Have You Seen This Box? Then OCP Wants to Hear From You

The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) is launching a campaign to warn consumers and retail businesses about so-called donation boxes on display in some retail stores and restaurants.

These boxes typically post a photograph of a pet or a child, accept cash payments, and offer candy in return. Many businesses in Montgomery County permit these boxes to be displayed in their stores and many consumers put money into these boxes – under the mistaken belief that they are making a charitable contribution to help find a lost pet or child.

“Unfortunately, businesses and consumers may not take the time to fully read and research the information printed on these boxes,” said OCP Director Eric Friedman. “The overall impression created by these boxes clearly is misleading and certainly has the tendency or capacity to deceive both the consumers who contribute money, and the businesses who allow these boxes to be displayed.”

According to Friedman, these boxes are actually a for-profit business venture primarily designed to generate revenue for the owner of these boxes. This business model has been seen before in other jurisdictions and has been investigated by other regulatory agencies.

An anonymous tip alerted the OCP to the presence of these boxes in Montgomery County.

State law provides that a real charitable donation device or container must disclose the name and address of the charitable organization.

Representatives from the OCP have spoken with businesses in the areas where the boxes have been located to alert them about the issue. The OCP is now working with other business organizations to spread the word more broadly throughout the business community.

If you see a donation box in a retail store, you are asked to report it to the OCP by submitting an online complaint or by calling  240.777.3636.

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