§26-9  Department of commerce and consumer affairs.  (a)  The department of commerce and consumer affairs shall be headed by a single executive to be known as the director of commerce and consumer affairs.

     (b)  The department shall protect the interests of consumers, depositors, and investors throughout the State.  It shall set standards and enforce all laws and rules governing the licensing and operation of, and register and supervise the conduct of, trades, businesses, and professions, including banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms, and other financial institutions.

     (c)  The board of acupuncture, board of public accountancy, board of barbering and cosmetology, boxing commission, Hawaii board of chiropractic, contractors license board, board of dentistry, board of electricians and plumbers, elevator mechanics licensing board, board of professional engineers, architects, surveyors, and landscape architects, board of massage therapy, Hawaii medical board, motor vehicle industry licensing board, motor vehicle repair industry board, board of naturopathic medicine, board of nursing, Hawaii board of optometry, pest control board, board of pharmacy, board of physical therapy, board of psychology, board of private detectives and guards, real estate commission, Hawaii board of veterinary medicine, board of speech pathology and audiology, and any board, commission, program, or entity created pursuant to or specified by statute in furtherance of the purpose of this section including but not limited to section 26H-4, or chapters 484, 514B, and 514E shall be placed within the department of commerce and consumer affairs for administrative purposes.

     The public utilities commission shall be placed, for administrative purposes only, within the department of commerce and consumer affairs.  Notwithstanding section 26-9(e), (f), (g), (h), (j), (k), (l), (m), (n), (p), (q), (r), and (s), and except as permitted by sections 269-2 and 269-3, the department of commerce and consumer affairs shall not direct or exert authority over the day-to-day operations or functions of the commission.     (d)  Except as otherwise provided by this chapter, the functions, duties, and powers, subject to the administrative control of the director of commerce and consumer affairs, and the composition of each board and commission shall be as provided by law.

     (e)  Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, the employment, appointment, promotion, transfer, demotion, discharge, and job descriptions of all officers and employees under the administrative control of this department shall be determined by the director of commerce and consumer affairs subject only to applicable personnel laws.

     (f)  The director of commerce and consumer affairs may appoint a hearings officer or officers not subject to chapter 76 to hear and decide any case or controversy regarding licenses and the application and enforcement of rules involving any of the boards, commissions, or regulatory programs within the department of commerce and consumer affairs.  The hearings officer or officers shall have power to issue subpoenas, administer oaths, hear testimony, find facts, and make conclusions of law and a recommended decision; provided that the conclusions and decisions shall be subject to review and redetermination by the officer, board, or commission which would have heard the case in the first instance in the absence of a hearings officer.  The review shall be conducted in accordance with chapter 91.

     (g)  The director of commerce and consumer affairs may appoint an information officer not subject to chapter 76 who shall ensure the prompt and efficient handling of consumer inquiries and the development of a strong consumer education program.

     (h)  The director may appoint a complaints and enforcement officer not subject to chapter 76 who shall facilitate the receipt, arbitration, investigation, prosecution, and hearing of complaints regarding any person who furnishes commodities, services, or real estate for which a license, registration, or certificate is required from the department or any board, commission, or regulatory program thereunder.  In representing the State in bringing any action to enjoin unlicensed, unregistered, or uncertified activities, the department of commerce and consumer affairs' attorneys shall be empowered to exercise all authority granted to the attorney general and to the director of the office of consumer protection under sections 487-12, 487-14, 480-3.1, 480-15, 480-15.1, 480-20(c), and 480-22, as these sections now exist and as they subsequently may be amended.  The attorneys also shall be empowered to exercise all authority granted to the attorney general and to the responsible attorneys of the various counties under section 92F-13 in all cases involving documents and records within the custody or control of the regulated industries complaints office.

     (i)  The functions and authority previously exercised by the treasurer (except funds custody, cash management, debt management, and administering of veterans loans transferred to the department of budget and finance) as constituted are transferred to the department of commerce and consumer affairs established by this chapter.

     (j)  In the course of an investigation of matters affecting the interest of consumers, depositors, or investors, or of any other matter within the jurisdiction of the department, the director shall have the power to subpoena witnesses, examine witnesses under oath, and require the production of books, papers, documents, or objects that the director deems relevant or material to the inquiry.  Upon application by the director, obedience to the subpoena may be enforced by the circuit court in the county in which the person subpoenaed resides or is found in the same manner as a subpoena issued by the clerk of a circuit court.

     The director shall appoint and commission one or more investigators as the exigencies of the public service may require.  Persons appointed and commissioned under this section may serve subpoenas and serve process and orders pursuant to section 634-21.  Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to entitle persons appointed and commissioned by the director to retirement benefits applicable to police officers under chapter 88.

     (k)  The director may adopt, amend, or repeal rules pursuant to chapter 91 to effectuate the purposes of all laws within the jurisdiction of the department of commerce and consumer affairs.  The director's authority to adopt rules shall not modify, impair, or otherwise affect the power of boards and commissions placed within the department of commerce and consumer affairs for administrative purposes from adopting, amending, or repealing rules, except as provided for in subsection (l).

     (l)  Any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the director of commerce and consumer affairs may:

     (1)  Establish, increase, decrease, or repeal fees relating to any aspect of the registration, certification, licensure, or any other administrative process for all laws within the jurisdiction of the department.  Amendments to fee assessments shall be made pursuant to chapter 91;

     (2)  Assess fees for copies in any form of media of the computerized records of the business registration division or for electronic access to the computerized information on a one-time or on-going basis.  The fees charged for the copies or access may include billing service fees, network usage fees, and computer consultant fees.  In adopting these fees, the director shall take into account the intent to make the division self-supporting.  To this end, the fees may reflect the commercial value of the service or information provided.  In the case of requests for records by a nonprofit organization, the director may reduce or waive the fees.  This paragraph shall control in any instance where there is a conflict between this paragraph and any other statute; and

     (3)  Assess fees for copies of consumer and business educational publications prepared or issued by the department.  Fees collected under this paragraph shall be deposited into the compliance resolution fund under subsection (o).  In the case of requests for copies by a nonprofit organization, the director may reduce or waive the fees.  For purposes of this paragraph, "consumer and business educational publications" does not include copies of statutes or administrative rules.

     The fees collected by the professional and vocational licensing division and the business registration division shall be deposited into the compliance resolution fund under subsection (o).

     The director may appoint program specialists, not subject to chapter 76, to assist with the activities of the professional and vocational licensing division.

     (m)  Notwithstanding section 92-17 or any other law to the contrary, all boards, commissions, and regulatory programs placed within the department of commerce and consumer affairs for administrative purposes shall delegate their authority to receive, arbitrate, investigate, and prosecute complaints to the department.

     (n)  Each board and commission, as well as the director, by written order, may delegate to the executive secretary or other personnel of the department any of its powers or duties as it deems reasonable and proper for the administration of the licensing laws that are within the jurisdiction of the department of commerce and consumer affairs.  The delegated powers and duties may be exercised by the executive secretary or other personnel of the department in the name of the board, commission, or the director.  However, neither a board, a commission, nor the director shall delegate the authority to adopt, amend, or repeal rules or take final disciplinary action against a licensee.

     (o)  Every person licensed under any chapter within the jurisdiction of the department of commerce and consumer affairs and every person licensed subject to chapter 485A or registered under chapter 467B shall pay upon issuance of a license, permit, certificate, or registration a fee and a subsequent annual fee to be determined by the director and adjusted from time to time to ensure that the proceeds, together with all other fines, income, and penalties collected under this section, do not surpass the annual operating costs of conducting compliance resolution activities required under this section.  The fees may be collected biennially or pursuant to rules adopted under chapter 91, and shall be deposited into the special fund established under this subsection.  Every filing pursuant to chapter 514E or section 485A-202(a)(26) shall be assessed, upon initial filing and at each renewal period in which a renewal is required, a fee that shall be prescribed by rules adopted under chapter 91, and that shall be deposited into the special fund established under this subsection.  Any unpaid fee shall be paid by the licensed person, upon application for renewal, restoration, reactivation, or reinstatement of a license, and by the person responsible for the renewal, restoration, reactivation, or reinstatement of a license, upon the application for renewal, restoration, reactivation, or reinstatement of the license.  If the fees are not paid, the director may deny renewal, restoration, reactivation, or reinstatement of the license.  The director may establish, increase, decrease, or repeal the fees when necessary pursuant to rules adopted under chapter 91.  The director may also increase or decrease the fees pursuant to section 92-28.

     There is created in the state treasury a special fund to be known as the compliance resolution fund to be expended by the director's designated representatives as provided by this subsection.  Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, all revenues, fees, and fines collected by the department shall be deposited into the compliance resolution fund.  Unencumbered balances existing on June 30, 1999, in the cable television fund under chapter 440G, the division of consumer advocacy fund under chapter 269, the financial institution examiners' revolving fund, section 412:2-109, the special handling fund, section 414‑13, and unencumbered balances existing on June 30, 2002, in the insurance regulation fund, section 431:2-215, shall be deposited into the compliance resolution fund.  This provision shall not apply to the drivers education fund underwriters fee, sections 431:10C-115 and 431:10G-107, insurance premium taxes and revenues, revenues of the workers' compensation special compensation fund, section 386-151, the captive insurance administrative fund, section 431:19-101.8, the insurance commissioner's education and training fund, section 431:2-214, the medical malpractice patients' compensation fund as administered under section 5 of Act 232, Session Laws of Hawaii 1984, and fees collected for deposit in the office of consumer protection restitution fund, section 487-14, the real estate appraisers fund, section 466K-1, the real estate recovery fund, section 467-16, the real estate education fund, section 467-19, the contractors recovery fund, section 444-26, the contractors education fund, section 444-29, the condominium education trust fund, section 514B-71, and the mortgage foreclosure dispute resolution special fund, section 667-86.  Any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the director may use the moneys in the fund to employ, without regard to chapter 76, hearings officers and attorneys.  All other employees may be employed in accordance with chapter 76.  Any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the moneys in the fund shall be used to fund the operations of the department.  The moneys in the fund may be used to train personnel as the director deems necessary and for any other activity related to compliance resolution.

     A separate special subaccount of the compliance resolution fund, to be known as the post-secondary education authorization special subaccount, shall be established for fees collected by the department of commerce and consumer affairs pursuant to chapter 305J.  The special subaccount shall be governed by section 305J-19.

     As used in this subsection, unless otherwise required by the context, "compliance resolution" means a determination of whether:

     (1)  Any licensee or applicant under any chapter subject to the jurisdiction of the department of commerce and consumer affairs has complied with that chapter;

     (2)  Any person subject to chapter 485A has complied with that chapter;

     (3)  Any person submitting any filing required by chapter 514E or section 485A-202(a)(26) has complied with chapter 514E or section 485A-202(a)(26);

     (4)  Any person has complied with the prohibitions against unfair and deceptive acts or practices in trade or commerce; or

     (5)  Any person subject to chapter 467B has complied with that chapter;

and includes work involved in or supporting the above functions, licensing, or registration of individuals or companies regulated by the department, consumer protection, and other activities of the department.

     The director shall prepare and submit an annual report to the governor and the legislature on the use of the compliance resolution fund.  The report shall describe expenditures made from the fund including non-payroll operating expenses.

     (p)  Any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the department of commerce and consumer affairs, or any board or commission placed within it for administrative purposes, may contract with professional testing services to prepare, administer, and grade examinations and tests for license applicants.  For these purposes, the department may require applicants to pay the examination fee directly to the testing agency.

     (q)  Any law to the contrary notwithstanding, when any type of bond or insurance required to be maintained by any licensee under a regulatory program of the department of commerce and consumer affairs, or of any board or commission assigned to the department of commerce and consumer affairs, cannot reasonably be secured, the department, board, or commission may provide by rule for alternative forms of security to the consumer so long as that alternate security is no less than that provided by the type of bond or insurance initially required.

     (r)  Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the department of commerce and consumer affairs, or any board or commission placed within it for administrative purposes, may change any license renewal date by rules adopted in accordance with chapter 91.

     (s)  The director of commerce and consumer affairs may establish advisory committees, the members of which shall serve as consultants to the boards and to the director in their review of licensees referred for possible disciplinary action and as experts to the department for investigations and professional vocational licensing matters.  Each advisory committee shall be appointed by the director from a list of licensees submitted annually by the board or by referral from the regulated industry for which an advisory committee is appointed.  Each member of the committee shall serve until a new committee is established or until the particular case for which the member was designated a consultant or expert has been concluded.

     All members of the advisory committee shall serve voluntarily and without compensation, but shall be paid reasonable allowances for travel and expenses that may be incurred as a result of performance of their duties on the committee.  The costs shall be paid by the department.

     Any member of the advisory committee shall be immune from civil liability for any act done in connection with this subsection. [L Sp 1959 2d, c 1, pt of §15; am L 1963, c 21, §1, c 111, §2, c 114, §4, and c 136, §1; Supp, §14A-14; HRS §26-9; am L 1970, c 63, §2; am L 1976, c 18, §1 and c 165, §8; am L 1980, c 92, §1; am L 1981, c 75, §1, c 82, §7, and c 136, §1; am L 1982, c 60, §1, c 203, §1, and c 204, §1; am L 1983, c 54, §1, c 124, §2, c 153, §5, and c 224, §2; am L 1984, c 45, §2, c 97, §1, and c 213, §7; am L 1985, c 58, §1, c 68, §1, c 115, §1, and c 276, §2; am L 1986, c 140, §1; am L 1988, c 101, §2, c 126, §1, and c 141, §4; am L 1989, c 211, §10; am L 1990, c 166, §3, c 281, §11, and c 285, §3; am L 1991, c 47, §1; am L 1993, c 173, §1, c 280, §24, and c 322, §1; am L 1994, c 279, §2; am L 1995, c 198, §2; am L 1997, c 87, §1, c 88, §1, c 223, §1, c 225, §1, c 231, §1, c 235, §1, and c 301, §2; am L 1999, c 129, §1 and c 248, §2; am L 2000, c 253, §150; am L 2002, c 16, §2, c 39, §1, and c 40, §1; am L 2004, c 116, §1 and c 164, §§4, 5; am L 2005, c 22, §2; am L 2006, c 229, §2 and c 300, §3; am L 2008, c 9, §3 and c 28, §3; am L 2009, c 77, §1 and c 129, §2; am L Sp 2009, c 22, §11(1); am L 2011, c 48, §§7, 45(5); am L 2012, c 182, §49; am L 2013, c 180, §4; am L 2014, c 108, §3; am L 2017, c 181, §5; am L 2018, c 203, §§ 2, 4, 6, and 8]

 

Cross References

 

  Uniform professional and vocational licensing act, see chapter 436B.

 

Case Notes

 

  Director of regulatory agencies as protector of consumer's interest is party to proceeding before PUC.  54 H. 663, 513 P.2d 1376.

 

 

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