Possible New Utah Legislation May Affect Utah Based MLM Companies

Che Arguello,Attorney General,Utah


The assistant attorney general in charge of protecting the Utah Division of Consumer Protection from overly curious consumers says he believes in the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Which, of course, he should.

But it might come as a surprise to the many other state and local prosecutors across Utah that Assistant A.G. Chè Arguello defines that principle as justifying a state law that keeps confidential all the consumer complaints the division receives, until and unless that agency actually takes some enforcement action against a company.

Were that the usual standard, there would be no public reporting of the names of, or evidence against, anyone accused of murder or theft until after they had been found guilty in court. Wouldn’t want to unfairly besmirch the name of anyone who hadn’t actually been convicted, now would we?

The State Records Committee last week upheld Arguello’s argument and allowed the Consumer Protection Division to continue to sit on any and all complaints lodged against a Provo-based multi-level marketing outfit called Wake Up Now. Because, apparently, state law on the matter is clear.

Which is why the Utah Legislature should change that law, and make such Consumer Protection Division records open to the public.

The matter was raised by a national nonprofit consumer watchdog called Truth in Advertising. It uses public records, from the Federal Trade Commission and similar state agencies, to delve into allegations of consumer fraud and hold both private companies and government agencies accountable. Its attorneys say the kind of records that Utah will not, by law, divulge are routinely made available by the FTC and many other analogous state agencies.

The Legislature, the Consumer Protection Division, their lawyers — and the public they all serve — should be smart enough to see that consumer complaints lodged against a business are not, in themselves, proof of anything. They are bits of information, among many others, that can be considered in making purchasing and investment decisions.

All of us should also realize that, as long as the such complaints are secret, the public — and the businesses involved — have no way of knowing if those policing such matters are acting correctly, or if they are playing favorites, protecting friends, punishing enemies or doing anything at all.

The late unpleasantness involving the Utah Attorney General’s Office should make us very wary of any system that allows the police and the policed to get too cozy.

Do we know that is happening at Consumer Protection? No, we don’t. And, as long as complaint records remain secret, we never will.

Reporting originally done by : The Salt Lake Tribune

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