The attorney general’s bid to get a new consumer protection law in Iowa is hitting some snags at the statehouse. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says Iowa does not allow its citizens to sue someone for committing consumer fraud.
"So if you as a consumer are the victim of fraud, you cannot seek redress in the courts," McCarthy says. "We are the only state. Forty-nine other states have that." The only way, today, that consumer fraud cases can be pursued is if Iowa’s attorney general represents a group of people who’ve been scammed in what’s called a class action lawsuit. McCarthy argues state law should be changed so individuals can file consumer fraud lawsuits.
"So if somebody scams you, through sweepstakes or other sorts — if you take your car to a mechanic and they poke a hole in the oil pan — you have some sort of redress," McCarthy says. Critics of the move say Iowans can sue, alleging negligence or misrepresentation. McCarthy, who is a lawyer, says those cases are too difficult to prove and Iowans should be able to pursue consumer fraud lawsuits just as individuals citizens in every other state may.
"We don’t want frivolous lawsuits and we don’t want money — as much as I may like it — going in attorneys’ pockets," McCarthy says. "But what we do want to do is to come into the modern era of being that 50th state that has some sort of remedy to protect seniors and others from fraud." Democrats and one Republican on the House Judiciary Committee this week advanced the outline of a bill to address this consumer fraud issue, but there’s no agreement on a final version that could win approval in the full, 100-member Iowa House.