Bath Township officials are asking Summit County to beef up penalties for vendors, solicitors and peddlers who fail to register with the county’s Office of Consumer Affairs, a requirement in place since 2005. The request is reasonable. Although problems don’t appear to be widespread, the situation in Bath has brought to light a registration system that should be more effective.
Proposed legislation would make failure to register a minor misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to $100. Under the current law, failure to register is a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $500. But this year, only one registration was recorded. Townships rarely pursue the time-consuming process of filing a civil complaint with the county. Only one civil fine, of $500, has been levied during the past five years.
Making failure to register a criminal offense would allow township police officers across the county to issue citations and arrest warrants on the spot, putting those going door-to-door on notice that they must file basic background information with the county. That would help to discourage and weed out shady operators.
A series of four police calls in Bath Township in August prompted the request, residents complaining of paying cash or writing a check, then never getting anything for their money. There have been similar complaints from Richfield Township.
A largely ignored registration system is, really, no system at all. The change requested by Bath Township would not affect tax-exempt groups such as political and religious organizations, or those representing schools, the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. It is designed to ensure that those going door to door to make a profit file basic information with the county, putting officials in position to move against unscrupulous operators.