The Consumer Protection Division enforces consumer laws in the State of New Mexico that are intended to shield the public from fraudulent and unfair business practices. The state’s principal consumer law is the Unfair Practices Act (UPA). Under the UPA, the Division provides services to the public to ensure that consumers have safe and fair interactions with businesses operating in New Mexico. Please note: the Office of the Attorney General cannot act as a private attorney for individual citizens.
The Division serves the public in several ways:
Monitoring of Business Practices
The Division collects and monitors information regarding business practices that may violate New Mexico or Federal consumer protection
laws. Consumers who contact the Division are asked to file a written complaint to assist Division staff in gathering critical information about business practices. This information is used to investigate potentially harmful patterns of business practice that negatively affect the public interest, or otherwise violate New Mexico or Federal law.
No matter how careful consumers may be about making purchases, disputes may arise. Where the dispute involves business practices that violate New Mexico or Federal law, the consumer has a right to expect that the problem will be resolved. In some matters, if a consumer contacts the business, but is unable to resolve the dispute, he or she may contact the Division for complaint resolution services. There is no charge to the public for these services.
Ideally, in every trade or commercial transaction involving a business and a consumer, each party should enter into the transaction knowing its respective rights. In reality, many consumers are at a disadvantage because they do not fully understand their rights. The Consumer Protection Division regularly presents workshops and trainings on specific topics to groups throughout New Mexico. The Division maintains a presence at annual fairs and other major events to distribute general information to the public and answer questions. The Division also prepares and provides self-help information to consumers to assist them in resolving disputes with businesses. The Division has an extensive collection of leaflets and booklets addressing common consumer topics and questions. If you would like to request any of these materials, contact the Division at (800) 678-1508.
When the Division becomes aware of a pattern of unfair or unlawful business practices, the UPA offers several tools that can be used to stop the trade practice and change any illegal behavior. If an unfair practice is found, the Attorney General can demand an assurance in writing from the business that it will stop the unfair trade practice.
Legislation and Regulation
When the Division becomes aware of unfair business practices that are prevalent in a particular industry, the Division’s focus turns to long-term resolutions that will protect consumers who might be harmed by those practices in the future. This goal is achieved by advocating for changes in existing consumer laws to the New Mexico legislature or drafting proposed legislation to address industries that lack adequate consumer-related safeguards. The Office of the Attorney General is also authorized to make rules, which clarify the UPA. These rules are public record and are available for the public’s inspection.
The Division may file a civil lawsuit to challenge business practices that violate New Mexico or Federal law. This litigation may seek restitution for consumers impacted by unfair business practices, as well as fines and civil penalties. It is important to understand that the Division cannot and does not file lawsuits to recover damages for individual consumers. The remedy for individuals in a public legal action is limited to restitution or reimbursement. The Division files lawsuits on behalf of the citizens of the State of New Mexico as a whole. If a consumer wants damages in addition to restitution, he or she is encouraged to seek legal advice from a private attorney or a legal services organization, and may file a private civil lawsuit against the business. The decision to litigate any particular matter is within the discretion of the Office of the Attorney General. This decision is made based on the resources available, the priorities and the expertise of the Division’s personnel, the likelihood of success and collection of restitution, and how serious the violations are compared to all other similar business activities the Division becomes aware of through our complaint process.
Immigrant Consumer Services
While immigration policy is largely a federal issue, the Attorney General helps ensure that state laws are followed and immigrants are not treated unfairly or unlawfully. New Mexico’s immigrant community deserves protection of its basic rights as consumers and residents. The Division's Immigrant Consumer Services Unit addresses immigrant-targeted consumer problems, as well as other civil matters, especially when immigrants are targets for abuse.
Issues reported to the Immigrant Consumer Services Unit include:
- Services provided by immigration consultants
- Sales of goods and services in the Spanish, but with the final written agreement only in English
- Sales of motor vehicles, mobile homes, and extension of loans