Consumer Fraud

The District Attorney's Consumer Protection Unit is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting persons or businesses who engage in unfair, unlawful or deceptive business practices. Working primarily with county and state agencies responsible for enforcing consumer laws, we pursue violators by utilizing the traditional criminal prosecutorial powers of the District Attorney and also by filing civil actions pursuant to California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL) (Business and Professions Code §§17200, et seq.) and California's False Advertising Law (FAL) (Business and Professions Code §§17500, et seq.).

Locally, the Consumer Protection Unit works closely with the Stanislaus County Department of Agriculture, specifically with the Weights & Measures Division, whose job it is to protect the interests of both buyers and sellers engaged in business transactions in our community. They check scales and meters for accuracy. They ensure that stores charge the advertised or posted prices for their merchandise and they check package contents to ensure consumers are not being shorted. For more information, visit the Agricultural Commissioner's website .

The Consumer Protection Unit also prosecutes cases investigated by state agencies charged with enforcing state laws designed to protect consumers:

  • Fraud in the sale of Motor Vehicles
    The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) regulates and investigates sellers of motor vehicles.
  • Fraud in the Repair or Smogging of Motor Vehicles
    The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) regulates and investigates businesses licensed to perform smog inspections/repairs and car repair businesses.
  • Fraudulent Contractors
    The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) regulates and investigates persons who do all forms of construction work. Consumers need to be aware that contractors, by law, can only charge $1,000 or 10%, whichever is less, as a down payment for any construction work. Also, any work (labor and materials) priced in excess of $500 can only be performed by a licensed contractor. CSLB's website provides a quick and easy way to check the license status of a person or business.
  • Predatory Towing Companies
    California Vehicle Code §22658 provides very specific rules which towing companies must follow. Among these rules are the following:
    • Persons operating or in charge of a storage facility where towed vehicles are stored must accept a valid credit card as payment for towing and storage fees; they cannot demand cash only.
    • Towing companies must have written authorization from the owner or lessee before towing a vehicle from private property.
    • Prior to towing a vehicle which is unlawfully parked within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or in a fire lane or in such a way it interferes with an entrance or exit on private property, a towing company must take a photograph of the vehicle clearly indicating the violation.
    • Upon the request of a vehicle owner or owner's agent, the towing company or driver shall immediately and unconditionally release a vehicle that is not yet removed from the property and in transit.
    • The towing company must provide notice to the vehicle owner or owner's agent, the telephone number of the local law enforcement agency or prosecuting agency by stating, “If you believe that you have been wrongfully towed, please contact the local law enforcement agency or prosecuting agency at (appropriate number).”
    • The towing company's storage facility must be within a 10 mile radius of the property from which the vehicle was towed, must be open during normal business hours and release vehicles after normal business hours, and must have a public pay phone in the office area open and accessible to the public.
  • Workplace Injuries / Deaths
    The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) protects workers and the public from safety hazards.
  • Insurance Fraud
    The California Department of Insurance protects consumers by licensing and regulating insurance companies, agents and brokers.

Helpful Consumer Websites