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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

New program seeks to resolve disputes between businesses and consumers

Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office

Attorney General Phil Weiser this week announced that, building off a one-year pilot program, the Department of Law is establishing a new consumer complaint referral program that will seek to resolve disputes between consumers and businesses through informal negotiations overseen by the department.

In 2022, the department received nearly 18,000 complaints from consumers from all over the country. These complaints are generally used to inform enforcement efforts and to educate consumers to avoid being victims of fraud. Historically, the department has been unable to address every complaint through enforcement due to limited resources or other constraints. In addition, many complaints may not raise a violation of law, but instead may reflect a disagreement between a business or a consumer, or even just a misunderstanding. By creating this Consumer Mediation Program, the department will be in a position to resolve more complaints and help more consumers receive satisfaction.

“During our pilot mediation program, we found that many Colorado businesses may want to resolve disputes with customers but are unaware of the concerns of their customers or are uncertain how to reach a resolution,” Weiser said. “By establishing this new program, we can address, and hopefully resolve, a broader range of complaints for consumers. This program will also help businesses better address consumer concerns and promote model business practices, thereby helping protect more consumers in the future.”

The pilot program was launched in March of 2022. This pilot program was developed by student interns and recent graduate fellows working at the department. To date, the pilot program has resolved 65 disputes and returned more than $127,000 in value to consumers. Due to the success of the pilot, the department instituted this permanent complaint referral program to serve consumers and businesses in Colorado. 

Not every dispute can be resolved through this informal process. In some instances, for example, mediation may not be appropriate where a so-called business may be looking to simply scam consumers. But in many instances, a business may recognize that they could have done better or may be interested in building good, sustainable relationships to accommodate consumers by making a change in how they treat consumers. Consequently, this new program will help the department protect consumers and promote responsible business practices.

If you or someone you know believes they are the victim of fraud, file a report at stopfraudcolorado.gov or call (800) 222-4444.

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