- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Hosts Virtual Events for National Consumer Protection Week, Highlights Work to Help Consumers During Pandemic
BOSTON — In celebration of annual National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Maura Healey today announced a series of virtual events held in English and Spanish designed to educate Massachusetts consumers. AG Healey also highlighted her office’s ongoing work to protect and help consumers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including securing $15.7 million in relief for residents in 2020.
“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our efforts to protect consumers and support our most vulnerable communities has become vital,” said AG Healey. “This National Consumer Protection Week, we want to remind residents who are struggling during this difficult time about the resources and assistance our office provides every day and that we are here to help.”
During National Consumer Protection Week, the AG’s Consumer Advocacy & Response Division (CARD) and Community Engagement Division will host consumer education events on topics including consumer, immigration, and COVID-19 scams; identity theft; robocalls; landlord/tenant rights and evictions; and auto laws. The AG’s Office is also hosting events in Spanish on COVID-19 scams, identity theft, and consumer rights. A complete list of events being held throughout the week is available here.
Each year, the AG’s Office provides direct assistance to thousands of consumers across Massachusetts. 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 2020, CARD received 21,322 consumer complaints and either directly or through its partnerships with local consumer programs helped secure more than $15.7 million in relief for consumers. The COVID-19 public health emergency had far reaching impacts on Massachusetts consumers. More than 10,480 complaints received by CARD were related to problems caused by the pandemic. The most complained about issues in 2020 were travel cancellations, gym memberships, auto sales, scams including robocalls, event cancellations, and landlord-tenant disputes.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AG’s Office has secured nearly $12 million in total COVID-19 related travel refunds from various companies, resulting in payments to more than 6,000 consumers in Massachusetts. This includes recoveries through CARD and funds the AG’s Consumer Protection Division secured in settlements with travel companies for cancelled trips or tours due to COVID-19, including settlements with travel company EF, BookIt.com and Carousel Student Tours, Inc.
In addition to direct assistance through CARD, the AG’s Consumer Protection Division investigates and litigates violations of the state’s consumer protection laws. Among other actions in 2020, the Division sued Boston Sports Clubs for failing to honor cancellation requests and stop charging for unwanted memberships during gym closures due to COVID-19.
The AG’s Office has taken other actions to protect consumers during the public health emergency, including:
- Expansion of Resources: Expanding the office’s resources for immigrant, Black and brown communities during the pandemic.
- Resource Flyers: Distributing resource flyers statewide for communities disparately impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.
- Vaccine Scams: Cautioning residents about COVID-19 vaccine scams.
- Eviction Assistance: Issuing an advisory to ensure tenants who are facing financial hardship and are at risk of losing their homes are aware of their rights and know how to access state assistance programs.
- Price Gouging: Filing an emergency regulation to prohibit price gouging of essential products and services during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- Debt Collection: Issuing an emergency regulation designed to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive debt collection practices during the COVID-19 crisis and issuing guidance to protect recipients of CARES Act funds from unfair debt collection practices.
- COVID-19 Scams: Warned residents to be cautious of individuals and businesses that may try to take advantage of uncertainty about the coronavirus.
- Housing Scams: Partnering with the Greater Boston Real Estate Board on an advisory warning the public about an apartment leasing scam and offering guidance on how to avoid falling victim to it.
- Auto Rights: Notifying automobile dealerships and consumers of their obligations and rights under the state consumer protection law relating to remote auto sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, AG Healey also launched the office’s Information Services Center (ISC), which is tasked, in part, with answering incoming consumer calls, providing information and directions regarding the complaint process, and making referrals. In 2020, ISC answered approximately 90,000 calls.
Consumers with problems are encouraged to contact the AG’s specialists at 617-727-8400 or file a complaint on the AG’s website.