Investigations and Enforcement of Consumer Laws

The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) is created and governed by Sections 17.400 to 413 of the Howard County Code.

Among other things, OCP is empowered to:

  • Conduct investigations of deceptive or unfair trade practices, or violations of other consumer laws based on consumer complaints or on its own initiative;
  • Issue summons to compel testimony of witnesses and the production of evidence relating to investigations;
  • Enter into written Assurances of Compliance or Discontinuance;
  • Hold hearings;
  • Issue Cease and Desist Orders to persons it finds has engaged in deceptive or unfair trade practices;
  • File a written Statement of Charges against persons suspected engaging in deceptive or unfair trade practices;
  • Seek remedies and penalties for violations through actions brought by the Howard County Office of Law.

The following remedies and penalties may be obtained from persons found to have violated the County’s Consumer Protection Laws:

  • Temporary or permanent injunctions;
  • Restitution and/or compensatory damages for consumers harmed by violations;
  • Civil penalties of up to $500 per violation; and
  • The Office’s costs for investigations and hearings.

Consumers also have the right to pursue private legal actions in court for violations of consumer protection laws to recover actual damages, and in the court's discretion, punitive damages, equitable relief and reasonable attorney's fees and costs.