About the Office of Consumer Protection:

  • Advises on consumer rights and responsibilities
  • Investigates complaints between consumers & merchants
  • Handles landlord-tenant disputes 
  • Enforces the County's consumer protection laws
  • Licenses solicitors, peddlers and trespass tow companies
  • Presents programs on consumer and tenant rights 


Graphic showing the many functions of consumer protection.

Planning a family getaway?

Don't let your family's spring travel plans unravel! Planning a worry-free getaway can be difficult and time-consuming, but there are ways to protect yourself from unscrupulous travel agents, booking sites, tour operators and more. Here are some tips to follow to plan your next vacation. 

A family on vacation runs along a beach
Resources & Information
Consumer Complaint Forms and Mediation

The Office of Consumer Protection attempts to informally resolve disputes between consumers and merchants through mediation. The mediation process begins when a consumer files a complaint with our office.

To file a complaint, use one of the online complaint forms, below, or send a letter describing your dispute and the relief you are seeking, along with copies of any relevant documents (such as receipts, contracts or correspondence) to Howard County Office of Consumer Protection, 9830 Patuxent Woods Drive, Columbia, MD 21046 or email it to [email protected].  

Upon receipt, complaints are assigned to investigators who review the complaints and accompanying documents, then contact complainants to discuss the complaint, ask questions or to request any additional documents if needed. Investigators will then inform the merchant of the complaint and request a response.

During mediation, investigators do not prejudge the validity of a consumer complaint. Rather, they will request that the merchant provide its side of the dispute and attempt to reach a fair resolution that is acceptable to both parties. They will also use their knowledge of federal, state and local consumer protection laws to ensure that any resolution is in keeping with the requirements of those laws.

Consumer Tips & Information

Protect yourself and your loved ones by learning more about identity theft, fraudulent or unfair practices, and common scams, including those related to Covid-19. Consumer tip sheets help people understand their consumer rights and make well-informed decisions about purchasing goods and services, charitable giving, landlord tenant issues and more.    

Consumer Product Recalls

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges Consumers to Immediately Stop Use of Mobility Transfer Systems Adult Portable Bed Rails Due to Entrapment and Asphyxia Hazard

Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare Recalls Bed Assist Handles and Rails

Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare has announced the recall of four different models of its Bed Assist Handles and Rail. The four recalled models are:

  • Model 15064, Bed Assist Handle
  • Model 15062, Bed Assist Rail with Folding Board
  • Model RTL15073, Home Bed Assist Handle (adjustable)
  • Model RTL15063-ADJ, Home Bed Assist Handle (adjustable)

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled items and contact Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare to receive a full refund. Contact Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare at. 877-467-3099 or click here for more information. 


Essential Medical Supply Inc. Recalls Adult Portable Bed Rails Due to Entrapment and Asphyxia Hazard

Essential Medical Supply Inc. announced the recall of four models of the company’s Endurance Hand Bed Rails, including the Hand Bed Rail (model P1410), Hand Bed Rail with Pouch (model P1410-P), Hand Bed Rail with Floor Support (model P1411), and Hand Bed Rail with Floor Support with Pouch (model P1411-P). 

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled items. For information about refunds, contact Essential Medical Supply toll-free at 888-856-0111 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or visit essentialmedicalsupply.com and click on “Important Safety Notice” at the top of the page. Or, go to https://essentialmedicalsupply.com/products/recalls. More details can be found in the recall notification.

If you have any questions regarding these notices, you may contact Maryland Access Point, Howard County at 410-313-1234 (voice/relay) or email [email protected].

Investigations & Enforcement

The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) is created and governed by Section 17.400 of the Howard County Code which empowers the Office to:

  • Conduct investigations of deceptive or unfair trade practices, or violations of other consumer laws based on consumer complaints or its own initiative;
  • Hold hearings and issue summons to compel testimony of witnesses and produce evidence related to investigations;
  • Enter into written Assurances of Compliance or Discontinuance, and issue Cease and Desist Orders to persons engaging in deceptive or unfair trade practices;
  • File Statements of Charges against persons suspected of engaging in deceptive or unfair trade practices, and seek remedies and penalties for violations through actions brought by the Howard County Office of Law.
  • 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 $1000 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, at the court's discretion, punitive damages, equitable relief and reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

Landlord-Tenant Information

The Office assists both tenants and landlords in Howard County who have questions or problems involving rental housing.

  • Tenants and landlords can obtain information on Maryland laws that govern lease provisions, security deposits, habitability and evictions;
  • Tenants can file complaints if they believe their landlords are in violation of landlord-tenant laws. OCP helps tenants understand their rights; attempts to resolve disputes through mediation; can take action to address unfair or deceptive practices, if necessary.
  • Landlords and prospective landlords can get the help they need to comply with landlord-tenant laws and be successful in their rental businesses.
Peddling & Soliciting

Howard County Code, Section 14.700 stipulates that no person can engage in soliciting or peddling in Howard County unless that person obtains an identification (ID) card from the Office of Consumer Protection.

Korean Language Friendly Initiative

Korean-speaking residents can more easily access the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) through the help of League of Korean Americans (LoKA) volunteers on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; call 410-313-3820 for assistance. LoKA volunteers will:

  • work with OCP staff to help answer consumer questions; instruct callers on how to file complaints; and help callers access services from related agencies or organizations; 
  • translate consumer education materials, articles on consumer issues, and advertisements to be published in local Korean newspapers;
Towing from Private Property

The Office of Consumer Protection is responsible for licensing and regulating companies that tow vehicles from private property without the permission of the owner of the vehicle. Howard County Code Sections 17.600 et seq., commonly referred to as the "Trespass Tow Law," sets forth the licensing and operation requirements that trespass tow companies must follow.

Scam Alerts

The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) works to educate and alert Howard County residents about scams.  Our scam alerts page provides examples of and information on current and ongoing scams. 

Contact our office to report suspicious telephone calls, texts, email, letters or visits you received, that did not result in a loss of money or disclosure of personal information.  You may also report this information to the FTC

If you have lost money as a result of a scam or fraud, report this crime to the FBI and the Howard County Police Department.  If you also provided personal information as the result of a scam, the FTC’s Identity Theft website has step-by-step instructions on what to do next.

Advisory Board on Consumer Protection

The Advisory Board on Consumer Protection works with the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) to educate and protect Howard County consumers. Board members provide feedback and recommendations on OCP's programs, alert OCP to problems and concerns they witness in their communities and assist in educating county residents on the services that OCP provides. The Board submits an annual report on OCP to the County Executive and County Council. The Advisory Board on Consumer Protection is governed by Section 17.402 of the Howard County Code.

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