The Consumer Protection Division of the Merced County District Attorney's Office investigates and prosecutes unfair or dishonest business practices so the Merced consumers are afforded a fair deal on the products and services they purchase and to protect honest business people from dishonest competitors.
Examples of fraudulent business practices include:
- False Advertising: It is illegal to sell goods or services through the use of untrue or misleading statements. False ads might misrepresent "sale" or "special" prices, or the features of a product, or the availability of sales goods. Read ads carefully and watch out for any fine print at the bottom. The advertiser is at fault if the ad has the tendancy to mislead, even if there is no intent to defraud.
- Deceptive Sales Practices: Examples of these include the "hard sell," where high pressure tactics and half-truths are used to force a hasty purchase and the "bait-and-switch" where consumers are lured into a store with an appealing ad and then persuaded to purchase a more expensive item.
- Health Fraud: Quack remedies for serious illnesses, such as cancer, AIDS and arthritis, are dangerous and can divert a patient from proven treatments. A drug or medical device must be proven "safe and effective," and sellers must be able to prove health claims. Both "diet plans" and dubious food supplements can cost you good money and, perhaps, your good health.
- Fraud Aimed at Minority Communities: Con artists sometimes focus on minority communities hoping to take advantage of language or cultural differences. Examples include bogus immigration "specialists," unfulfilled promises to transmit money overseas, and failure to provide a Spanish-language contract when a sale is made in Spanish.
- Unfair Competition: The Merced District Attorney prosecutes businesses which take unfair advantage of their honest competitors. Agreements to fix prices, boycott competitors, or eliminate competition are unlawful. The District Attorney's Office works to ensure a level playing field for all Merced businesses.
The Consumer Fraud Unit also offers tips to prevent consumers from becoming victims of fraud. click here for Tips