All 50 states have an Attorney General's office headed by the state's top government attorney. The Federal Government also has a large, national U.S. Attorney General's office. A state Attorney General's office is made up of the AG himself or herself, as well as a number of Assistant/Deputy Attorneys. These individuals are lawyers who work for and represent the state. The AG's office also has a number of Investigators who help investigate initial complaints and potential violations. AG offices are tasked with protecting the residents of their states by investigating complaints and by enforcing state consumer protection law and other regulations.
What is an Attorney General letter?
An "AG letter" usually refers to a letter which a state AG office sends to a marketer, telemarketer, or seller, inquiring about a consumer complaint which the AG received, or about a suspected law violation. A standard initial AG letter is usually very short (1-2 pages), contains mostly boilerplate language, and is often accompanied by a copy of the consumer complaint that a state's resident may have filed against the company. An AG letter almost always asks the company to provide an explanation about the consumer complaint and any supporting documentation to show that there was no law violation. Initial AG letters are usually sent by Investigators and not actual AG's or Assistant AG's themselves.
How long do I have to respond to an Attorney General letter?
The initial AG letter will almost always impose a specific, short deadline (about 10 days) for the company to respond. If there is no deadline mentioned in the letter, you should try to respond within one week or call the AG's office to find out how much time you have to respond. If you need more time to respond, ask for an extension. Most of the time, Investigators are happy to grant short extensions allowing you additional time to research the complaint and respond.
Am I required to respond to an AG letter?
State law usually does not require you to respond to an initial AG inquiry, but you MUST respond in order to resolve the complaint. If you refuse to respond, an initial AG inquiry can quickly escalate into a Subpoena, Cease-and-Desist, Civil Investigative Demand (CID), or AG lawsuit. There may be significant telemarketing fines and penalties if you fail to respond. Examples of possible state telemarketing fines can be found here. Never ignore an Attorney General letter, even if you suspect that you may have violated the law.
How should Irespondto an Attorney General letter?
The answer is complex. How you should reply depends on a number of factors: What is the nature of the complaint against you? How many consumers have complained about you? Do you suspect that you may have violated the law? What documents and other evidence do you have to prove that you were in compliance? Have you ever been investigated or sued by a state agency before? Your answers to these questions will affect your best strategy for dealing with an AG investigation. Generally, you should promptly respond to every AG letter and phone call within the deadline imposed. Always be polite and treat regulators with respect. If you need more time, ask for it. Be honest, upfront, and cooperative with regulators, especially if you can easily demonstrate that you did not violate any law. However, also realize that information you provide to the AG might be used against you later in court if you cannot resolve the complaint. For these reasons, it is important that you speak with an experienced marketing or telemarketing attorney if you are being investigated. An attorney who has dealt with many AG disputes can quickly tell you what legal exposure you have and recommend a strategy for your reply.
How do I find an experienced lawyer to help me with my government investigation?