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The 1990s

As new professions and industries emerged and flourished, the agency was assigned licensing oversight of additional jobs and professional fields. In 1992, the Department created a Central Licensing Division to streamline and automate the agency’s annual issuing of approximately 120,000 licenses and collecting $30 million each year in receipts.

Civil complaints were filed against three car dealerships and their advertising company for sending 6,000 envelopes to motorists marked "Vehicle Warranty Recall Notice." Inside these seemingly official envelopes were ads for automobile services such as oil changes and brake jobs.

The following year, the Department went after 22 more automobile dealers for advertising violations and levied more than $35,000 in fines.

By 1995, Central Licensing was processing more than half of the 150,000 licenses issued each year, and the Department continued consolidating all of the agency’s licensing functions into that one division. The Department pursued plans to improve public access to the agency and began discussions about linking the agency to the Information Superhighway, i.e., the Internet.

Much effort was spent to upgrade and modernize the Department’s systems and procedures and to create a strategic business plan which, during its implementation over the next five years, laid the groundwork for many process and technology improvements in the agency.

Governor John G. Rowland opened the agency’s new Consumer Action Center on October 2, 1996. A single, user-friendly customer service center replaced the former maze of small separate offices, thus allowing Department visitors to accomplish all of their agency business in one area with representatives from the many divisions available to assist them.

Later that year the agency launched its first Internet Web site, providing real-time remote public access to services and information on a 24-hour basis.

The Department won the 1997 Governor’s Service Award for "Operation Blind Date," a year-long investigation of a major dating service, resulting in payments of $55,000 in restitution to consumers and $20,000 to the Department to cover investigative costs, nationwide coverage on the popular "Dateline NBC" television program, and a law to protect consumers from future high-pressure sales tactics by requiring a three-day cancellation right for on-line dating service contracts.

By 1998, home improvement concerns consistently comprised the majority of complaints to the agency. Department investigators even uncovered one group of scammers taking a dead raccoon from house to house, scaring homeowners into unneeded chimney repairs by saying the creature was found in their chimney. Similar outrageous home improvement schemes and unfair practices were on the rise.

The agency responded by launching stronger, more proactive enforcement of the Connecticut Home Improvement Act to combat these ongoing problems.

A multi-media advertising campaign that year encouraged home improvement contractors to get registered, offered a special amnesty period on penalties, and used hard-hitting TV, radio and newsprint ads to alert consumers to check that any home improvement contractor they hired was appropriately registered in Connecticut.

In February a $5,000 grant from the Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking and the Office of Policy and Management to combat the sale of alcohol to minors, supported the Department’s liquor Con trol division in launching one of its most successful and longest-running campaigns.

Liquor control agents joined forces with local police and trained volunteer minors to conduct fifty special undercover investigations across the state and found that more than one-third of those bars, restaurants, and package stores tested were selling alcohol to minors.

The eye-opening impact of these first compliance checks led to the founding of the state’s new Underage Drinking Task Force and a series of ongoing, statewide compliance checks, which are still regularly conducted in 2009.

With jurisdiction over many critical areas of the marketplace, including weights and measures, food safety, drug control, and unfair business practices, the Department was busy in the State’s preparations for shifting into the new millennium.

At the dawn of the 21st century, food inspectors watched for threats to the food supply and monitored for signs of shortages. Drug Control staff assured citizens that all state pharmacies were capable of filling prescriptions without computers. Weights & Measures specialists were in contact with suppliers and retailers of heating oil, propane and gasoline. The agency alerted citizens to possible scams claiming to be "Y2K protections." A 24 hour hot-line was activated to answer questions consumers had regarding these scams. Happily, the new millennium dawned quietly and peacefully in the state.