AG Healey Takes Action Against Unlawful Student ‘Debt Relief’ Company
Company to Refund $160,000 to More Than 400 Consumers in Massachusetts
BOSTON – As part of her ongoing effort to address abuses in the student lending industry, Attorney General Maura Healey has announced action against a so-called “debt relief” company that allegedly charged hundreds of Massachusetts borrowers unlawful upfront fees and misled consumers about its affiliation with the federal government.
Under the terms of the settlement, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Libre Technology, Inc. (Libre) – which did business under the name Student Loan Service.US – will refund $160,000 to more than 400 Massachusetts customers and reform its business practices.
“Student loan debt is crushing students, their families and our communities, and many companies have taken advantage of this crisis by misleading borrowers looking for help,” AG Healey said. “My office will continue to protect students from these abuses and ensure that they utilize the free federal programs available to manage their monthly payments. We are pleased to get money back for those who were charged illegal upfront fees for loan assistance.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Libre will change its name and website to avoid further confusion for consumers and misrepresentation of any affiliation with the federal government. Libre’s services will be discontinued for all Massachusetts consumers, unless the consumer completes an opt-in notice provided under the settlement. Additionally, previously incurred unpaid fees will be waived for all current Massachusetts customers.
Libre has also agreed to disclose in its contracts and marketing materials that it has no affiliation with the federal government, that federal student loan borrowers can apply for income-driven repayment plans or consolidation on their own for free at www.studentloans.gov, and that Libre cannot help borrowers get lower monthly payments than they can get by applying on their own.
Student loan “debt relief” companies like Libre typically charge student loan borrowers hundreds of dollars to help them arrange lower monthly payments or resolve defaulted federal student loans. Often, these companies advertise “student loan debt relief” or “Obama student loan forgiveness” on the internet or radio, and fail to disclose that borrowers can apply for this federal loan assistance on their own and for free. The companies typically use names that are intended to falsely convey an association with the federal government or U.S. Department of Education.
Federal student borrowers do not need to pay private companies to access borrower assistance programs, such as loan consolidation, income-driven repayment plans, and loan forgiveness. The federal government offers these programs to borrowers directly and there is no fee to apply.
The Massachusetts AG’s Office continues to be a national leader on issues of student lending. This case against Libre is the third in a series of enforcement actions brought by Attorney General Healey against student “debt relief” companies. In November, AG Healey announced settlements worth $96,000 with two debt relief companies – Student Loan Processing.US and Direct Student Aid – for their allegedly unfair and deceptive practices.
Massachusetts students who encounter difficulties enrolling in federal income-driven repayment programs or resolving defaulted loans may contact the Attorney General’s Student Loan Assistance Unit at 1-888-830-6277 or www.mass.gov/ago/studentloans for free help. Students who are interested in learning more about income-driven repayment programs, have questions about their student loan options, or would like to know if they are eligible for relief under this settlement can also call the AG’s Student Loan Assistance Unit for help.
The settlement with Libre Technology, Inc. was handled by Assistant Attorney General Brook Kellerman and Investigations Supervisor Arwen Thoman, with assistance from Division Chief Glenn Kaplan of the Attorney General’s Insurance & Financial Services Division.