblower Rules: Opportunities and Risks;
- Antitrust Basics for Non-Antitrust Lawyers.
Consumer Protection Amendment Act
The section has been heavily involved in supporting new local consumer protection legislation, the Consumer Protection Amendment Act of 2011, introduced by Councilwoman Mary Cheh and signed into law January 25. After the Congressional review period, the Effective Date is April 23, 2013. This legislation clarifies, and places on firmer footing, the right of consumer–oriented non-profit organizations to bring legal action in court against violations of D.C. consumer law, as “private attorneys general.”
A 2011 D.C. Court of Appeals decision, Grayson v. AT & T Corp., 15 A.3d 319 (D.C. 2011) (en banc) held that amendments to the Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) enacted in 2000, authorizing persons to sue "on behalf of themselves or the general public," did not give individuals standing to sue unless they personally had suffered actual "injury in fact." The holding also created uncertainty regarding the ability of nonprofit organizations to bring legal action absent an injury in fact. The new legislation clarifies that a nonprofit organization can do so, under conditions designed to ensure that the organization has sufficient stake in the outcome to ensure adequate representation. It also clarifies that individuals, as well as nonprofit organizations, may bring suit against violations involving a product or service purchased or acquired for the purpose of testing it.
In addition, the legislation refines the definition of "consumer" in the CPPA to more closely parallel the definition in the federal Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act. It further adds two new specified deceptive practices to the list of prohibited practices under the CPPA: (1) willfully using falsehood, innuendo, or ambiguity to misrepresent a product or service, and (2) representing that a transaction confers rights that it does not. And it creates a standardized system of unit pricing – i.e., required display of price per unit of measure—for consumer commodities sold in retail stores. This unit pricing system was based on a model act drafted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology with the help of industry trade associations and adopted by nineteen states (including Maryland) and will not only make it easier for consumers to make more educated purchasing decisions, but also will promote competition amongst retailers.
Members of the Antitrust and Consumer Law Section were involved in every stage of the legislative process. Cochair Tracy Rezvani, who had been involved in the Grayson case, helped advise in the initial drafting of the legislation, and, with assistance from Cochair Don Resnikoff, Consumer Law Committee Chair Wendy Weinberg and steering committee member George Slover, led the drafting of the report by the section supporting the legislation. George presented and summarized the section’s report at an October 11, 2012 hearing before the D.C. Council’s Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs. George, Tracy and Don worked with the D.C. Office of Attorney General and a coalition of consumer lawyers and advocates to help the Council shape the final legislation and to describe it for the Council committee report.
The enactment of this legislation significantly advances legal protections for consumers in the District of Columbia.
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Community Outreach/Pro Bono
Our section’s commitment to community outreach and pro bono efforts continues to be strong. Our section participated the Bar’s Youth Law Fair in both 2012 and again in 2013. In May 2012, the section also supported the outreach efforts of the Alliance to Help Owners Maintain Equity (“AT HOME”). AT HOME advocates for members of D.C. Bar government to revisit how the District’s foreclosure laws are implemented, particularly the potential for extreme adverse impact against elderly citizens who have lost their homes for due to nonpayment of nominal taxes. The section’s letter support supported AT HOME’s efforts and garnered the cosponsorship of two other sections.
Additionally, the Section published useful instructions and forms for pro se litigants who are the subject of collection actions. The section collaborated with the D.C. Consumer Rights Coalition to get these useful forms and instructions posted to a website accessible from our section webpage.
In May 2012, the Section donated $3,000 to the D.C. Bar’s Pro Bono Program in keeping with our section’s history of supporting pro bono work.
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The section has the dual mission of serving practitioners in the fields of antitrust and competition law, as well as those practicing in the areas of consumer protection and trade regulation law.
The section steering committee is proud of the fact that our newsletters continue to be a resource for generating new members while keeping current members informed of section activities and upcoming programs. Our thanks to steering committee member and current cochair Don Resnikoff, for his contributions to creating and publishing our newsletter over the years.
The section also updated both the Antitrust and Consumer Protections chapters of the D.C. Practice Manual. Our thanks go to steering committee members Don Resnikoff and Tracy Rezvani for their work on the chapters, as well as George Slover, Robert Hauberg and Wendy Weinberg.
Finally, Nadine Jones will be rotating off her duties as section cochair, although she will continue to serve on the steering committee for the remainder of her term. We thank her for excellent work as cochair. New Cochair Tracy Rezvani has taken up where Nadine left off, pressing important new initiatives for the section.
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The section continues to be fiscally responsible and in the black. We endeavor to maintain financial stability while continuing to provide valuable programs for our members at no or minimal cost, as well as making donations to worthwhile organizations.
Cochairs of Antitrust and Consumer Law Section
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