Administration bills to protect elderly, disabled and consumers

Two proposed bills that the administration has sent to the Fono deals with the prevention of neglect, abuse and exploitation of the elderly and disabled, as well as protection of consumers.

Governor Lolo Moliga wrote to Fono leaders this week saying the abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly and disabled adults is a growing problem in the United States and the vast majority of cases go unreported.

He said currently there are no laws in American Samoa that are specifically designed to protect these highly vulnerable groups.

The administration’s proposed law, said Lolo,  provides protections for older adults who are exploited.

Lolo also pointed out that the proposed act is designed to protect disabled adults who are 1.5 times more likely to be a victim of violence than those without a disability.

He told the Fono leaders because of the unique susceptibility of these groups, uniquely tailored laws must be enacted to protect them.

The bill defines actions which constitute abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly and disabled persons and classifies the crime level which they commit with various actions.

Examples are embezzling or intentionally mismanaging the assets of the elderly and disabled, committing fraud in obtaining their appointments and failing to provide them care, supervision and services necessary to maintain their physical and mental health including but not limited to food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well being of the elderly person or disabled adults.

Such crimes would be classified as a Class C felony.

Regarding the consumer protection bill, the governor said that the act is designed to help protect consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices.

He said the Office of the Attorney General and the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection serve critical role in protecting the consumers of Americn Samoa from unfair and deceptive business practices.

Unfortunately the current laws deisgned to protect consumers are outdated and do not sufficiently protect consumers.

Thus it is in the public interest to update these laws to create causes of action remedies and to establish procedures that help ensure fair and ethical business practices in commercial transactions with consumers.

The bill states that the Bureau would promote the protection of cunsumers from suppliers who commit deceptive, fraudulent and unconscionable sales practices and the encouragement and development of fair consumer sales practices.

The bill defines actions which would constitute deceptive acts and practices as well as unconscionable consumer sales practices, provides that the High Court of American Samoa has jurisdiction to adjudicate cases filed under the act whether or not the supplier is a resident of the terirotry, and sets out legal remedies for consumers as well as penalties for crimes under the new act.

A person who commits a civil infraction under the act shall be fined between $500 or $2,500 for each unlawful practice to be collected in a civil suit initiated by the Consumer Protection Bureau.