As part of National Consumer Protection Week, which takes place March 6-12, 2016, the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is proud to announce its efforts on behalf of the Commonwealth’s consumers over the last year.
In 2015, the Office of Consumer Affairs and its five regulatory agencies received more than 44,000 inquiries and more than 6,100 formal complaints from consumers. Through complaint resolutions, arbitration awards, examination reimbursements, and litigation settlements, nearly $7 million was returned to Massachusetts consumers.
John Chapman, Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs, said, “During this National Consumer Protection Week, we want consumers to understand their rights under the law, take time to educate themselves before making big decisions, and know that both our Office and our regulatory agencies are in their corner to ensure their rights and fair marketplaces.”
The Office of Consumer Affairs Home Improvement Contractor program made significant strides in 2015, registering 3,600 new contractors and renewing nearly 9,000 contractor registrations. The Home Improvement Arbitration Program awarded more than $330,000 to consumers and the Home Improvement Contractor Guaranty Fund paid-out more than $215,000 to aggrieved consumers.
“Our Office is engaged in a full-on effort to get all home improvement contractors registered in the Commonwealth,” said Chapman. “Ultimately, it’s a tremendous consumer protection, because consumers who hire unregistered contractors cannot qualify for the arbitration program or access the Guaranty Fund if they have problems with their contractors.”
Other Notable Consumer Recoveries:
• Banking – $1.2M
• Insurance – $724,000
• Lemon Law – $253,000
• Telecommunications & Cable – $1.08M (includes $900,000 consumer refund for Charter Communications subscribers)
• Weights & Measures – $765,000
In October, the Division of Banks and the Office of the Attorney General reached a settlement with Western Sky Financial, LLC and CashCall over predatory lending practices. The settlement provides for $2.4 million in direct consumer refunds and a $17 million write-down in the interest on loans made to Massachusetts consumers.
As part of the Baker-Polito Administraion, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly.