DCA Fiscal 2007-08 Accountability Milestones

DCA's Success Stories 2007/08

During the 2007-08 Fiscal Year, DCA undertook some exciting initiatives and continued working to both protect California consumers and serve its more than 2.5 million licensees. DCA put its consumer protection mission in sharper focus with the implementation of its new 2008-2010 Strategic Plan. DCA's mission is to serve the interests of California consumers by ensuring a standard of professionalism in key industries and promoting informed consumer practices. You can see DCA's 2008-10 Strategic Plan at www.dca.ca.gov/publications/strategicplan.pdf.

While DCA's mission statement has been updated, the dedication of the 2,675 employees across California to consumer protection has remained steady and unwavering.

Take a look at just a few examples of the many exciting things DCA accomplished during Fiscal Year 2007-08.

Enhancing Accountability

  • Convened annual internal feedback forums to ascertain the level of centralized services provided to DCA's 40 regulatory programs.
  • Established an internal Process Improvement Team (PIT) to establish priorities and explore opportunities for improving DCA business processes.

Increasing Visibility, Transparency and Accessibility for Consumers

  • Increased transparency in government by familiarizing the public with the roles of the different boards and bureaus that fall under DCA. Specifically, the Department created video overviews, www.dca.ca.gov/about_dca/entities.shtml, of what each board and bureau does to protect consumers.
  • The Department held news conferences, issued press releases and gave media interviews on several topics of consumer interest. To aid in the effort, the Department joined a group of federal, state and local government agencies and national consumer advocacy groups to highlight consumer education efforts in the fight against fraud.

Listening to Consumers Leads to More Consumer Outreach and Education

In late 2005, the Department, using a research firm, conducted a statewide consumer survey to ask consumers first-hand about the kinds of problems they were experiencing and how DCA could better communicate with them and serve them. DCA surveyed 1,000 consumers from a statewide representative sample, including sub-samples of three underserved populations: Spanish-speaking, senior, and low-income consumers.

Respondents told DCA that the following problems were very serious for California consumers: identity theft, telemarketing and internet scams, and false and misleading advertising. Of particular concern to the three underserved groups were: landlord-tenant disputes, automobile-related problems, and real estate fraud.

Respondents further told DCA that they wanted to learn more about the Department through paid and earned media, as well as community outreach. Specifically, low-income and Spanish-speaking respondents stated that they also preferred workshops on specific topics and newsletters mailed to the home.

Specific suggestions for improvement offered by the respondents were:
"Better visibility." "More outreach to the community, let us know they are out there." "Use whatever tools that are the most effective to get the word out." "Just exposure. I always hear about the BBB but not the Consumer Affairs at all." "To have more sting operations and more information on people that provide services, background information."

DCA has taken these responses seriously, and implemented the following outreach activities:

  • Secured nearly $45 million in refunds, rework or adjustments to consumers, with most of it – about $38 million – in direct refunds.
  • Took 1,048,800 calls from consumers at our Consumer Information Center, responded to 20,500 written consumer inquiries and answered 16,110 consumer e-mails.
  • Handed more than 6,600 consumer complaints through our Complaint Resolution Program.
  • Assisted and participated in several mortgage town hall events held throughout the state, to assist persons impacted by the subprime lending crisis.
  • Partnered with the Department of Technology Services to create and launch the "Rebuild Your Life" Web site in less than 48 hours to aid victims of the San Diego-area wildfires.
  • Provided assistance to consumers in the San Diego area after the fire to help ensure they were not taken advantage of following the disaster.
  • Launched the Drive Healthy public awareness campaign, promoting the importance of the Smog Check Program and proper car maintenance.
  • Retired 20,000 high-polluting vehicles, an increase of 19.5% over the previous year, removing nearly 4,000 tons of smog-forming pollutants.
  • Repaired 40,800 vehicles and removed 3,994 tons of smog-forming pollutants through the Smog Check program's Repair Assistance Program, which provides state assistance for emissions-related repairs to qualified consumers.
  • Participated in more than 190 community events and speaking engagements, and tripled the number of ethnic events it attended in the past.
  • Completed 1,109 investigations by sworn personnel in our Division of Investigation, made a number of arrests, executed search warrants, and referred 107 cases for criminal filings.
  • Published 1.5 million printed pieces, with our Office of Publications, Design and Editing garnering 15 international, national and state awards for graphic design and writing.
  • Partnered with Univision, Sacramento to hold a number of consumer call-a-thons and to put Lemon Law public service announcements on the air which inform consumers about their rights if they have purchased a vehicle that is defective.

Maintaining Student Consumer Protections in Place

Following the sunset of the Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education Reform Act on July 1, 2007, the Department of Consumer Affairs has accomplished the following in an attempt to mitigate the impact of the sunset of the law on the people of the state of California:

  • Developed and mailed voluntary agreements outlining student protections to those institutions approved as of 6/30/07.
  • Modified the Web site of the former BPPVE to provide additional information regarding the sunset of the BPPVE, www.bppe.ca.gov.
  • Created a list of 1,725 California schools eligible for participation in the voluntary agreement and posted it to the revamped web site. Continually updated the list with schools that volunteered to sign and return the voluntary agreement.
  • Created a series of six brochures designed to assist consumers with choosing careers and private postsecondary schools.
  • Conducted a series of 17 workshops in 9 cities (including a webcast) to assist school owners, students and other interested parties of the requirements of Assembly Bill 1525 and Senate Bill 45.
  • Paid $4.7 million from the Student Tuition Recovery Fund to students who filed claims against closed private postsecondary schools and worked with lenders to forgive 80 student loans.
  • Continue to answer questions and send information to interested parties through the e-mail notification system (over 2000 subscribers to the e-mail notification system).
  • Attended California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools (CAPPS) conferences to present information on proposed legislation and respond to concerns.

Promoting the Value of the California Professional License

  • Created the Unlicensed Activity Unit to educate consumers, give businesses and students a resource to open a business; created a toll-free number to report unlicensed activity, and developed publications for consumers, businesses, and students to distribute at events.
  • Created partnerships with the Board of Equalization (BOE), the Better Business Bureau (BBB), local chambers, California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), Contractors State License Board (CSLB), California Consumer Affairs Association (CCAA) and other partners to disseminate information.
  • Conducted multiple statewide enforcement stings/sweeps to combat unlicensed activity in construction, automotive repair, appliance repair, furniture manufacturing and sales, security guards, cosmetology, and other areas.

Strategic Alignment with DCA's 40 regulatory programs

  • Formed the Strategic Organizational Leadership and Individual Development Office (SOLID). SOLID staff completely revamped DCA's outdated training program. In addition, it is responsible for implementing department-wide strategic initiatives, including: job rotation, job mentoring, recruitment and retention, and identifying emerging technology tools to increase efficiency and communication.
  • Working with the 40 regulatory programs, collaboratively developed a new DCA Strategic Plan.
  • Established bi-monthly Executive Leadership Forums for department executive officers, bureau chiefs, division chiefs, and executive office staff, to ensure consistent, regular information exchange amongst all DCA executives and to provide them with topical leadership training.
  • Established quarterly Managers'/Supervisors' Roundtables for program level managers and supervisors, with the same communication goal as that of the Executive Leadership Forum.
  • Enhanced internal communications with line staff via the intranet and direct email.
  • Revamped the Department's New Board Member Orientation Training.
  • Developed on-going board member training modules covering: ethics, board member roles and responsibilities, preparing for industry workforce shortages, and consumer outreach.

Strengthening the Enforcement Program

  • Established an intake unit in its Division of Investigation, to better screen and prioritize cases submitted to the Division.
  • Made recruitment for investigators a priority within the organization. This has resulted in a 50% reduction in the number of investigator vacancies (reduced from 12 to 6 in the last year).
  • Implemented an automated case tracking system to enhance accountability and better monitor progress on pending investigative cases.
  • Established more regular communication with the Office of Administrative Hearings and the Attorney General's Office to streamline the adjudication process once an accusation is filed.
  • Developed and began a program to collect fingerprints from healing arts licensees who had previously been exempted from the requirement.