Are you in need of a Maryland firearms lawyer?

If you are in need of a Maryland firearms lawyer, Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®), a division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., issued a press release earlier today that Chief Counsel Joshua Prince has been formally admitted by the Court of Appeal of Maryland, so that he can practice firearms law in Maryland, in addition to Pennsylvania.

Please join us in congratulating Joshua on this monumental achievement!

 


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.

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Pennsylvania House Bill 18 Takes Aim at Workers’ Compensation Medications

by Karl Voigt

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday,  June 20 will likely be voting on its House Bill 18, which seeks to further control medications taken by Workers’ Compensation claimants. Some consider this a “foot in the door” piece of legislation that is designed to start the process of more severely limiting medications, particularly opioids.

HB18, which originates from Berks/Lehigh Counties, is being sold as a way to control opioid addiction. And that’s clearly a noble goal; Pennsylvania and perhaps even the nation is suffering from a genuine crisis. However, that’s not the actual goal of this proposal. This new legislative proposal would simply adopt one of several national “evidence-based drug formularies” that would in essence decide if a medication – or it’s dosage – is reasonable and necessary.

What HB18 seeks to do is to change the utilization review process where medications are involved. Under the present system, a carrier can challenge reasonableness and necessity of a prescription medication and it goes through a process where the medication is reviewed by a certified reviewer. He or she reviews medical records specific to the injured worker and he makes an initial decision as to whether or not the care is indeed reasonable and necessary. This, again, is based on an individual’s response to the treatment. If the treatment is found to be unreasonable and unnecessary, the injured worker can file an appeal to be heard by a judge. During that appeal, the burden of proof to convince the judge actually rests with the insurance company, no matter who filed the appeal. Regardless, the judge examines the individual’s response to the challenged care and decides accordingly.

This new legislative proposal aims to remove consideration of an individual patient’s circumstances and would simply allow or disallow medications based on a “one size fits all” table. This could in essence take your own individual medical care out of the hands of your doctors and replace their judgment with a flowchart.

Naturally, we encourage our readers to voice their opposition to this proposed bill to their elected officials.

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PA Gas Drilling Impact Fees Total Distribution Tops $1 Billion

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today (June 15, 2017) posted detailed information about this year’s distribution of Impact Fees on natural gas producers, totaling $173,258,900, on the PUC’s interactive Act 13 website.puc_seal

Over the past six years, the PUC has collected and distributed more than $1.2 billion in Impact Fees to communities across Pennsylvania.

County and municipal governments directly affected by drilling will receive a total of $93,128,340 for the 2016 disbursement year. Additionally, $62,085,600 will be placed into the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which provides financial support for environmental, highway, water and sewer projects, rehabilitation of greenways and other projects throughout the state. Also, $18 million will be distributed to state agencies specified by the Act.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with energy law and PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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Are You Starting the Next “Uber”?

puc_sealAs part of an ongoing effort to address changes in the transportation industry, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today encouraged concerned parties to submit comments regarding proposed changes to the Commission’s regulations governing the motor carrier industry.

The comments submitted in response to the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be used in the PUC’s reexamination of motor carrier regulations, including businesses that transport passengers, property and household goods – as part of an effort to ensure that the transportation industry in Pennsylvania operates safely and also continues to innovate. In recent years, the oversight of these industries has evolved, in response to changes in federal law as well as market forces.

Possible topics for comment include:

  • The regulation of property carriers.
  • The regulation of group and party carriers.
  • Insurance requirements.
  • Safety requirements.
  • Fuel surcharges.
  • Fines and assessments.
  • The granting of provisional authority.
  • Web-based training for new and current carriers.
  • Various Commission General Orders, Policy Statements and guidelines for transportation utilities.
  • Any other specific considerations.

 

The comments should be submitted within 60 days of the publication of the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Comments should include references to sections of the Commission’s current regulations. They should also provide a rationale for the proposed change and include specific proposed language for changes to the regulations.  Reference Docket No. L-2017-2604692. Rulemaking for Title 52 – Regulation of Motor Carriers of Passengers and Property.

Previously, the Commission approved updated regulations intended to reduce barriers for passenger carriers and moving companies.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with energy, real estate, transportation or other PUC matters including preparation and filing of comments, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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PUC Announces Appointments to Consumer Advisory Council

puc_sealThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today announced a series of appointments to its Consumer Advisory Council (CAC), which provides input to the PUC on issues important to utility customers. Members of the CAC will serve two-year terms, from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2019.  Included are several representatives from our area.  Congratulations all!

New CAC members include:

 

  • Sonny Popowsky, former Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate (serving from 1990 to 2012), brings an extensive state and national background in consumer and utility issues. Popowsky, of Philadelphia, was appointed to the CAC by Gov. Tom Wolf.
  • Christopher M. Winters Sr., of Wernersville, Berks County, has experience in legislative affairs, constituent services, research and public relations. Winters was appointed by Rep. Thomas R. Caltagirone, Minority Chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee.

Additionally, the Commission ratified the reappointment of the following CAC members:

  • Troy T. Geanopulos, founder of several energy efficiency companies over the past 20 years, is currently the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Efficiency Network (TEN), a tech-enabled provider of building efficiency services headquartered in Pittsburgh. Geanopulos was reappointed by Lt. Gov. Mike Stack.
  • Ralph G. Douglass, of Bensalem, Bucks County, was reappointed by Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson (R-Bucks), the Majority Chairman of the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. Douglass is semi-retired from service as President of PECA Inc., an electronics design and manufacturing firm. Douglass current serves as chairman of the CAC.
  • Javier R. Toro, of Fountain Hill, Lehigh County, was appointed by Sen. Lisa M. Boscola (D-Lehigh), the Minority Chair of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. He is a Customer Care Supervisor for the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, and also is responsible for weatherization.
  • George J. Silvestri Jr., of Souderton, Montgomery County, was reappointed by Rep. Robert W. Godshall (R-Montgomery), the Majority Chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee. Silvestri is an author and a retired engineer in the Power Generation Division of the Westinghouse Electric Corp.

The PUC also reappointed the following at-large members of the CAC:

  • Lillian Carpenter, a retired educator from Pittsburgh, a former member of the Pittsburgh Board of Education, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh Homeless Children’s Education Fund.
  • Patrick M. Cicero, Director of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project (PULP), a statewide legal aid office, based on Harrisburg, that serves low-income households in utility and energy matters. He is a resident of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County.
  • Timothy B. Hennessey is a licensed insurance agent with Advantage Insurance in Pottstown, Montgomery County, and owner of Phoenix Festival Productions, an event-planning company in North Coventry Township, Chester County.  Hennessey currently serves as vice chairman of the CAC.
  • Chad Quinn, of Lawrence County, is Chief Executive Officer of Pittsburgh-based Dollar Energy Fund, which works to improve the quality of life for households experiencing hardships by providing utility assistance and other services that lead to self-sufficiency.
  • Dr. Tina M. Serafini, a professor, curriculum designer/consultant and trainer for T.M. Serafini & Associates LLC, and a resident of Clearfield.
  • Joseph E. Toner III, Chairman of the Uwclan Township Board of Supervisors and President of the Chester County Association of Township Officials.

The Consumer Advisory Council advises the PUC Commissioners on matters related to the protection of consumer interests under the jurisdiction of the PUC. Council meetings are held bimonthly and are open to the public. Members serve without compensation.

Prince Law Offices, P.C. thanks each member for your service.  To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with energy, real estate, or PUC matters including representation in rate cases, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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Someone Stole your Phone?

Identity theft can happen to anyone. Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published an article based on a true story from one if its fraud investigators who had her phone stolen.

She provided tips you can take to protect your digital identity:

Smart Phone:

  • Lock your phone. Use at least a 6-digit passcode on your device, or use the pattern lock or fingerprint scanner. Set the device to lock when not in use. This is especially important if you use a mobile wallet or money transfer apps.
  • Update it and back it up. Back up your device regularly and make sure automatic updates are turned on. Backing up your phone regularly and automatically makes sure that you’ll still have your stuff – if it disappears.
  • Get help finding your phone. Install and turn on Find My iPhone (iOS) or Find My Device (Android). These apps could help you locate your device if you lose it. If your phone is stolen, these apps also let you remotely issue a command to erase your device .
  • Alert your wireless provider if your phone is missing. Make the call as soon as you know your device is missing after you have used the Find My Phone/Device feature. They can permanently or temporarily disable the SIM card to stop someone from using the device on the cell network.

Accounts:

  • Turn on two-factor authentication. That means you’ll give your password and a second way to prove that you’re you. This extra layer of security makes it much harder for thieves to get into your accounts and lock you out. Many providers give several options to authenticate your identity, so be sure you have a backup method (like one-time use codes or a backup email address) in case you don’t have access to your device to receive texts or phone calls.
  • Know which devices have access to your accounts. Many social media sites and email providers, and some phone operating systems, let you view the logins for your devices from the settings menu. You can remove devices from the account, and log out of the site remotely using a computer or another device. That’s handy if ever you lose your phone, tablet, or laptop.
  • Check your log-in and account notifications. Many email and social media accounts can notify you if a new device connects to your account, or if someone tried to change your passwords.
  • When in doubt, change your passwords. If you’ve lost your device, change your passwords. Many of us set our devices to remember passwords – which could mean that someone who gets your phone could get access to your accounts and personal information. So: if you lose your phone, change your email, social media, online banking, shopping, and other passwords right away.

For more tips on what to do to protect yourself from identity thieves, check out ftc.gov/idtheft.

Need further help?  If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Protection Consumers Have Under Federal and State Law From Creditors and Debt Collectors.

If you have defaulted on your credit card obligations or other debts, you have likely been subjected to calls and letters and from debt collectors, attorneys, and/or creditors threatening legal action if you don’t pay. What many may not realize is that as a debtor you are afforded protection from unfair debt collection practices under federal and state law.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) is a federal consumer protection statute that prohibits harassing abusive, deceptive, and/or unfair debt collection practices by debt collectors at any point in the debt collection process, including during pleadings and post judgment conduct. See 15 U.S. Code §1692. The FDCPA protects all consumers from debt collectors attempting to collect debt arising out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance, or services which are the subject of the transaction are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, whether or not such obligation has been reduced to judgment. See 15 U.S. Code §1692a.

A debt collector includes any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another. While creditors are not included in the definition of a debt collector unless the creditor attempts to collect their own debt by using a name that indicates a third party is trying to collect the debt, attorneys are included in the definition of a debt collector under the FDCPA and are subject to a federal law suit should they violate the terms of the FDCPA.

Generally speaking, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt: 1) at any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer (generally, only between the hours of 8:00 a. m and 9:00 p.m.); 2) contact a consumer if represented by an attorney; 3) contact consumer at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication. See 15 U.S. Code §1692c

Additionally, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.

A debt collector can not leave a message on an operator, answering machine or third party that indicates that call concerns the collection of a debt. Under the FDCPA, only calls that reach the consumer at home between the hours of 8:00 a. m and 9:00 p.m., that inform the consumer by name who is calling, and the reason for the call are permitted.

Additionally, all calls as well as other communications must also include the required warning and disclosure that the call is to gather information for purposes of debt collection. 15 U.S. Code §1692e(11) requires that debt collectors in all initial written communication to consumers, and if the initial communication is oral, to advise that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose.

Under 15 U.S. Code §1692g, each debt collector must offer an initial debt validation statement for the debtor in the first communication with debtor, whether orally or in writing, including in a complaint if it is the first communication with the debtor. Under the statute, specific language is required and any failure to use that specific language as well as provide the name of the creditor and the amount of debt is a violation of the FDCPA.

Under 15 U.S. Code §1692d, a debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt, including, but not limited to: 1) the use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person; 2) the use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader; and 3) causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.

Under 15 U.S. Code §1692e, a debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt, including, but not limited to: 1) the false representation of the character, amount, or legal status of any debt; 2) the false representation or implication that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney; 3) the threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken.

Under 15 U.S. Code §1692f, a debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt, including, but not limited to the collection of any amount (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.

The FDCPA provide that a consumer may recover in a civil law suit actual damages, statutory damages of $1,000.00 and costs of the action together with reasonable attorney’s fees. The FDCPA is a fee shifting statute allowing the consumer to recover his attorney’s fees in a law suit for violation of the FDCPA. Finally, all suits must be commenced within one year of the violation.

Pennsylvania’s Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (“FCEUA”) is Pennsylvania’s analogue to the FDCPA and essentially mirrors the FDCPA in its prohibitions. See 73 P.S.§ 2270.1 et seq, However, the FCEUA applies to creditors and debt collectors alike and allows for law suits against the actual creditors as well as the debt collectors unlike the FDCPA. The FCEUA does not allow for lawsuits against attorneys collecting debts for other parties.

A debt collector’s violation of any provision of the FDCPA constitutes a violation of the FCEUA. See 73 P.S. §2270.4. Under the FECUA, 73 P.S. §2270.5, if a creditor engages in an unfair or deceptive debt collection act or practice under this act, it shall constitute a violation of The Unfair Trade Practices And Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”).  73 P.S. §201-1 et. seq.  The UTPCPL allows a consumer to recover actual damages, as a result of his use methods, act or practice declared unlawful under the FCEUA, statutory damages, treble the actual damages (at the court’s discretion), together with costs and reasonable attorney fees. See. 73 P.S. §201.9-2. All actions under the FCEUA must be commenced within two years.

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