Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation Saves Massachusetts Consumers and Businesses over $6.3 Million
BOSTON – The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and its agencies today announced they secured over $6.3 million for Massachusetts citizens through fines, settlements, and refunds in calendar year 2014.
“Our agencies arm consumers with information so they can make their own best choices, but in some cases we need to take direct action to ensure consumers are treated fairly,” said Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, John Chapman. “I am proud of the efforts that my office has undertaken on behalf of consumers, and that we’re able to effect real change in the marketplace.”
The recoveries are a direct result of the agencies’ responses to over 34,000 consumer inquiries and complaints on issues such as home improvement contractor registration, new or used car lemon laws, insurance and banking issues:
- The Office of Consumer Affairs’ Lemon Law program accepted 96 complaints into the new and used car arbitration program in 2014, which resulted in more than $364,930 in awards and settlements to consumers.
- The Division of Insurance received nearly 13,000 consumer inquiries 2014, addressing over 1,000 consumer complaints. The Consumer Services Unit assisted in recovering nearly a half of a million dollars from insurance companies. Recoveries resulted from issues such as delays in claim processing, inappropriate denials, and improper agent claim handling. The Division’s Market Conduct Unit collected over $1.4 million in monetary penalties through regulatory settlement agreements. Additionally, the Division's Special Investigations Unit assessed $70,150 in enforcement fines and penalties against insurance sellers for unethical conduct and violating state law.
- The Division of Banks responded to 5,587 consumer inquiries in 2014, resulting in over $448,480 recovered from financial institutions and licensees. The funds recovered were from bond claim reimbursements, mortgage companies, loan servicers, banks, credit unions and foreign transmittal agents.
- The Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) oversees 30 boards of registration, which license and regulate more than 370,000 individuals and businesses to practice over 50 different trades and professions. In 2014, DPL boards of registration received and investigated a total of 3,388 complaints, including 722 complaints from consumers, and issued 1,308 fines totaling $632,101. In addition, DPL boards of registration took 486 other enforcement actions against licensees, including 186 license suspensions, 127 license revocations, 41 voluntary surrenders, and 21 stayed suspensions. DPL boards of registration also placed 82 licenses on probation and issued 29 reprimands.
- The Department of Telecommunications and Cable’s consumer division responded to 2,315 inquiries and investigated 3,088 complaints in both regulated and unregulated industries. In 2014 the Department authorized $166,463.71 in refunds and credits to consumers’ bills.
- The Division of Standards received nearly 6,656 consumer complaints, including licensing issues, weights and measures violations, and item pricing complaints involving overcharges. In 2014, the Division issued civil citations for various weights and measures and licensing violations totaling $16,800. The Division returned $10,800 to consumers from licensees’ bonds following consumers’ small claims actions. The Division saved consumers and merchants a total of $1,700,244 on gasoline and $205,609 on propane gas. Division of Standards compliance officers and local weights and measures officials saved consumers and merchants over $20 million by correcting device measurement errors.
- The Office of Consumer Affairs’ Home Improvement Contractor arbitration program, which was created to resolve disputes between homeowners and registered contractors, awarded $1,009,220.50 to 26 homeowners and $12,857.68 to two home improvement contractors in 2014.
The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation oversees the Division of Insurance, Division of Banks, Division of Professional Licensure, Division of Standards, and the Department of Telecommunications and Cable. 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. Follow the Office at its blog, on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.