When Crunch Fitness took over the Bally's Total Fitness gym location in
Joseph David, of Virginia Beach, waited for months for his new furniture from The RoomStore to be delivered. There are pieces that he may never receive now that the furniture chain has finalized its bankruptcy and is liquidating its assets.
Michelle Rivers, of
The commonwealth's consumer protection hotline receives more than 48,000 phone calls a year, according to the attorney general's office.
There are state, federal and private agencies that can help resolve consumer conflicts.
Here's where to turn if you run into a problem. (If you find yourself in a consumer battle, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Daily Press, is launching a new consumer watchdog series).
PROBLEM WITH A RETAIL STORE
The Consumer Protection section of the attorney general's office serves as the central clearinghouse for the receipt and investigation consumer complaints in Virginia.
The agency is authorized to handle complaints regarding the advertisement, lease or sale of goods and services for personal, family and home use. Most of these transactions are regulated by the Consumer Protection Act.
Although the attorney general has the authority to take action to stop illegal conduct and, in certain circumstances, require customer refunds, most complaints will be handled by a dispute resolution team.
The attorney general's office will not follow or guide you through the court system.
Consumers can submit a complaint form on the attorney general's website, oag.state.va.us, or call the consumer protection hotline at 800-552-9963. If your complaint should be handled by a different agency, hotline counselors will direct you.
You also can search the state's consumer complaint database online -- oag.state.va.us -- to find complaints against specific businesses.
PROBLEM WITH A BANK
Consumers who have a problem with a Virginia-chartered bank or credit union can contact the Bureau of Financial Institutions, which is a division of the State Corporation Commission.
The bureau also regulates trust companies, consumer finance companies, mortgage lenders and brokers, money transmitters, credit counseling agencies, motor vehicle title lenders, industrial loan associations, payday lenders, and check cashers.
Similar to the process under the attorney general's office, Virginia consumers can file a complaint on the bureau's website at scc.virginia.gov or call 804-371-9705.
Any banks with a national or federal designation are regulated by the federal Office of the Comptroller of Currency. Consumers can take the first step in filing a complaint by calling 800-613-6743 or visiting helpwithmybank.gov.
National or federal credit unions, like Langley Federal Credit Union, are regulated by National Credit Union Administration. Consumers can call 800-755-1030.
If you are not sure which agency regulates your financial institution, you can search the list on the Bureau of Financial Institutions website.
Each of these agencies also has a large inventory of consumer education materials on topics like mortgage lending, payday loans and debt counseling.
PROBLEM WITH A CONTRACTOR
Those who have a problem with an architect, building contractor, cosmetologist, real estate agent or other board-certified professional can contact the Compliance and Investigations Division of the state's Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation.
The department processes license requests and maintains a complaint log. It does not have the authority to require or collect refunds, but it can revoke a professional's license.
Those who have a problem with a certified building contractor may be eligible to receive compensation from the Board of Contractor's recovery fund.
The fund provides up to $20,000 to a consumer who already has been awarded a judgment in court. The program, which is funded by assessments paid by licensed contractors, is in place to provide compensation when it cannot be collected after a judgment.
PROBLEM WITH A SERVICE
The State Corporation Commission regulates landline phone services, energy services, including water, sewer and natural gas, and utility rates.
Although the commission does not regulate wireless telephone providers, its Division of Communications will work with the following wireless providers to try to resolve wireless complaints: Alltel Wireless, Appalachian Wireless, Cingular Wireless, Ntelos Wireless,
You can contact the division of communications at scc.virginia.gov or 800-552-7945.
PROBLEM WITH AN INSURANCE COMPANY
The Bureau of Insurance, which is under the State Corporation Commission's umbrella, helps consumers navigate issues with insurance claims and coverage.
In addition to health insurance claims, the bureau also will investigate complaints against auto, life and homeowners insurance companies.
Complaints forms and information on necessary documentation can be found at the bureau's website -- scc.virginia.gov -- but all forms must be faxed to the agency.
You also can call 877-310-6560 for help filing a complaint.
The website also has a wealth of consumer education information, including guides to purchasing insurance.
PROBLEM WITH A FITNESS CENTER
Until recently, most consumer complaints filtered through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services rather than the attorney general's office. The department of consumer services still regulates health spas, travel clubs and membership campgrounds.
To file a complaint, visit vdacs.virginia.gov.
BEFORE YOU FILE
When filing a complaint with any agency, they will require as much documentation as you can provide.
In the early stages of your dispute, write down everything including the date and time of any phone calls, the names of the people you talk to and what was said during the call. When possible, email or mail correspondence.
Paitsel can be reached at 757-247-4737 or email@example.com.
REPORT A PROBLEM