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Title 37 - Consumer Protection Code
PREPAID LEGAL SERVICES
As used in this chapter:
(1) "Department" means the Department of Consumer Affairs.
(2) "Prepaid legal company" means a person or entity offering prepaid legal services to the general public or a segment of the general public.
(3) "Prepaid legal services" means legal services or reimbursement for legal services provided by an individual licensed or admitted to practice law in the jurisdiction in which the services are to be rendered, and which are provided in return for a predetermined, specified, periodic fee.
Registration; bond or letter of credit.
Before commencing business in South Carolina, regardless of the means of doing business, any prepaid legal services company must register with the department on a form prescribed by the department. The form must be accompanied by a bond or letter of credit acceptable to the department in the amount of fifty thousand dollars, which must remain in force so long as the prepaid legal services company does business in South Carolina. The amount of the bond or letter of credit may only be increased by regulation.
Appointment of sales person as company representative; filing of name, address, and telephone number; renewal; fees; refusal or revocation of appointment.
Before any sales or solicitation activity commences, a person seeking to be involved in direct selling or direct in-person or electronic solicitation of the general public or segments of the general public, on behalf of a prepaid legal services company, must be appointed a representative of that prepaid legal services company by filing with the department, on a form prescribed by the department, the appointee's name, address, and telephone number. The appointment must be renewed each year no later than October first. The department may collect a fee of twenty dollars with each initial or renewal filing and may use the proceeds to offset the costs of administering and enforcing this chapter. Appointment may be refused or revoked upon a finding that a prospective representative or representative has been convicted of a crime of deceit or dishonesty within the previous ten years.
Annual registration; affirmation of continuation of bond; fee.
(A) No later than March first of each year, commencing immediately after registration required by Section 37-16-20, a prepaid legal services company registered with the department must file on a form prescribed by the department an updated registration statement to include a sworn affirmation as to continuation of the bond or letter of credit required by Section 37-16-20.
(B) In connection with its annual registration, the prepaid legal services company must pay a registration fee of eight hundred dollars which the department may utilize for purposes of administering this chapter.
Prior approval of contracts; required provisions as to selection of attorney; approval process.
Contracts offering prepaid legal services must be filed with the department for approval prior to being offered to the general public or a segment of the general public. A contract for prepaid legal services must include a provision allowing the member or beneficiary the right to select the attorney of his choice when legal services are needed. If this option is chosen, the company may adjust the amount the member or beneficiary is charged to participate in the prepaid legal services plan. However, approval must not be withheld unless the contract is false, misleading, unfair, deceptive, or is in violation of this chapter or other applicable law. Contracts filed are deemed approved if the department does not notify the prepaid legal services company of its nonapproval within forty-five days of receipt of the contract.
A consumer aggrieved by a prepaid legal company may file a complaint with the department which shall review the complaint, investigate it as the department considers appropriate, and initiate action as authorized by law.
Sanctions for violation of chapter.
A prepaid legal services company violating this chapter is subject to any combination of the following:
(1) an administrative order to cease and desist violations of this chapter;
(2) administrative fines up to five thousand dollars;
(3) revocation or denial of registration.
Failure to abide by contract; use of false, or deceptive acts or practices; repeated or systematic failure to comply or engaging in deceptive acts; sanctions.
For purposes of this chapter, the failure to abide by the terms of a filed contract or the use of false, misleading, unfair or deceptive acts or practices on the part of a prepaid legal services company is a violation of the Consumer Protection Code and subject to all of the remedies of Chapter 6. Repeated or systematic failure to abide by the terms of a filed contract or repeated or systematic use of false, misleading, unfair or deceptive acts or practices on the part of a prepaid legal services company are grounds for revocation or refusal to register the company or for disallowance for entering new contracts with the public or segments of the public until the violations are remedied to the satisfaction of the department.
Promulgation of rules and regulations.
The department is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation of this chapter.