08 March, 2009

D.C. Citywide Consumer Protection Sweep

Mayor Fenty Expands Citywide Consumer Protection Sweep of Unlicensed Businesses, Unveils New Website

Contact: Feras Sleiman, (202) 251-8829; Michael Rupert, (202) 442-4513

Washington, DC – Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Attorney General Peter Nickles and Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Director Linda Argo today kicked off National Consumer Protection Week by announcing new emergency regulations targeting towing and auto repair dealers to further assist the District in cracking down on unlicensed businesses. This action will also allow the District to ramp up enforcement against unscrupulous used car lots, after multiple warnings to clean up or close down.

“The residents of the District of Columbia have lived for too long alongside many of these businesses who have no regard for their neighbors or for consumers,” Mayor Fenty said. “We are going to continue to move swiftly through both new regulations and strong enforcement so legitimate small businesses can thrive.”

The new regulations will target towing and auto repair shops in an effort to prevent neighborhood blights and stop the creation of corrupt businesses, which often lead to crime and distress in communities.

Towing and Auto Repair Regulation Highlights

Below are examples of regulations that will go into effect today:
Towing Service Lots
• Car storage lots will no longer be able to store vehicles for more than sixty (60) days.
• Lots must now maintain permanent signs, visible from the lot entrance, showing the name of the establishment and its hours of operation.
• Lots must be separated by fencing from any neighboring outdoor space.
• Lots used for storing, parking or moving vehicles must be paved and maintained.
• No vehicle parts or trash can be stored outdoors on the storage lot, unless stored off the ground in secured containers.

Auto Repair Shops
• All auto repair shops servicing motor vehicles must perform repairs within a permanent garage or permanent building by a licensed auto repair shop or mechanic.
• Auto repair shops are prohibited from repairing and storing of motor vehicles outdoors.
• Auto repair shop dealers must maintain a customer log for each motor vehicle kept on the premises.

These regulations will limit the amount of vehicles stored or repaired outside or in public space, adds signage and paving requirements, screening requirements and new zoning limits. The regulations are effective immediately and the city will begin enforcement in stages over the next 60 days.

In addition, the administration today unveiled a new consumer protection website, www.consumer.dc.gov to serve as a one-stop shop for consumer protection information and to solicit concerns and tips from residents. The site, a joint effort between DCRA and the Office of the Attorney General, includes educational materials, exclusive videos, live data feeds and other interactive online features. The site launch coincides with the District participation in the 11th annual National Consumer Protection Week, which runs March 1-7.

“As with used car lots, towing and auto repair businesses will not get a free ride when it comes to operating legitimately in our city,” said Nickles. “Thanks to these new regulations, the District continues its momentum of enforcing compliance, maintaining public safety, and protecting consumers.”

“We have been extremely successful in cleaning up more than half of the used car lots across the city over the past three months,” said DCRA Director Argo. “We want to be sure towing lots and auto repair shops do not become the new refuge for criminal activity.”

The new regulations coupled with the new website will provide the city with the enforcement tools and real-time information from residents to stay on top of these businesses.

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