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New state legislation to strengthen consumer protections for military service members

Posted at 11:29 PM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 02:29:14-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — On Tuesday, the California Department of Justice, Attorney General Rob Bonta and other state lawmakers announced a new bill that would give more legal and financial protections for active duty and reserve component service members and their families.

If passed and signed into law, Senate Bill 1311 would strengthen California's existing military consumer protection laws and establish stronger legal and financial protections against businesses hoping to take advantage of military service members and their families.

“I do think it fills some loopholes and protects veterans and active military personnel from scrupulous business practices," Dick Taylor, President of Patriots of Kern said.

The California Department of Justice is focused on protecting military personnel and their families.

“We’ve seen banks squeeze every bit of profit they can from our service members," Rob Bonta, Attorney General said.

President of Patriots of Kern, Dick Taylor, served in the Marine Corps and says he has seen how businesses treat military service members he worked with.

“They jump ahead at where they should be in terms of their income. Some of these businesses take advantage of that and if the military personnel try to back out of it they can’t," Taylor said.

Attorney General Rob Bonta says Senate Bill 1311 will follow in the footsteps of Assembly Bill 3212 to provide eight more protections:

  • Establish the right to appear remotely, or through another military member, in small claims cases seeking the return of an improperly withheld security deposit
  • Make it illegal for a business to access the sensitive personal information stored on chip-based military ID cards or from using those cards to access sensitive military pay and personnel websites
  • Clarify existing law, which allows members of the Guard and Reserve to defer payments on mortgages and other obligations during a deployment, to ensure that interest is not accrued on a deferred mortgage obligation during the period of deferment
  • Prohibit businesses from offering military discounts that are conditioned on the service member or veteran waiving their rights under federal or state law
  • Amend state law regarding security interests to prevent businesses from taking advantage of denying service members the full protections of the federal Military Lending Act
  • Impose enhanced civil penalties for violations of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) perpetrated against service members and veterans
  • Enhance the ability of service members to terminate auto leases when they are reassigned or deployed
  • Provide enlisted service members at the rank of E-5 (an Army, Marine Corps, or Space Force Sergeant, an Air Force Staff Sergeant, or a Navy or Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class), or below, who are all too often the targets of predatory auto sales practices, with an automatic 30-day cooling off period for auto purchases and leases to allow them to return the purchased or leased vehicle.

Lawmakers say military service members shouldn't be afraid of making purchases or providing for their families with fear that their information could be stolen. Dick Taylor says these protections will make sure of that.

“It increases the penalties for those businesses that do violate the rights of our military personnel or veterans that make it less of an incentive for them prey upon junior enlisted personnel," Taylor said.

According to the California Legislature, SB 1311 will be heard again on April 19th.