The purpose of the Public Inquiry and Assistance Center (PIAC) is to mediate and educate constituents with various consumer issues. PIAC is staffed with trained professionals who will review consumer complaints to determine whether it is appropriate for the Attorney General Office's free, voluntary mediation service. If the complaint is not appropriate for mediation, PIAC may be able to refer the constituent to another area of the office, another government agency or another resource for assistance. The Hotline answers 60,000 thousand calls a year from constituents with a range of questions and concerns in the area of consumer protection. The average daily call volume from constituents ranges from 200 to over 250 calls per day.
The Hotline is staffed weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with trained information specialists who can:
- Answer questions or direct consumers to areas of this website for answers;
- Offer referrals to appropriate organizations or government agencies for help; or
- Provide information on the Attorney General's consumer complaint and mediation processes, and community-based consumer and mediation programs.
To reach the Public Inquiry & Assistance Center Hotline, call (617) 727-8400.
Before Filing a Complaint
The Attorney General's Public Inquiry and Assistance Center (PIAC) is staffed with trained professionals who will review your complaint to determine whether it is appropriate for the AGO's free, voluntary mediation service. If the complaint is one with which we may be able to assist you, a Mediator will contact you before they attempt to contact the business, in the AGO's effort to resolve your complaint through mediation. These mediations are conducted over the phone.
Please note that in order to expedite the processing and resolution of your complaint, we may refer it to a Local Consumer Program or a Face to Face Program that serves your area. These programs are funded by and work in cooperation with our office, providing the same free, voluntary mediation services.
The Attorney General's Office acts on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and cannot provide you legal advice. The Office is not able to be your private attorney but represents the public interest. Hotline staff members may suggest that you consult a private attorney, and offer information to assist you in locating an attorney. Staff may also provide information on taking action against a business under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act ( M.G.L. c. 93A), and direct you to information about Small Claims Court.
As the AGO reviews questions and complaints received through the Consumer Hotline, we look for trends or patterns of unfair and deceptive trade practices. We may then be able to take legal action on behalf of all Massachusetts consumers who are victims of unfair or deceptive practices.
Before filing a complaint, please review the other consumer protection pages on this website for information that may help you to decide whether to file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office or use other resources that may be more appropriate for your situation.
Consumer Mediation Services
The Attorney General's Office offers a free, voluntary service that tries to help resolve matters between consumers and merchants outside of court. The Attorney General's Office cannot require a merchant to participate in its voluntary mediation program. However, many businesses do choose to participate and as a result, our office is able to help many individuals resolve consumer problems.
Generally, the mediation service is not available for the following circumstances:
- complaints between businesses;
- in cases where the consumer has already gone to court;
- where a judge has already issued a judgment;
- if a private attorney represents the consumer; or
- if the dispute is between private parties - that is, not between an individual and a business.
In order to determine whether your situation is appropriate for our mediation service, you must first file a consumer complaint with our office. The AGO reviews all complaints that we receive. If your complaint seems appropriate for our mediation services, it will be assigned to a mediator and you will be contacted at a later date.
In addition to the mediation service offered directly by the Attorney General's Office, we work with certain community-based mediation programs, called Local Consumer Programs and Face-to-Face Mediation Programs. In order to expedite the resolution of your complaint we may refer it to a local consumer group that serves your area. The local consumer group will then contact you directly.
If We Cannot Provide Any Immediate Assistance
If your concern is not one in which we can assist you, then we may either refer you to another government agency, which may be able to assist you, or note it in our records. We recognize and appreciate that many consumers take the time to let us know about consumer problems even when they realize there may be no immediate assistance we can offer.