The state House of Representatives passed and sent two consumer protection bills to the Senate March 25.


The House of Representatives passed a pair of bills March 25 aimed at extending more rights to Delaware consumers.

House Bill 317, sponsored by Rep. Bryon Short, D-Highland Woods, would require door-to-door salespersons to obtain state identification cards and display them prominently while soliciting in residential neighborhoods.

Exemptions are included for nonprofit solicitors, utility and cable company workers, as well as those who conduct in-home sales events with the consent of the homeowners.

The ID cards would contain person’s name, employer, employer telephone number, address and state business license number. Cards would be provided to salespeople free of charge by the Department of Finance, which reported that the cost to issue the cards would be virtually nothing.

Several representatives objected to the bill, arguing the ID card could create a false sense of security, since wearing a badge does not necessarily mean the salesperson is reputable.

Opponents also said the badges could easily be forged and homeowners would have no way of knowing if a salesperson’s credentials are legitimate.

Short said the measure allows the state to track to whom it issues IDs, and consumers can crosscheck the information on a salesperson’s badge with the finance department if they are suspicious.

“It’s a simple way for the state to keep track,” he said. “There are a number of people who come into our neighborhoods who are misleading. This simply asks someone to wear an ID that says they are a registered business.”

The House also approved legislation that grants new powers to the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Unit.

Filed by Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South, House Substitute 1 for House Bill 247 allows the unit to issue cease and desist orders against businesses in response to citizen complaints it finds serious and worthy of immediate action.

It also provides for administrative hearings adjudicated by deputy attorneys general from other divisions, with the authority to issue judgments of up to $5,000 against businesses found to have violated consumer protection laws.

Keeley said the bill allows the Consumer Protection Unit to be more responsive to consumer complaints, of which only the most serious are now taken to court.

The bill includes an amendment that carves out an exemption for businesses regulated by separate state boards or commissions, such as real estate agents or physicians.

The amendment came out of negotiations with professional groups, who said the bill could put them in double jeopardy if they’re subject to the authority of the consumer unit and their particular regulating body.

Rep. Bill Oberle, R-Beechers Lot, opposed the amendment, arguing the professional regulation boards and commissions aren’t well suited to investigate complaints involving their membership, since the boards often are comprised of professionals from the particular industry.

“It reaffirms what I consider to be bad practices,” he said.

Both bills now head to the Senate for consideration.

Email Doug Denison at doug.denison@doverpost.com.