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California passes new law to protect child actors from scams

October 21, 2009 |  4:49 pm

Hollywood's smallest and most vulnerable players are getting some parental help from Sacramento.

For years, parents have complained to the L.A. city attorney's office and the Better Business Bureau about the unscrupulous practices of talent listing services and acting schools that charge exorbitant upfront fees -- sometimes as high as $9,000 -- on the promise of finding acting jobs for their children on popular TV shows.

With the help of the city attorney's office and the Screen Actors Guild, the state Legislature last week enacted a bill that clamps down on such rogue companies by providing a new set of consumer protections for aspiring child actors. Among other things, the legislation will make it illegal for third parties to charge advance fees for talent representation services to potential actors and models. It also would require them to post bonds with the state and use unambiguous contracts.

SAG officials touted the new regulations Wednesday at a press conference attended by a coalition of concerned parents, their children and local politicians and state politicians, including Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Burbank), who wrote the bill.

SAG President Ken Howard, citing the guild's longstanding efforts to push for laws that protect the welfare of child actors, said the legislation will protect "innocent, well-intentioned people from paying for goods that no person or entity can promise or deliver."

Anne Henry, founder of the advocacy group BizParentz Foundation, said the bill was sorely needed. "We've seen literally thousands of complaints, so we're hopeful this bill will make an impact,'' she said.

-- Richard Verrier

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