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Program Contacts

Contact Marsha Carter of the Office of Consumer Protection at 240.777.3686 or Helen P. Vallone of the Office of Management and Budget at 240.777.2755 for more information regarding this department's operating budget.

Related Links

Mission Statement

The mission of the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) is to enforce consumer protection laws prohibiting unfair and deceptive business acts or practices to ensure a fair marketplace for consumers and businesses. Activities include complaint resolution, law enforcement, education, legislation, advocacy, and outreach to vulnerable consumers.

Budget Overview

The total approved FY18 Operating Budget for the Office of Consumer Protection is $2,364,597, an increase of $255,527 or 12.12 percent from the FY17 Approved Budget of $2,109,070. Personnel Costs comprise 91.36 percent of the budget for 17 full-time position(s) and one part-time position(s), and a total of 16.60 FTEs. Total FTEs may include seasonal or temporary positions and may also reflect workforce charged to or from other departments or funds. Operating Expenses account for the remaining 8.64 percent of the FY18 budget.

Linkage to County Result Areas

While this program area supports all eight of the County Result Areas, the following are emphasized:

  • A Responsive, Accountable County Government
  • Strong and Vibrant Economy
  • Vital Living for All of Our Residents

Department Performance Measures

Performance measures for this department are included below (where applicable). The FY17 estimates reflect funding based on the FY17 approved budget. The FY18 and FY19 figures are performance targets based on the FY18 approved budget and funding for comparable service levels in FY19.

MeasureActual
FY15
Actual
FY16
Estimated
FY17
Target
FY18
Target
FY19
Program Measures
Restitution received as a percent of restitution asked for by the consumer and validated by the assigned OCP case investigator80%88%85%87%87%
Average OCP customer satisfaction rating - Manner in which the customer's case was handled (1-4 scale) based on customer satisfaction survey3.63.63.33.53.7
Average OCP customer satisfaction rating - Outcome of the customer's case (1-4 scale) based on customer satisfaction survey3.43.43.43.53.5
Average time in workdays to investigate and close a written complaint (All complaints)5658575553
Average time in workdays to investigate and close a written complaint (> $5,000)7275737169
Average time in workdays to investigate and close a written complaint ($1,001 - $5,000)6959585755
Average time in workdays to investigate and close a written complaint ($101 - $1,000)5556555453
Average time in workdays to investigate and close a written complaint (< $100)4547454442
Percent of consumer protection cases closed that are resolved by OCP62%66%66%67%68%
Media Coverage - Percent of news releases receiving media coverage, including print news, television and radio89%100%100%100%100%
Media Coverage - Number of times media outlets, including print news, television and radio, seek out OCP's expertise2822252730
Percent of Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC) cases resolved prior to a hearing 168%79%N/AN/AN/A
1  The CCOC was transferred to the Department of Housing and Community Affairs in FY17. The OCP no longer has oversight over this commission.

Accomplishments

  • Developed and launched a free mediation service to all businesses in Montgomery County. This is a way for businesses to resolve disputes with other businesses without the cost of retaining attorneys and pursuing litigation. Mediation sessions are conducted at OCP by a volunteer expert mediator.

  • Monitored several for-profit referral services that recommend merchants to consumers. These online referral sources disseminate the names of merchants that are not properly licensed. OCP is working with volunteer computer experts to develop a program to compare those merchants listed on referral sites with those merchants listed in licensing databases to identify unlicensed merchants.

Initiatives

  • To prevent unlicensed home builders from improperly obtaining building permits, OCP enhanced its collaboration with the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) and reviewed statutory language for "loopholes" which unlicensed contractors may currently be exploiting.

Innovations and Productivity Improvements

  • Collaborate with the Department of Technology Services (DTS) to deploy the Complaint and Licensing Management System (CALMS). CALMS enables consumers to provide their contact information, identify the merchant, fully explain the nature of the dispute, and make a request for resolution. In addition, CALMS enables OCP staff to record all communications and contacts with the consumer and merchant. This includes all documents, receipts, and photographs regarding each case and begins the transition from a paper-based filing system to an online filing system.

  • Increased outreach activity effort by including an informational flyer with the property tax billing sent to all property owners in Montgomery County. This notice ensures that a large number of residents are aware of OCP's services.

Collaboration and Partnerships

Flower Branch Apartments Explosion

Collaborated with many other departments to provide critically important financial information to consumers impacted by the explosion and fire at Flower Branch Apartments. OCP staff participated in several resource outreach events to inform and assist consumers regarding debt collection and contractual issues. OCP created and translated an education flyer (fact sheet) into English, Spanish, Amharic, Mandarin Chinese, and Vietnamese languages. These flyers were distributed with donation payments to prevent recipients from being victimized by fraudulent individuals.

Partners

County Council, Office of the County Executive, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service

 

Program Descriptions

  Consumer Protection

The OCP receives and investigates complaints and initiates its own investigations of deceptive or unfair trade practices against consumers. Staff resolves disputes between consumers and merchants, identifies violations of County, State, and Federal consumer protection laws, and makes referrals to other agencies when appropriate. Complaint categories include automotive sales/repairs, new home construction, home improvement repairs, predatory financial practices, credit and collection practices, telemarketing, and retail sales.

The OCP issues subpoenas to compel the production of documents or compel the attendance of witnesses. The office is authorized to hold hearings, administer oaths, and issue civil citations for violations of consumer protection laws. Special investigations are conducted and may result in Settlement Agreements or abatement orders, or in transmitting cases to the Office of the County Attorney for appropriate legal action. Investigators initiate charges for criminal prosecutions by the Office of the State's Attorney, and investigators also testify in court as expert witnesses. In addition, the Office engages in consumer advocacy by testifying before County, State, and Federal legislative bodies and by drafting new legislation to protect consumers.

The OCP develops and conducts consumer education programs. The Office issues press releases through the Office of Public Information, holds press conferences, and publishes consumer brochures; staff responds to requests for information regarding consumer protection rights and remedies. Staff makes presentations at schools; community, business and civic group meetings; and frequently appear on television and radio news programs. The Office maintains a webpage containing consumer protection information, a record of the number of complaints received against merchants, and consumer alerts. Outreach efforts include initiatives to better address the needs of vulnerable consumers, underserved communities, and residents with limited English proficiency. The Office also works with the Advisory Committee on Consumer Protection.

The OCP is responsible for licensing or registering automobile repair and towing businesses; new homebuilders; radio, television, and electrical appliance repair shops; and secondhand personal property dealers.

Budget Summary
TitleActual
FY16
Budget
FY17
Estimate
FY17
Approved
FY18
%Chg
Bud/App
COUNTY GENERAL FUND
EXPENDITURES
Salaries and Wages1410293.001378307.00 1401674.00 1524584.0010.6
Employee Benefits644203.00588065.00 583740.00 635621.008.1
County General Fund Personnel Costs2054496.001966372.00 1985414.00 2160205.009.9
Operating Expenses144206.00142698.00 121689.00 204392.0043.2
County General Fund Expenditures2198702.002109070.00 2107103.00 2364597.0012.1
PERSONNEL
Full-Time17.0016.00 16.00 17.006.3
Part-Time1.001.00 1.00 1.000.0
FTEs16.6015.60 15.60 16.606.4
REVENUES
Common Ownership Community Fees416672.000.00 0.00 0.000.0
Miscellaneous Revenues4560.000.00 0.00 0.000.0
New Home Builder's License149231.00134000.00 134000.00 134500.000.4
Other Charges/Fees50.000.00 0.00 0.000.0
Other Fines/Forfeitures2350.001000.00 1000.00 1000.000.0
Other Licenses/Permits73832.0060000.00 60000.00 60000.000.0
County General Fund Revenues646695.00195000.00 195000.00 195500.000.3
FY18 Approved Changes
TitleExpendituresFTEs
COUNTY GENERAL FUND
FY17 ORIGINAL APPROPRIATION210907015.60
Changes (with service impacts)
Add: Manager III for Investigative Services [Consumer Protection]1047061.00
Other Adjustments (with no service impacts)
Restore: Funding for Administrative Specialist I (Part-Time) [Consumer Protection]493140.00
Increase Cost: Annualization of FY17 Personnel Costs348830.00
Increase Cost: FY18 Compensation Adjustment342680.00
Increase Cost: Retirement Adjustment176000.00
Increase Cost: Maintenance of Case Management System100000.00
Increase Cost: Annualization of FY17 Compensation Increases55290.00
Decrease Cost: Printing and Mail-7730.00
FY18 APPROVED236459716.60
Charges to Other Departments
Charged DepartmentCharged FundFY17
Total$
FY17
FTES
FY18
Total$
FY18
FTES
COUNTY GENERAL FUND
Fire and Rescue ServiceFire679771.00711741.00
Future Fiscal Impacts ($000s)
TitleFY18FY19FY20FY21FY22FY23
COUNTY GENERAL FUND
EXPENDITURES
FY18 Approved2365.0000002365.0000002365.0000002365.0000002365.0000002365.000000
No inflation or compensation change is included in outyear projections.
Annualization of Positions Approved in FY180.00000030.00000030.00000030.00000030.00000030.000000
New positions in the FY18 budget are generally assumed to be filled at least two months after the fiscal year begins. Therefore, the above amounts reflect annualization of these positions in the outyears.
Elimination of One-Time Items Approved in FY180.000000-3.000000-3.000000-3.000000-3.000000-3.000000
Items recommended for one-time funding in FY18 for operating expenses for new positions will be eliminated from the base in the outyears.
Labor Contracts0.00000010.00000010.00000010.00000010.00000010.000000
These figures represent the estimated annualized cost of general wage adjustments, service increments, and other negotiated items.
Subtotal Expenditures2365.0000002402.0000002402.0000002402.0000002402.0000002402.000000
Annualization of Personnel Costs and FTEs
TitleFY18 Approved FY19 Annualized
TitleExpendituresFTEsExpendituresFTEs
Manager III for Investigative Services1015531.001315221.00
Total1015531.001315221.00