New York State Assembly, Albany, New York 12248

2001 Legislative Update from the
NYS Assembly

Consumer Affairs
and Protection

Sheldon Silver, Speaker  white square  Audrey I. Pheffer, Chair  white square  January 2002

Audrey I. Pheffer, Chair

"Over the last two legislative sessions, the Committee has been successful in introducing and advancing legislation that greatly protects consumer’s personal privacy."

black square

Audrey I. Pheffer
Chair, Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee

Message from the Chair...

As Chair of the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee, I am pleased to report the results of a very successful legislative session. Increasing consumer privacy protection was among my Committee’s top priorities.

Over the last two legislative sessions, the Committee has been successful in introducing and advancing legislation that greatly protects the personal privacy of consumers.

In 2000, the legislature passed important laws combating abusive and deceptive telemarketing practices, and enacted the statewide “Do-Not-Call” registry, which stops unwanted telephone solicitations. This year, we furthered our goal of protecting consumers’ personal privacy by advancing legislation to make identity theft a crime.

I am very proud of these accomplishments and will continue to fight to protect consumers throughout all of New York State.

Audrey I. Pheffer's signature

Member of Assembly Pheffer leads a roundtable discussion on the effectiveness of the "sell-by" dates on perishable foods. Member of Assembly Pheffer leads a roundtable discussion on the effectiveness of the "sell-by" dates on perishable foods.

Assembly Majority
Passes Personal Privacy Measures

phone ringing Stop Unwanted Telephone Calls

New Yorkers who prefer not to receive telemarketing sales calls now have the option of registering with the "Do Not Call" telephone preference registry.

Consumers should be aware that registering won’t mean an immediate end to telemarketing sales calls. The reason for the delay is that the registry is published on a quarterly basis (the first of April, July, October and January), and telemarketers have 30 days after each quarterly update to remove registered numbers from their call lists.

If you receive a telemarketing call that you believe is in violation of the law, record the following information: the date and time the call was received; the name and address of the company that called; a manager’s name; the name of the company whose product or service is sold by the telemarketer; and any service or product information. With this information, you can file a complaint against the telemarketer.

To file a complaint regarding an alleged violation, contact the Consumer Protection Board (CPB) at 1-800-697-1220 or via the internet at

Consumer Alert:
Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime that is becoming increasingly widespread. Victims are often left with a bad credit report and must spend months or even years trying to regain their financial health.

For the third consecutive year, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer sponsored — and the Assembly passed — A.4939-B, which would help New Yorkers protect themselves against this devastating crime by enacting penalties for the unauthorized use of another’s personal information to obtain credit, goods or anything of value.

This legislation breaks new ground as one of the first bills in the nation that defines the crime of identity theft. Unfortunately, although this measure passed the Assembly with overwhelming support, it was not acted upon by the Senate.

Strengthened Protection for Credit and Debit Cards

In addition to advancing Identity Theft legislation, the Committee pursued increased credit and debit card protections to reduce the occurrence of fraud.

black square A. 2093-B (Klein) would require credit card issuers to establish a procedure whereby cards may only be activated after the holder contacts the issuer and provides proof of identity. This legislation would also prohibit "PRE-APPROVED" credit card applications that indicate on the exterior of the envelope that enclosed materials are pre-approved.

black square A.8453-B (Matusow) would increase consumer protection in relation to credit and debit cards by prohibiting electronically generated receipts from printing a full credit or debit card number on the receipt. This measure would help decrease fraud perpetuated by obtaining someone’s credit or debit card receipt.

Unfortunately, the Senate failed to act on these important consumer protections during the 2001 legislative session.

Protecting Consumers in
Today’s Marketplace

Genetically Engineered Foods

Last fall, the Committees on Consumer Affairs and Protection and Agriculture, and the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy held four joint hearings to discuss the impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — also commonly known as genetically engineered foods — on consumers, agriculture and industry.

In Europe and Japan, as well as in the United States, opponents of genetically engineered (GE) foods have raised numerous concerns about:

black square   possible health risks associated with human and animal consumption of GE plants and organisms;
black square   the environmental consequences of genetic alterations;
black square   the social and economic impact on agriculture both here and abroad; and,
black square   the ethical implications of making dramatic and unusual changes in living organisms.

These concerns have led to new regulations — including the labeling of GE foods and crops in Europe — and to proposals by both the federal and New York State governments that GE food products be labelled and their sale and use restricted.

The Assembly’s hearings served as a forum to gather information from consumer advocates, the farming community, environmental advocates and industry. We are continuing to examine policy options available to the regulation of GMOs in New York State.

Internet Privacy

The Committee is continuing its examination of internet privacy. Last year, the Committee held a public hearing on the issue and was successful in gaining passage of several measures aimed at protecting consumers against the accumulation and dissemination of personal information on the Internet. This year, the Committee conducted a joint roundtable with the Legislative Commission on Science and Technology to further discuss regulating unsolicited e-mail.

Supermarket Food Safety

A joint hearing was held last fall by the Committees on Consumer Affairs and Protection and Agriculture, and the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy to determine the effectiveness of New York State’s food safety regulations and oversight regarding supermarkets. The hearings were prompted by data obtained from the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, which cited many supermarkets that failed to meet the state’s minimum food safety standards in 1998 and 1999.

As a result, the legislature enacted a measure to increase the number of food inspectors within the Department of Agriculture and Markets. In addition, all supermarkets must now post inspection results in a place where consumers can easily review them.

ham Open Dating of Meat

In February, some consumers expressed concern regarding the "sell by" dates placed on meat in many food stores. In order to investigate the issue, the Committee held a roundtable in Albany to discuss current state and industry procedures regarding the sale of fresh meat, poultry, and seafood in New York State. The Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Food Industry Alliance, and the Price Chopper supermarket chain participated, as did many concerned members of the Assembly.

The "sell by" date on perishable meat products is not, as many con-sumers believe, the last date on which a product should be sold. Instead, "sell by" dates are a voluntary industry standard used as a tool to rotate and ensure the freshness of the product. In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets has standards of freshness by which every store must abide.

For example, if a grocer — following accepted industry standards — determines that a product is still fresh on the initial "sell by" date, he or she is legally allowed to re-wrap the product and mark it with a later date. While it poses no ill effects for the consumer, public perception of this practice has, in some cases, been negative.

To ensure that consumers receive accurate information, the Committee is pursuing legislation that would promote consumer education and awareness about this issue.

Other Significant
Consumer Protection Bills

Labelling Sunscreen Products

sun According to the American Cancer Society, over 800,000 new cases of highly curable basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year. Since 1973, the incidence of skin cancer has increased about 4% each year.

With many consumers using sunscreen products to prevent against the risk of skin cancer, it is vitally important that they be made aware of the fact that sunscreen is not protective against the sun’s rays after a certain shelf life.

For the seventh consecutive year, the Assembly passed A.1988 (Weisenberg), requiring that all sunscreen products be labelled with expiration dates and storage recommendations.

The Assembly also passed a resolution, K.780 (Weisenberg, Pheffer), calling on the federal government — specifically the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — to formulate federal regulations requiring that the label on any sunscreen product sold in the United States include an expiration date and storage recommendations.

Increased Consumer
Protection For Funeral Goods and Services

Chairwoman Pheffer sponsored a bill, A.7739, that would put protections in place for consumers who wish to put money aside to cover the cost of their own funeral. The bill, which passed both the Assembly and the Senate, would make it illegal for a funeral director to receive a commission from the sale of a funeral/burial insurance policy. Currently, a funeral director is not allowed to receive commission from the sale of a trust. This bill closes a loophole in the law and would ensure that there is no financial incentive to steer a consumer towards any type of funeral service.

C. Adrienne Rhodes, Executive Director of the Consumer Protection Board, addresses the Consumer Affairs Committee. C. Adrienne Rhodes, Executive Director of the Consumer Protection Board, addresses the Consumer Affairs Committee.

In addition, this bill would ensure that money deposited in an interest bearing trust to pay for funeral expenses could not be invested in surety bonds. This change was prompted by concerns in Florida, where monies were put in high-risk surety bonds and then lost when the bond issuers defaulted on bond payments.

New York is already considered a leader in consumer protection when it comes to funeral goods and services. This bill strengthens our law and ensures that consumers can continue to rely on the strong rights and protections afforded by New York State. This bill is awaiting action by the Governor.

For more information, contact:
Audrey I. Pheffer, Chair
Assembly Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection

Room 941 LOB
Albany, NY 12248
(518) 455-4292

90-16 Rockaway Beach Blvd.
Rockaway Beach, NY 11693
(718) 945-9550
108-14 Crossbay Blvd.
Ozone Park, NY 11417
(718) 641-8755