Orange County Consumer Protection Office Helping Victims of Fraud
Consumer protection is the practice of safeguarding buyers of goods and services, and the public, against unfair practices in the marketplace. If you believe you are a victim of fraud or unfair business practices, you may file a complaint with the Orange County Consumer Protection Office, a valuable local resource.
After your complaint is received, it is assigned to staff for review. The office may then request the business to respond to your complaint, refer it to the appropriate state or federal agency, or make a site visit to the business location to ensure compliance. While Consumer Protection is often able to assist consumers in resolving their disputes, the office does not provide any legal advice, represent consumers in legal actions, or force or order a business to provide a specific resolution.
“Many complaints involve business activities like retail sales, which may not be regulated, so we’ll forward a copy of the complaint to the business and ask them to respond,” explained Steven Bulinski, program supervisor, Consumer Protection Office. “By contacting the business and bringing both parties together, we are often able to help resolve the consumer’s complaint; last fiscal year over $170,000.00 was returned to consumers through our complaint process.”
Consumer Protection functions include education and outreach; the dispute resolution process of non-regulated business activities; and enforcement of County ordinances, including trespass towing and unlicensed contracting. Trespass towing is the removal of vehicles without the consent of the owner when the vehicle is parked on private property such as store parking lots or apartment complexes.
“Consumers don’t always know where to submit their complaint, so it can be difficult,” said Bulinski. “We determine if it’s a county, state or federal issue, and we work in partnership with state offices, so if a consumer files a complaint with our office, we get it to the proper place.”
A major goal of the office is to be proactive and educate consumers, and it provides workshops and seminars that teach residents about best practices and how to protect against fraud. This is especially important to the senior community, whose members are taught how to monitor bank accounts for scams, determine if they are victims of identity theft, recognize scam emails and phone calls, and more.
“It’s much easier to prevent something then to try and repair things after the damage has been done,” asserted Bulinski. “As a County service, we want to make sure we protect all our residents and their finances. We work to maintain a good, happy, healthy consumer environment for everyone.”
Consumer Protection Office speaker topics for meetings and events include unfair business practices, fraud, professional licensing and identity theft. Call 407-836-4238 to request a speaker. You may also use the following links to print a complaint form or to submit your complaint online. PDF links: Complaint Form, Towing Complaint Form. Online Forms: Complaint Form, Towing Complaint Form.