Was Your Car Repaired After An Accident? Was it Done Right?

For safety’s sake, DCA’s Auto Body Inspection Program will find out

After you’ve had some types of repair work done on your car, it’s pretty hard for the untrained eye to see if it was all done right, isn’t it? Well, if you’re a California consumer, you can get some assistance by getting a free auto body inspection from experts at the DCA’s Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR).

Why have an inspection?

This sport utility vehicle had its door repaired by a California auto body repair shop. Afterward, the owners took it through a car wash and it leaked profusely. BAR inspectors discovered that the seam next to the Post-it note should have been welded together. It leaked where the work had been done and had no structural integrity. The proper weld would have created rigidity necessary to prevent crumpling of the passenger compartment. Another collision could have led to serious injury – or worse – for the occupants.

Because most collision repairs are hidden by the vehicle’s panels, it can be hard to tell if the repairs were performed correctly, or done at all. Undetected deficiencies could reduce the structural integrity of the vehicle and could put the driver and passengers at risk. BAR officials have seen cases where consumers who have had collision repairs done paid for parts they didn’t receive or labor that wasn’t performed. In some cases, the vehicle may be left unsafe. Or, consumers may be set up for further mechanical problems down the road. This quick video shows how one consumer was helped: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCxs4OdA13U

How does the inspection program work?

Call BAR’s toll-free number at (866) 799-3811 to schedule an appointment, and have ready a copy of the auto body repair invoice listing the repairs performed. On the scheduled date, a BAR inspector will come to meet you to inspect your vehicle. The Bureau’s inspectors check your vehicle to determine whether the auto body repairs were performed properly and match the work listed on the invoice. That’s how easy it is, at no cost to you!

If BAR inspectors find no discrepancies, they’ll just document the result. When BAR officials do find problems, they will help get the shop to make corrections. You can also:

  • Have the inspector open a complaint that will be investigated by a BAR field representative.
  • Contact your insurance company for a follow up with BAR.
  • Choose not to pursue the issue.

BAR experts say that most of the time when a problem is found, it’s simply the result of an oversight on the body shop’s part, but the State will take action if it’s believed fraud is involved.


This vehicle is missing a shield in the bumper cover that protects the components behind it—in this case the windshield washer fluid container—from road damage. The shield also directs air back into the engine to assist with cooling. It’s minor, and likely an oversight by the body shop, and the consumer can choose to seek remedy or not.

Although BAR will not inspect mechanical work, the Bureau will still take a complaint about it. Visit www.bar.ca.gov and click on the “Consumer” tab for information on how to file a complaint as well as more details about the Auto Body Inspection Program.

State Cannabis Regulators Announce Application Deadline for Advisory Committee

The California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (BMCR) has just announced the deadline of March 17, 2017, for submitting Cannabis Advisory Committee applications.

This committee will advise the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation and the other two licensing authorities—the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing and the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Manufactured Cannabis Safety—on the development of cannabis regulations that protect public health and safety, while ensuring a regulated market that helps reduce the illicit market for cannabis.

Committee members will be selected by and will serve at the pleasure of the director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The committee will consist of representatives from diverse backgrounds, including the cannabis industry, labor, state and local agencies, public health experts, representatives from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control who have expertise in regulating intoxicating substances for adult use, individuals with expertise in the medicinal properties of cannabis, and representatives from communities who have been disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policy, among others.

Those interested in serving on the committee can access the online application here: bmcr.ca.gov/about_us/documents/commitee_application.pdf

For additional information about BMCR or to subscribe to their email alerts, visit the BMCR website: bmcr.ca.gov/

DCA’s Umbrella Has You Covered

National Consumer Protection Week spotlights free resources, programs to help consumers

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Consumers: Do you feel empowered? You will after this week!

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is proud to be a partner during the 19th annual National Consumer Protection Week (#NCPW2017), a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. This year, it runs from March 5 through 11, so stay tuned to this blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for great tips all week!

Here are some of the ways DCA helps:

Licensing for protection

We all know someone who’s had a bad experience with an unlicensed or unscrupulous contractor who does sloppy work, lacks proper insurance or takes money upfront and disappears or leaves the job incomplete. That’s why you’ve heard our mantra “check the license” repeatedly, because this is one way consumers can help protect themselves from frauds, scams and financial harm. Licensing tells you that the person you are dealing with has met certain qualifications and levels of competency and offers a remedy if a service is not delivered or work is not acceptable. Through its boards, bureaus, committees and other entities, DCA regulates many industries and the people licensed to work in them.

Check a license or file a complaint against a licensee by calling our Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210, or visit www.dca.ca.gov.

Consumer education, enforcement and special programs

Through award-winning consumer publications, social media, blogs, Senior Scam StopperSM events from the Contractors State License Board and other special programs like the Auto Body Inspection Program from the Bureau of Automotive Repair and the Veterans Come First Program from the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, DCA staff educates consumers by giving them the information they need to avoid unscrupulous or unqualified people who promote deceptive or unsafe services.

DCA also advocates consumer interests before lawmakers and enforces consumer laws. Our enforcement staff works with the California Attorney General’s Office and local district attorneys to fight fraud in the marketplace. In fact, many investigations are initiated by consumer complaints. If DCA determines wrongdoing, it can place licensees on probation, or suspend or revoke licenses.

Dispute resolution

When a dispute arises between a customer and a business in certain industries under DCA’s jurisdiction, alternative methods are available for resolving complaints without going to court in which the involved parties can work out a solution with the help of a mediator.

Who we are what we do

Learn more on our website at www.dca.ca.gov or get our publication titled, Who We Are & What We Do. For a free printed copy, call the DCA Publications Hotline at (866) 320-8652. Find more consumer resources at https://oag.ca.gov/, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/, www.ncpw.gov and #NCPW2017.

Learning to Box May Help Knock Out Parkinson’s Disease

Photo Credit - Rock Steady Boxing

Photo Credit – Rock Steady Boxing

Some people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) have discovered an alternate form of therapy to improve their symptoms—boxing!  Not the Ali or Tyson type of boxing—we’re talking about fitness boxing.

Photo Credit - Jim Grant / Nevada Appeal via AP

Photo Credit – Jim Grant / Nevada Appeal via AP

Though not a cure for Parkinson’s, non-combat fitness boxing is being recognized by many in the medical community as an alternate form of rehabilitation for the disease.  According to a case report by the American Physical Therapy Association, patients showed short-term and long-term improvements in balance, gait, activities of daily living, and quality of life after participating in a fitness boxing training program.  As a result, many people with varying stages of PD are looking to
fitness boxing as a means to improve their quality of life while living with the disease.

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, PD is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects approximately one million Americans. The disease is characterized most notably by tremors, stiffness, softening or slurring of speech, slowing of movement, and instability.

The theory behind boxing as a form of therapy for PD began when Scott C. Newman, a former Indianapolis attorney, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease at the age of 40. A few years after his diagnosis, Newman began intense, one-on-one, non-contact boxing workouts at the suggestion of a friend.

“After six weeks of intense boxing training, I could sign my name again. I was getting better,” Newman said during an interview in a December 2016 segment of HBO’s “The Fight Game with Jim Lampley.”

Newman says he experienced dramatic improvement in his physical health, agility, and daily functioning from his workout routine and, ultimately, his quality of life improved.

Photo Credit - Sue Cockrell Enterprise photo

Photo Credit – Sue Cockrell Enterprise photo

After experiencing his own positive results, Newman opened the first non-contact boxing gym in 2006 in his home town of Indianapolis, IN, that offered a workout program dedicated to people with PD.

Classes are separated into four levels depending on the patient’s stage of PD.  Patients share a common denominator inside of a supportive environment, which allows them to work on strength, balance and hand/eye coordination.  A combination of classic boxing moves and exercises choreographed to music is used.

Photo Credit - Luther Life Villages

Photo Credit – Luther Life Villages

To help combat the vocal challenges often faced by PD patients, fighters are encouraged to count out exercises aloud with the instructor. The louder they count the better. Cheering and yelling is also encouraged, not only to improve voice activation, but to boost morale and lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety, two symptoms commonly associated with PD.

Nationwide, thousands of PD patients have been introduced to fitness boxing as an option to assist them with managing their disease. Medical experts acknowledge that fitness boxing may not be for everyone and before considering a new exercise regimen, it is best to check with your physician.

To check on your physician’s license status with the Medical Board of California,  click here.

 

Don’t Miss the Latest Issue of Consumer Connection!

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recalled 51.3 million autos in the United States. The recalls included everything from defective ignition switches and consumer-connection-winter-2016steering wheels to acceleration issues and airbag and seatbelt defects. If you receive a recall notice, don’t ignore it. The winter 2016 issue of Consumer Connection walks you through what to do if you receive one.

This edition of DCA’s magazine continues its regular feature highlighting Department leadership. This issue includes an interview with the Executive Officer of the Board of Registered Nursing (Board), Joseph Morris. Mr. Morris discusses his background, long-term goals for the Board, and the Board’s challenges ahead.

The issue also explores a variety of other interesting topics, including recognizing a flood-damaged car when shopping for a used vehicle, fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the recently launched California State Athletic Commission’s campaign to prevent and treat concussions.

Visit the DCA website to download or read the magazine. You can also pick up a printed copy in the DCA Headquarters lobby at 1625 North Market Boulevard in Sacramento. Or, to have it mailed to you at no charge, call (866) 320-8652 or send an e-mail request to consumerconnection@dca.ca.gov. Get connected!

 

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

blog_posterFluoridated water is the focus of the American Dental Association‘s (ADA’s), message for this year’s National Children’s Dental Health Month.

The slogan “Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile” is featured on the ADA 2017 campaign poster as part of its effort to promote good oral health for young people and their caregivers. Decades of research have shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25 percent.

Simply by drinking water, both young and old can benefit from fluoride’s cavity protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

The ADA says the average teenage boy in the U.S. consumes 81 gallons of soft drinks a year. A steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth, especially for those who snack throughout the day. Common activities can also contribute to tooth decay,including habitually grazing on foods with minimal nutritional value and frequently sipping on sugary drinks.

The ADA offers these tips to reduce potential tooth decay in kids:

  • Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
  • If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless—chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
  • Monitor beverage consumption: Instead of sipping soft drinks all day, children should choose water or low-fat milk.
  • Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
  • Schedule regular dental visits.

To find a qualified dentist, visit the Dental Board of California website to do a license search.

Coloring and puzzle activity sheets promoting oral health for kids are available in both English and Spanish on the ADA website.

Cervical Health Awareness Month: Get Checked and Vaccinated

Start the new year by taking care of your cervical health. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, which highlights the importance of proactive healthcare in the prevention of a possibly deadly cancer.

nccc-posterThanks to the Pap test, the human papillomavirus (HPV) screenings, and the HPV vaccination, cervical cancer has largely become a preventable and treatable disease. The HPV vaccine can protect against four types of HPV—the most common cause of cervical cancer—and should be administered before becoming sexually active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the shot for not only girls and women ages 11 to 26, but for boys and men as well.

Cervical cancer can be serious and even fatal—that’s why taking advantage of the early detection tools and the vaccine are so important. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC), nearly 13,000 U.S. women are diagnosed each year with cervical cancer and more than 4,000 die from the disease.

Talk to your healthcare provider about getting screened and about your or your child’s eligibility to receive the HPV vaccine. In California, licensed medical professionals and pharmacists can administer the vaccine. To verify the license status of a doctor, visit the Medical Board of California; to verify the license status of a pharmacist, visit the State Board of Pharmacy. More information on cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine is available on the NCCC website.

The Rain is Back—So are the Cons

GUERNEVILLE, CA - JANUARY 11: A resident paddles his kayak through floodwaters in Guerneville. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

GUERNEVILLE, CA – JANUARY 11: A resident paddles his kayak through floodwaters in Guerneville. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California had a weather event last week. And whatever the forecasters called it—Atmospheric River, Pineapple Express, La Niña—it meant that a lot of water came crashing down on California, causing floods, mudslides, avalanches, and other water-related havoc on a state that has, in the past 5 years, experienced historically low levels of precipitation.

And just when homeowners are starting to see things dry up a bit, the rain is back again this week to serve up another round of chaos.

Don’t get Californians wrong—we are grateful that the drought may be over.

Unfortunately, there are others who are grateful for the weather for another reason—they wait for disasters like this to con homeowners into giving them money. They promise a quick solution to help disaster victims clean up, then take the money and run.

A tree lands on a house in Forestville on January 9. (Photo: ABC7/Laura Anthony)

A tree lands on a house in Forestville on January 9. (Photo: ABC7/Laura Anthony)

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is warning homeowners not to take the bait. Check a contractor’s license number online at www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752). Here are a few tips from CSLB to help keep you out of a scam:

  • Get at least three bids.
  • Make sure all project expectations are in writing and only sign the contract if you completely understand the terms. Never sign a blank contract!
  • Confirm that the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance for employees.
  • Never pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less. Don’t pay in cash.
  • Don’t let payments get ahead of the work.
  • Don’t make the final payment until you’re satisfied with the job.
  • Your contractor must notify you of your right to cancel within three days of signing a contract

There is another group of criminals posing as door-to-door home repair contractors who operate all year long. These scammers, which CSLB refers to as“traveling contractors,” rip off homeowners with painting, paving, and roofing scams. Fortunately for consumers, they are usually easy to spot—if you know what to look for. Check out CSLB’s Traveling Contractor Scams tip sheet for a list of red flags.

Another thing to remember: If you’re going through your insurance provider for repairs, the provider may require that you use a certain contractor, so make sure to call first and find out.

Beware of the Imposter IRS

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Inevitably, tax season comes, and with it some new form of scam to watch out for.

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued an alert to taxpayers and tax professionals to be on guard against fake emails purporting to contain an IRS tax bill related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Generally, the scam involves an email that includes a fake CP2000—a notice commonly mailed to taxpayers through the U.S. Postal Service—as an attachment. In reality, this document is never sent as part of an email to taxpayers—the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or through social media. Here are some other ways to spot the scam:

  • The CP2000 notice appears to be issued from an Austin, Texas, address
  • The tax issue is related to the ACA and the notice requests information regarding 2014 coverage
  • The payment voucher lists the letter number as 105C.

The fraudulent CP2000 notice includes a payment request for a check made out to “I.R.S.” be sent to the “Austin Processing Center” at a post office box address. This is in addition to a “payment” link within the email itself. Don’t do it!

Frequent fakes:

 The IRS website (www.irs.gov) lists some of the most prevalent IRS impersonation scams, which include:

  • Demanding payment for a “Federal Student Tax.”
  • Demanding immediate tax payment for taxes owed by paying with an iTunes or other type of gift card
  • Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals
  • Attempts to “verify” tax return information over the phone such as Social Security or bank account numbers
  • Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry

Remember, neither the IRS nor the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) will ever:

  • Call and demand immediate payment and threaten arrest.
  • Call without giving consumers an opportunity to discuss a potential tax dispute.
  • Call and ask for your credit card numbers.
  • Call and ask for payment via pre-paid debit cards.

If you get a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money or personal information, do not give out anything. Hang up immediately. You can always call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040 if you think you owe taxes. FTB urges taxpayers to report any suspicious emails or phone calls received from tax scammers through its website at www.ftb.ca.gov, which also has additional fraud protection tips. FTB will contact a taxpayer by mail—often several times—prior to calling directly. FTB also uses an automated dialer program and a copy of that program’s message can be found on FTB’s website.

If you go with a pro:

California is one of the few states to have set requirements for professional tax preparers, according to the California Tax Education Council (CTEC). State law requires anyone who prepares tax returns for a fee to be either an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), CTEC registered tax preparer (CRTP) or enrolled agent (EA). Choosing a tax preparer who is not one of those four professionals may prevent you from legal recourse against fraud. It may also increase your chances for additional taxes, interest and fines.

Always verify the legal status of a tax preparer before handing over your private tax information. To verify whether a person or firm is currently authorized to practice public accounting in California, check the license on the California Board of Accountancy’s website at www.dca.ca.gov/cba/ and visit its “Tax Resources” and “Consumer Assistance” sections for more information.

 

California’s New Laws for 2017

scalesIn 2016, Governor Brown signed into law 898 pieces of legislation. Here’s a sampling of some of the new state laws:

Barbering and booze: Under Assembly Bill (AB) 1322, Board of Barbering and Cosmetology-licensed beauty salons and barbershops can serve up to 12 ounces of beer or 6 ounces of wine to customers without having an alcoholic beverage license or permit. The businesses cannot charge for the alcohol.

Building construction: Senate Bill (SB) 465 requires the California Department of Industrial Relations and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health to tell the Contractors State License Board when the state punishes disobedient contractors.

Gun laws: SB 880 and AB 1135 ban the sale of semi-automatic, centerfire rifles or semi-automatic pistols that do not have a fixed magazine. AB 1511 outlaws most gun loans.

Sexual assault: AB 2888 mandates a prison term for sexually assaulting unconscious individuals. This legislation is the result of a reaction to the jail sentence of a Stanford student who assaulted an unconscious woman and received a jail sentence in June 2016, but was released in September.

Distracted driving: Under AB 1785, drivers cannot hold or operate their devices for any reason. Exceptions are functions that require only a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger, as long as the phone is mounted in the car.

Car seats: AB 53 requires that children under 2 years old be put in rear-facing child safety seats, except for kids who are at least 40 pounds or 40 inches tall. Children under 8 years old must ride in the back seat of a car.

Voter registration and ballots: AB 1436, which passed in 2012 but takes effect January 1, allows people to register on the day of an election. SB 450 allows voters to return mail ballots at any county elections office in the state, not just the county that issued the ballot.

Dogs in cars: AB 797 allows good Samaritans to help free animals showing signs of distress in a hot car. They must first contact law enforcement and wait for them to show up.

Gender-neutral bathrooms: AB 1732 requires that all single-toilet restrooms in schools, businesses, and public places be designated as gender neutral.

Minimum wage increase: SB 3 raises the minimum wage for workers at businesses that have 26 or more employees from $10 to $10.50 per hour. Yearly increases under the law will bump the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.

Uber/Lift background checks: Under AB 1289, drivers for ride-booking companies will have their entire driver’s record checked.

Terminally ill and the “Right to Try”: AB 1668 allows terminally ill patients to try experimental drugs that have not yet had full federal approval for clinical trials.

For more details on California’s new laws, visit the Governor’s website at www.gov.ca.gov. For a list of all the new laws, go to www.leginfo.ca.gov/pdf/BillsEnactedReport2016.pdf.