Service Area Strategic Plan
4/17/2014   3:05 am
Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (301)
Biennium:
Service Area 1 of 1
Consumer Affairs - Regulation and Consumer Education (301 550 01)
Description

This service area protects consumers from fraud, deception, and illegal practices in the marketplace. Services include:

•Consumer education and counseling
•Investigation or referral of consumer complaints
•Provision of alternative dispute resolution services, and
•Administrative oversight of seven regulatory programs
Background Information
Mission Alignment and Authority
  • Describe how this service supports the agency mission
    This service area directly aligns with VDACS mission of providing consumer protection.
  • Describe the Statutory Authority of this Service
    Chapter 1 of Title 3.2 of the Code of Virginia (Code) authorizes the Commissioner of VDACS to establish mechanisms by which to receive complaints and related inquiries from consumers involving violations or alleged violations of any law designed to protect the integrity of consumer transactions in the Commonwealth.

    Chapter 5 of Title 57 of the Code provides for the regulation of charitable solicitations in Virginia.

    Chapter 17 of Title 59.1 of the Code gives authority to the Commissioner to inquire into possible violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (Act). The Act identifies numerous misrepresentations and deceptions as prohibited practices if committed by a supplier in connection with a consumer transaction. It also provides for the enforcement of many other consumer protection laws by declaring violations of those statutes as prohibited practices.

    Chapter 44 of Title 59.1 of the Code gives authority to the Commissioner to inquire into possible violations of the Virginia Telephone Privacy Protection Act.
Customers
Agency Customer Group Customer Customers served annually Potential annual customers
General Public Callers to Hotline 47,280 47,280
Charitable organizations Charitable organizations 17,148 25,000
General Public Citizens filing complaints 2,863 2,863
Credit services businesses Credit services businesses 2 10
Companies and citizens utilizing extended service contracts Extended service contracts 170 250
Health spas and health spa members Health spas 472 600
Legal services plan sellers Legal services plan sellers 6,000 7,500
Membership campgrounds Membership campgrounds 6 10
Travel clubs Travel clubs 3 10

Anticipated Changes To Agency Customer Base
None.
Partners
Partner Description
[None entered]
Products and Services
  • Factors Impacting the Products and/or Services:
    None.
  • Anticipated Changes to the Products and/or Services
    None.
  • Listing of Products and/or Services
    • Consumer counseling: This service area provides callers to the Consumer Protection Hotline with information about their rights as consumers. The volume of calls is influenced by multiple, often independent or unpredictable factors, such as state of the economy, introduction of new consumer products and technologies, population growth, etc. We expect the number of telephonic consumer inquiries to remain steady, while the number of consumers seeking information on-line via the agency’s Consumer Assistance Portal or through the use of Live-Help is expected to increase.
    • Complaint referral and investigation: This service area serves as the clearinghouse for the investigation or referral of complaints related to the advertisement, sale, or lease of goods and services that are intended for personal, family or household use. This service area also investigates consumer complaints regarding unfair, deceptive or illegal business practices. The number of complaints, like the volume of calls to the Consumer Protection Hotline, is also influenced by state of the economy, introduction of new consumer products and technologies, weather, etc. We expect the number of formal complaints to increase steadily, particularly those involving on-line transactions.
    • Alternative dispute resolution: This service area facilitates complaint settlement through alternative dispute resolution techniques, including mediation and arbitration. We expect these kinds of cases to increase due to the growing acceptance of alternative dispute resolution as a practical means of settling disputes. Such acceptance is primarily driven by court docket backlogs and delays throughout the courts system. Also, more consumer transactions are expected to be governed by mandatory arbitration clauses.
    • Regulatory oversight: This service area regulates charitable solicitations, credit services businesses, extended service contracts, health spas, membership campgrounds, sellers of legal services plans, and travel clubs. This service area provides entity registration, investigation of complaints and management of related sureties. The number of regulants has remained steady in some areas, and increased in others, regardless of the economic environment. We expect the overall number of regulants to increase.
Finance
  • Financial Overview
    [Nothing entered]
  • Financial Breakdown
    FY 2011    FY 2012
      General Fund     Nongeneral Fund        General Fund     Nongeneral Fund  
    Base Budget $207,601 $1,992,112    $207,601 $1,992,112
    Change To Base -$23,590 $0    -$23,590 $0
               
    Service Area Total   $184,011  $1,992,112     $184,011  $1,992,112 
Human Resources
  • Human Resources Overview
    [Nothing entered]
  • Human Resource Levels
    Effective Date      
    Total Authorized Position level 0    
    Vacant Positions 0    
    Current Employment Level 0.0    
    Non-Classified (Filled)    
    Full-Time Classified (Filled)    breakout of Current Employment Level
    Part-Time Classified (Filled)    
    Faculty (Filled)    
    Wage    
    Contract Employees    
    Total Human Resource Level 0.0   = Current Employment Level + Wage and Contract Employees
  • Factors Impacting HR
    [Nothing entered]
  • Anticipated HR Changes
    [Nothing entered]
Service Area Objectives
 
  • Establish and maintain model professional standards in the investigation and resolution of consumer complaints.
    Objective Description
    Consumer spending is the primary driver of the economy. As such, it is of critical importance to ensure that complaints between businesses and consumers are resolved promptly and effectively in order to reduce the incidence of fraud, deception, and illegal practices in the marketplace. The scope of these complaints includes the purchase, lease or advertisement of products and services intended for personal, family or home use.
    Alignment to Agency Goals
    • Agency Goal: Provide agricultural and consumer protection services that support economic growth, meet consumer needs, and encourage environmental stewardship.
      Comment: This objective directly aligns with VDACS mission of providing consumer protection and it is aligned with long term objective #1, as promulgated by the Council on Virginia's Future, regarding the preservation and enhancement of our economy.
    Objective Strategies
    • Identify and pursue training opportunities that will enhance the investigative, dispute resolution and regulatory compliance capabilities of the Office of Consumer Affairs staff.
    • In conjunction with the Office of Pesticide Services, continue to evaluate and investigate complaints alleging the fraudulent application of pesticides.
    • Increase the use of alternative dispute resolution as a means of resolving consumer complaints.
    • Determine practicality of utilizing the electronic document management system to convert paper-based historical files to digital format for documents that do not yet meet the respective document disposal criteria.
    • Establish performance target from receipt of complaint to resolution or closure, and evaluate related processes to identify improvements, support accountability, and improve service level.
    Link to State Strategy
    • nothing linked
    Objective Measures
    • Average number of days to resolve consumer complaints
      Measure Class:
      Other
      Measure Type:
      Output
      Measure Frequency:
      Annual
      Preferred Trend:
      Down
      Measure Baseline Value:
      45
      Date:
      6/30/2009

      Measure Baseline Description: Number of days to resolve consumer complaints in FY 09 was 45 days

      Measure Target Value:
      45
      Date:
      6/30/2012

      Measure Target Description: Average complaint closure time of 45 days for any 12-month period

      Data Source and Calculation: Key data is collected on all complaints handled by this service area. The average closure time is calculated by comparing the complaint receipt date and the closure date. An automated application, which scans all complaints received for a specified span of time, is used to calculate this measure.

  • Increase consumer awareness of consumer fraud through consumer education and outreach.
    Objective Description
    The Consumer Affairs Advisory Committee provides guidance to the Office of Consumer Affairs on consumer education and outreach efforts. This committee is composed of citizen members and staff from agencies that interact with this service area. Every year, the committee identifies and submits a list of relevant issues to help this service area prioritize its outreach and fraud prevention efforts.
    Alignment to Agency Goals
    • Agency Goal: Provide agricultural and consumer protection services that support economic growth, meet consumer needs, and encourage environmental stewardship.
      Comment: This objective directly aligns with VDACS mission of providing consumer protection and it is aligned with long term objective #1, as promulgated by the Council on Virginia's Future, regarding the preservation and enhancement of our economy.
    Objective Strategies
    • Leverage impact of consumer education and outreach activities by incorporating recommendations made by the Consumer Affairs Advisory Committee.
    • The Consumer Affairs Advisory Committee will meet at least semi-annually and will make recommendations related to OCA’s consumer education and fraud prevention programs.
    Link to State Strategy
    • nothing linked
    Objective Measures
    • Number of consumer education and outreach activities conducted.
      Measure Class:
      Other
      Measure Type:
      Input
      Measure Frequency:
      Semi-Annual
      Preferred Trend:
      Up
      Measure Baseline Value:
      37
      Date:
      6/30/2008

      Measure Baseline Description: In FY 08, 37 consumer education and outreach activities were conducted.

      Measure Target Value:
      35
      Date:
      6/30/2012

      Measure Target Description: 35 significant outreach activities per year

      Data Source and Calculation: All consumer education and outreach activities are logged into a spreadsheet. Periodic reports are conducted to track the number of those activites, as well as date, time, topic, presenter, and estimated audience.


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