In celebration of the 21st annual National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Maura Healey announced a series of events designed to help empower and educate Massachusetts residents.
“The AG’s Office advocates for consumers every day, arming them with the tools they need to make informed decisions and protect themselves from bad actors,” said AG Healey. “This month, we will travel throughout the state to meet with consumers, teach them about their rights, and connect them with the resources we have available through our office.”
During National Consumer Protection Week, the AG’s Office will offer consumer education events across the state on topics ranging from consumer awareness, scams, senior consumer rights, and auto laws. A complete list of consumer protection events being held throughout March is available here.
Each year, the AG’s Office provides direct assistance to thousands of consumers across Massachusetts. AG Healey’s Consumer Advocacy & Response Division (CARD) directly assists consumers by answering questions, offering referrals to appropriate organizations or government agencies, working with businesses to resolve disputes, and providing information on other available services and community-based consumer programs.
In 2018, CARD worked on more than 34,000 cases, and either directly or through its partnerships with local consumer programs helped secured more than $3.7 million in relief for consumers. Some examples of consumer assistance provided by the AG’s Office in 2018 include:
• Assisting an elderly consumer facing foreclosure. CARD staff successfully got the foreclosure date postponed and provided the consumer with time to apply for a loan modification.
• Helping to clear a consumer of a fraudulent wireless phone bill totaling nearly $5,300. The consumer was contacted by the carrier for more than a year even though he repeatedly told them that he never had an account with them. With CARD’s assistance, the carrier confirmed that the consumer did not owe the debt and corrected his credit.
• Assisting in getting an auto purchase rescinded after a consumer discovered within days of purchasing it that her car was a lemon. CARD contacted the finance company that originated the auto loan, and the company unwound the deal, offered to correct the consumer’s credit report, and ceased doing business with the dealership.
• Coordinating the delivery of 100 gallons of oil, paid for by Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands Inc. and delivered by Guard Oil, to a senior without heat. Guard Oil also serviced the furnace at no charge.
• Working with a hotel chain to compensate consumers after a spa in one of their Boston locations closed abruptly. Consumers who filed complaints with the AG’s Office received credits at the spa slated to replace the one that closed or at the hotel for a total value of $6,158.
In addition to direct assistance, the AG’s Office investigates and litigates violations of the state’s consumer protection laws. In 2018, the AG’s Office secured refunds for 20,000 consumers from Comcast, $4 million in relief from a national mortgage servicing company, $450,000 in restitution and penalties from used auto dealership in Westport, andnearly $50,000 for student borrowers from a student loan “debt relief” company that charged unnecessary and unlawful fees.
Consumers with problems are encouraged to contact CARD’s consumer specialists at 617-727-8400 or file a complaint on the AG’s website. The AG’s Office also has an Elder Hotline at 888-243-5337, which operates as part of CARD and is staffed by trained specialists who are knowledgeable about problems that are more common for older Massachusetts residents. The AG’s Office also encourages student borrowers to contact the Student Loan Assistance Unit at 888-830-6277 for help.