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New consumer watchdog named - Brooklynite is tapped to head the Consumer Protection Board

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A lifelong Brooklynite has been appointed by Governor Eliot Spitzer to head the state’s Consumer Protection Board. Mindy Bockstein, who had worked for Spitzer when he was New York State attorney general, was named the chairperson and executive director of the agency last month. Her appointment must still be confirmed by the State Senate. Bockstein, in an extended phone interview, said that her plan was “to crank it up a notch” in terms of how the agency – which she described as “a statewide advocate for the consumer” — works for New Yorkers. “There is a vision here that we want to pursue,” noted Bockstein. “It’s to take this agency and really be a think tank on consumer issues and topics, to be proactive and progressive, to rise to the new era, the new mission the governor has enunciated. “We’re gong to look at different issues, new issues in the changing marketplace, and how they affect the consumer as well as the marketplace,” Bockstein went on. “For example, what is biometrics? What does it mean in terms of consumer privacy, information privacy? We might take a look at that.” A major issue that will be addressed by the Consumer Protection Board, said Bockstein, is identity theft, particularly the “dissemination of Social Security numbers,” which she stressed, “is the information that is the key that unlocks a lot of doors.” She also said that the agency might look at youth marketing. “They have their own wallets, and we’re targeting certain products to them,” Bockstein noted. “What does it mean for young people to purchase counterfeit products? What does it mean in terms of health and well-being if certain food products are marketed to them? What does it mean in terms of future buying power? Are they mortgaging their future because we’re marketing credit cards to them? Credit is good, but you have to use it responsibly and wisely so you’re not in debt for half your life.” While the Consumer Protection Board generally does not have enforcement powers, said Bockstein, she pointed out that there is one arena in which they do. That is the state’s Do Not Call program, “So, when consumers are bombarded by telemarketers, the agency in cooperation with the Federal Trade Commission, can enforce those prohibitions,” Bockstein explained. Bockstein has had a long career in public service. She started as an intern for former Assemblymember Dan Feldman in 1985 in his Kings Highway office. “That position grew,” she remembered, “and my responsibilities broadened. I moved to the Albany scene to serve as legislative director and chief of staff. He was really a great mentor.” In 1999, Bockstein moved on to then-Attorney General Spitzer’s office, working as the director of policy research and crime victim advocate, a position she held in the aftermath of 9/11, intervening on behalf of victims and the families of victims who needed assistance. “That was intensely emotional,” Bockstein recalled, “and in some ways, also a gratifying experience. Although as a victim advocate, you have to be objective and advocate in a rational way for victims and survivors, I developed some very significant bonds with them. I helped hundreds of families from New York City and all over the country. To this day, I remain in touch with some of the family advocate groups and leaders.” Bockstein credits her interest in government to her family – who still live in Midwood – and to her education at Rabbi Harry Halpern Day School and Solomon Schechter High School. “They set an example and a foundation for me to pursue public service,” she recalled. “I wanted to do this since I was a small child. Government was always interesting to me, and I had some great social studies teachers that reinforced that. They brought civics to life.”

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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