Consumer protections expanded, advanced

A bill that would grant Nebraska’s attorney general increased powers to prosecute businesses and business owners for deceptive or unfair trade practices earned first-round approval from senators March 21.

Sen. Carolyn Bosn

LB934, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Carolyn Bosn, would authorize the attorney general to bring a trial by jury under the Consumer Protection Act or the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Additionally, the bill would authorize the attorney general to freeze assets of businesses or business owners suspected of engaging in deceptive practices.

Bosn said the measure would provide the attorney general with additional tools to protect consumers and prioritize restitution for victims who have lost their hard-earned money to scams.

“This bill will allow Nebraskans the best opportunity to be able to get their money back,” she said.

A Judiciary Committee amendment, adopted 33-0, would allow the attorney general and a defendant to demand a jury trial for claims brought under either act. Among other technical changes, the amendment also would require the attorney general to have “reasonable cause” before taking specific actions such as requiring statements or freezing assets.

Sen. Christy Armendariz of Omaha offered an amendment, adopted 33-0, which would add provisions of her LB1096. The provisions would expand the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act to include the creation, distribution, monetization or promotion of sexually explicit conduct, obscene material or material that is harmful to a minor as deceptive trade practices.

Armendariz said the amendment would expand protection beyond the geographic limits of current criminal jurisdictions to hold accountable the “most prolific purveyors” of exploitation of children and sex trafficking victims.

After adopting the amendments, lawmakers advanced LB934 to select file on a 35-0 vote.

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