A number of new state laws are taking effect today in Iowa, including laws addressing identity theft and providing new protections for consumers who buy used vehicles in Iowa. Bill Brauch,the director of the consumer protection division in the Iowa attorney general’s office, says the state’s privacy breach law has been updated.
“If someone steals credit card numbers and names and expiration dates — before July 1 that’s not considered a privacy breach, believe it or not,” Brauch says. “Now it will be.”
In addition, as of July 1, 2014 credit card companies, banks and retailers must notify the Iowa attorney general’s office if there’s a credit card breach involving over 500 Iowans.
“There are about 20 states out there that have a requirement like that and now we’ll be added to that list,” Brauch says, “where the attorney general has to get notice of breaches so we’re aware of them and can help people.”
Another bill that became law today allows Iowa parents or guardians to take steps to protect the credit score of a minor child or incapacitated adult.
“This requires that if a parent wants to freeze a credit report a minor child, the credit reporting agency has to create a credit report first of all, if one doesn’t exit, and only for the purpose of then freezing it,” Brauch says. “This will protect the child from then becoming the victim of identity theft.”
The Social Security numbers of millions of children have been used by identity thieves to get loans, credit cards and even medical insurance, but the kids often don’t learn of the crime until they get older and try to get a credit card or a loan of their own.
The state’s “Lemon Law” for consumers who buy defective vehicles is also expanding. Since 1991, Iowa’s lemon law has applied to vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less. As of today, it covers vehicles weighing up to 15,000 pounds.
“This is going to pick up a lot of larger pick-up trucks that do have some problems and the folks who own these larger, like 350 or 3500 model pick-ups have not been covered by that law and they’ve expressed some disappointment to our investigators that they don’t have the same rights as folks who buy smaller vehicles,” Brauch says. “Well, as of July 1 they will have the same rights to be able to ask for a replacement vehicle or a refund.”
The 2014 legislature updated the Iowa Consumer Credit Code. The law was enacted in 1974 to provide certain rights to Iowans who take out a loan to buy expensive consumer goods, like washing machines and cars. Since 1974 those protections only applied to loans of $25,000 or less. Now those consumer rights apply to loans of up to $53,500 and in future years that will be adjusted annually for inflation.
“That means a lot more rights for people who finance the purchase a new car, for example, or a more expensive used car,” Brauch says. “It might even pick up some mobile homes.”
The Iowa Consumer Credit Code forces lenders to fully disclose the interest rate charged on a loan. It also provides consumers some protection against late fees and outlines when it is illegal for a lender to repossess a vehicle.
Finally, Brauch singles out one more consumer protection that passed the 2014 Iowa legislature. It sets up a process for someone to get back stolen property found in a pawnshop, at no charge, if he or she had filed a police report about the theft