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A new bill would give the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) more authority to impose sanctions on unlicensed businesses. DCA Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra testified in favor of the bill at a February 8 City Council hearing. “Every business should be held to the same standard.” Currently, DCA has the power to try and fine licensed businesses that violate state laws, including the New York City Consumer Protection Law. But when it comes to complaints against unlicensed businesses, it can only offer informal mediation or encourage consumers to pursue private—and costly—lawsuits. Dykstra testified about a bereaved woman from the Bronx who paid $250 to inscribe a headstone for her deceased brother. A year later, the woman is still waiting for her brother’s headstone to be inscribed, despite the efforts of DCA mediators. According to the DCA, there were 1,060 cases in 2004 where the agency did not have jurisdiction to hold hearings. If passed, the bill would allow the agency to hear and rule on every violation that it issues. [2/14/05]

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