Supporting Small Businesses in a Tough Economy

by Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.

Ohio’s economy is made up of tens of thousands of small businesses, and at its heart are those entrepreneurs who set out to make a difference, to make their mark and to do it their way. From the auto repair shop in Cleveland to the software engineering firm in Toledo to the daycare center in Cincinnati, Ohio’s small businesses are the driving force behind Ohio’s economy. In fact, 85 percent of Ohio businesses have fewer than 20 employees.

As someone who has run a small business myself, I understand their importance to Ohio’s economic growth, and my office and I want to help them grow and prosper. So we are starting a new initiative that we hope will help small businesses deal with those who try to exploit them.

One of the Ohio Attorney General’s primary duties over the years has been protecting individual consumers from fraud and unfair business transactions. However, small businesses and nonprofits who are victimized by scams previously have not been able to file such complaints.

Now, for the first time ever, the office has made this service available to small businesses. In July, we opened up the complaint process to a test market of these enterprises. So far, we have received complaints from more than 900 businesses, and we have been able to recover or secure more than $75,000 for those businesses. We also are offering this new service to nonprofit organizations such as libraries, churches and others who improve the quality of life in our communities and deserve the same protections from the Attorney General.

Businesses that order products that are not delivered, receive shoddy services or otherwise get ripped off can now file a complaint with my office.

We offer an informal dispute resolution service through which we may be able to resolve complaints and help get money back for those who have been scammed. Complaints also give us the kind of evidence we need to take legal action against scammers and predators.

Hundreds of scenarios have come through our office already. They have painted a clear picture: Ohio’s small businesses can use our support, and I am proud to say they have it.

Here are just a few stories from businesses and nonprofits that have already filed complaints:

  • A Trotwood trucking company made an Internet purchase for more than $8,000. After paying for the product, the supplier never delivered and refused to return phone calls. The Attorney General’s Office resolved the issue and the trucking company received its purchase.
  • A West Jefferson library was charged for a Web service that it never authorized. We recovered $244.
  • A Columbus auto repair company was charged $849 for a Web site advertisement listing that it never authorized. We resolved the issue and the auto repair company did not have to pay the charges.

The types of issues that the Attorney General’s office can help resolve include:

  • Invoices for unauthorized advertisements.
  • Payment for a product or service that was never received.
  • Overcharges for property repairs and improvements or performing work poorly.
  • Disputed invoices for office supplies.

Sometimes we will be able to recover $100; other times it may be as much as $10,000. Either way, helping our small businesses avoid being nickel-and-dimed is well worth the effort. If you yourself or any small business or nonprofit you know has been targeted by unfair practices, take a few moments to file a complaint with my office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or call us at (800) 282-0515. We are glad to stand on your side.

Richard Cordray is Ohio Attorney General. For updates about the office’s work protecting small businesses and consumers, and for other updates, visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/.