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by Joyia Emard
Consumer Information Center office sign

DCA’s Consumer Information Center includes both the Correspondence Unit and the Call Center.

Letters, emails, faxes—no matter how the written message comes in, DCA’s Consumer Information Center (CIC) Correspondence Unit (CU) is ready to respond.

While DCA’s CIC Call Center handles all phone inquiries, CU receives, processes, and answers written correspondence from DCA licensees and applicants, inquiries referred to the unit by various DCA offices and entities, and questions sent to DCA straight from California consumers. CU also frequently receives correspondence that doesn’t fall under DCA’s jurisdiction; nevertheless, the unit researches and provides referral information to assist consumers with their issues or complaints, no matter what they may be.

The unit is relatively small, but they treat every inquiry as a big deal.

“Everyone in our unit has one goal: to assist the consumers of California to the best of our abilities,” said Correspondence Unit manager Samantha Calma.

Calma notes all staff are trained to respond to the unit’s wide variety of written inquiries. Correspondence is triaged by the CU office technician, who assigns inquiries to other team members for responses. If a staff member is unsure of the appropriate response, other members of the team are always there to assist and support each other. The unit also uses translation services to understand messages received in languages other than English, and then provides responses.

Working together, the CU team helps thousands of individuals each year get the answers they need to be informed consumers and licensed professionals.

“We are giving consumers of California a voice,” said Calma, who worked in the CIC Call Center as well as DCA’s Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians before serving as CU manager. “I especially feel satisfied when we’re able to assist with getting a consumer licensed with DCA so they can start their careers, support their families, and give back to California.”

CIC By the Numbers: 35 Average Pieces of Correspondence Per Day; 750 Average Pieces of Correspondence Per Month, 200-Plus Languages Available Through Translation ServicesTo reach DCA’s Correspondence Unit, email dca@dca.ca.gov or write to:

Department of Consumer Affairs
Consumer Information Center
1625 North Market Blvd., Suite N-112
Sacramento, CA 95834

Consumers may also call the CIC Call Center toll-free at (800) 952-5210 or visit www.dca.ca.gov.

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SACRAMENTO – Marc Ching of Los Angeles pled no contest on the charge of practicing veterinary medicine without a license this summer, resulting from an undercover investigation initiated by the California Veterinary Medical Board (VMB).

The VMB had received complaints from consumers and licensees that Ching, who owned an organic pet food store The PetStaurant, in Sherman Oaks, had engaged in the practice of unlicensed veterinary medicine. An investigation conducted by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation (DOI), Investigation and Enforcement Unit – Chatsworth Field Office, and the VMB followed.

The probe revealed that Ching had practiced veterinary medicine without a license by diagnosing ailments and prescribing treatments to pets. Moreover, the website of Ching’s pet food store, The PetStaurant, had posted instructions on how to treat undiagnosed pet conditions.

DOI investigators had shared evidence with the office of Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer for criminal prosecution.

As a result of this joint investigation, on August 3, 2021, Ching was criminally convicted of unlicensed practice of veterinary medicine and sentenced to 12 months of probation and a $1,000 fine.

On September 24, 2021, the VMB issued Ching a citation and a $5,000 fine for the unlicensed practice of veterinary medicine and unlicensed activity at an unregistered veterinary premise.

“Unlicensed veterinary practice endangers the lives of animal patients throughout California and will not be tolerated,” said VMB executive officer Jessica Sieferman. “The VMB appreciates the continued partnership with DOI and local officials in investigating and prosecuting these cases.”

The VMB encourages any individuals with evidence of unlicensed practice to file a complaint by completing an online complaint form available at vmb.ca.gov.

The Citation against Ching is available to view here: https://www.vmb.ca.gov/forms_pubs/ching_marc_cit.pdf

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DCA Waiver Update Graphic

Today, the director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) issued 6 waiver extensions:

Pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order N-39-20, during the State of Emergency, the Director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs may waive any statutory or regulatory requirements with respect to a professional license issued pursuant to Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code.

To date, DCA Director Kimberly Kirchmeyer has issued 199 waivers. To view the waivers and guidance documents, or to sign up for notification of waivers as they are issued, visit dca.ca.gov/covid19.

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The Contractors State License Board is holding a special board meeting on Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at 3:00 PM. Please click the image below to view the agenda and instructions to attend.

CSLB Meeting Agenda

Click to view the agenda at the Contractors State License Board website.

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The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has California consumers covered from A to Z. With 36 entities, DCA licenses and regulates over 3 million professionals to protect consumers like you from unscrupulous vendors or providers.

DCA has various free resources available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help educate and empower consumers. To learn how–watch the latest video from DCA’s Office of Public Affairs and find out just how much you know DCA.


For additional information about DCA and its entities. Visit the following links:

DCA Board/Bureau by Profession

DCA Consumer Resources

DCA License Search

DCA Open Data Portal

How to file a complaint

DCA contact us page

DCA’s Consumer Information Center (CIC) page

 

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On behalf of the Statewide Overdose Safety (SOS) Workgroup and partners, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released the following action notice detailing best practices to consider and offering supportive resources to use when inheriting patients on opioid therapy due to facility closures and other causes.

This action notice is signed by CDPH, Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), and the Medical Board of California (MBC).

Please click the image below to view the statement in its entirety.

 

Click image to view the action notice.

 

 

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Contractors State License Board cautions consumers to check licenses and avoid being victimized by unlicensed individuals

Sign reading homeowners beware

Editor’s note: this news release was distributed by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Click here to view a printer-friendly version of this news release on the CSLB website.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Devastating wildfires have destroyed thousands of structures in California and many survivors must now clear property and start the rebuilding process. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) urges wildfire survivors to hire only California-licensed contractors to avoid being victimized by unlicensed persons and transient criminals.

Additionally, wildfire debris removal should not be done without first reviewing federal and state options or before consulting local officials. More information is available on the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services website under “debris removal.”

“Disasters bring out the very best in people, with strangers and neighbors helping each other,” said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. “Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals are drawn to these areas and try to take advantage of vulnerable home and business owners. Wildfire survivors need to be especially cautious about hiring reputable, licensed contractors to repair, rebuild, or clear property.”

A CSLB-issued license is required for any construction job totaling $500 or more in labor and materials. Additionally, it is a felony to contract without a license in a declared disaster area. Licensed contractors have met experience and testing requirements carry a license bond, passed a criminal background check and carry workers’ compensation insurance for employees.

To help survivors, CSLB’s Disaster Help Center webpage offers publications and videos. These include an After a Disaster, Don’t Get Scammed brochure, and a Rebuilding After a Disaster video and fact sheet. All information is also available by calling CSLB’s Disaster Hotline, 800-962-1125, which is staffed Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by calling the automated assistance line at 800-321-CSLB (2752).

“CSLB will aggressively seek those trying to take advantage of wildfire survivors by partnering with local and state agencies to conduct sweeps and undercover enforcement operations in disaster areas,” Fogt said.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor

  •  Hire only California-licensed contractors. Ask to see the license. The number must be on all advertisements, contracts and business cards.
  •  Check the license number on CSLB’s website or by phone at 800-321-CSLB (2752). Confirm the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance for employees.
  •  Create a personalized list of licensed, area contractors using the Find My Licensed Contractor.
  • Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract.
  • Don’t rush into decisions and don’t hire the first contractor who comes along.
  • Don’t pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000—whichever is less.
  • Don’t pay cash, and don’t let the payments get ahead of the work. Only pay for work as it is completed to your satisfaction
  • Keep a job file of all project papers, including correspondence and copies of all payments.
  •  Avoid making the final payment until you’re satisfied with the job.
  •  In most cases, in a disaster area, consumers have up to seven business days to cancel a contract without penalty.
  •  For more information, visit CSLB’s website, or connect with us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.

About CSLB: CSLB operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs and licenses and regulates nearly 281,000 contractors in California. In 2020, CSLB helped consumers recover more than $26 million in ordered restitution.

Contractors State License Board logo

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California victim’s goods discovered hidden in a storage facility by state investigators

 SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS) is warning consumers about malicious and deceptive practices by unpermitted moving companies and unscrupulous household moving brokers after uncovering a series of fraudulent activity by an unpermitted mover originating in California.

Last month, BHGS investigators uncovered household goods belonging to a California consumer who was victimized by the unpermitted mover. The victim’s belongings were discovered at a storage facility in Northern California three months after the company was scheduled to relocate the goods to another state. The unpermitted mover failed to deliver the household items and ended all communications with the victim until a complaint was filed with BHGS.

District Attorneys from Napa and Sacramento Counties, New Jersey-based investigators from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the New York Police Department assisted with this special operation. They also connected the same unpermitted mover to three other fraudulent cases in California.

BHGS urges California consumers to utilize its license lookup search tool at https://bhgs.dca.ca.gov/enforcement/lookup.shtml.

“Consumers need to be aware that all moving companies transporting used household goods in the State of California must hold a valid Household Mover’s Permit by BHGS,” said BHGS Assistant Director/Deputy Bureau Chief Tonya Corcoran. “Moving in itself can be stressful and consumers can avoid further complications by making plans and checking a mover’s permit well in advance of a move, before hiring anyone, or signing a contract.”

Consumers should also know that moving companies must provide a “not-to-exceed” price for all household moves. This is the maximum amount they can charge unless a consumer requests additional services. Those changes must be detailed in a “Change of Order for Moving Services.”

A moving company doing business in California cannot hold or store a consumer’s goods and then demand more money or a storage fee without a legitimate “Change of Order for Moving Services” contract.

Consumers Can Protect Themselves and Know their Rights!

BHGS has moving tips to avoid getting scammed by a deceptive moving company:

  • Make your plans, do your research, and check a mover’s permit well in advance of your move.
  • Hire a licensed, BHGS permitted moving company that you have researched and vetted with various sources. Online reviews and postings are a great way to identify movers with an alarming pattern of problems you want to avoid.
  • Check the permit status of all movers you are considering using to ensure they are authorized to operate. It’s easy to check and the information is invaluable.
  • When possible, visit the mover’s place of business in person.
  • For moves within California, a moving company may provide you with a written estimate only after it has conducted a visual inspection of the items you need moved. Verbal estimates, estimates given over the internet, or estimates given without a visual inspection are illegal and may not be enforceable.
  • Be aware that moving brokers who are not movers are required by Federal law to identify themselves as brokers. Moving brokers arrange moving services to be provided by other companies, which is different than speaking directly with a moving service company conducting the move. Again, they must identify themselves as brokers. It’s the law.
  • A red flag: If a broker or moving company asks for a deposit upfront via cash or mobile money transfer apps, this could be an indication you need to ask more questions. Get clarification about whether you are speaking to a broker or mover, make sure you know who is taking possession of your belongings, and ask for documentation to show what services you are getting for what you are paying.
  • Never allow a mover to make a verbal agreement with you. Always obtain a contract and read through it carefully before signing it.
  • Do not allow a mover to place any of your items onto the truck until they give you the contract. Make sure nothing has changed according to what you agreed and that the “not-to-exceed” price is on the contract before you sign it.
  • If you change the terms of service by adding items to be moved or changing moving dates after the contract has been signed, your final cost may change, and a Change of Order for Services must be completed.
  • If your mover is traveling across state lines, a good resource to check permit status and get information about consumer rights is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

 If you discover a mover is operating in California without a license or valid permit, you can file a complaint online at www.bhgs.dca.ca.gov or call (916) 999-2041.

For more information, visit the BHGS household movers information page at https://bhgs.dca.ca.gov/consumers/movers.shtml.

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Consumer Information Center office sign

DCA’s Consumer Information Center includes both the Call Center and the Correspondence Unit.

“Operators are standing by!” That as-seen-on-TV motto is more than true of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) Consumer Information Center (CIC) Call Center, where employees field thousands of questions each day from licensees, applicants, and everyday Californians.

Call Center staff are committed to providing clear, user-friendly information. They answer individuals’ questions on the spot, transfer or refer callers to the best Department contact, or identify the government agencies and community organizations that can best address callers’ needs if necessary.

“No two calls are ever the same,” said CIC Call Center manager Paul Rahul. “One call will be from an individual looking to become licensed as a manicurist, the next will be from someone wanting to find out about how to get a guard card, and the next will be a senior concerned about being taken advantage of by a local car mechanic. Every call is totally unique.”

DCA's CIC Call Center: By the NumbersRahul, who has been supervising the CIC Call Center for nearly seven years, credits the Call Center and CIC employees themselves as well as extremely supportive DCA management with the center’s success in providing essential, educational, and empowering consumer and licensee information to hundreds of thousands of callers each year.

“The service our employees provide is worn like a badge of honor,” said Rahul. “I’m so proud of my staff—they can pivot on a dime at any time. They take such pride in their work: They treat every question as a quest to make sure the caller is taken care of. CIC employees are on the frontlines of public service and, even during the pandemic, they have been there providing answers for the people of California.”

Anything else Rahul wants Californians to know about the CIC Call Center?

“We’re out there, ready to take calls!” he replied.

Consumers may also write to the CIC Correspondence Unit at dca@dca.ca.gov or visit www.dca.ca.gov.

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