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Boston, MA — Today Undersecretary John Chapman of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation was joined at the Massachusetts State House by representatives from the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Massachusetts to announce each organization’s consumer priorities in 2016.
The briefing featured consumer topics ranging from identity theft and prevention to abusive debt collection and common scams aimed at consumers. During his remarks, Undersecretary Chapman reported that his office and the five regulatory agencies that report into it handled more than 6,000 consumer complaints and recovered nearly $7 million for consumers in 2015. Undersecretary Chapman also announced that the Office of Consumer Affairs is launching a Home Improvement Contractor Program public awareness campaign beginning in May. The campaign will call attention to the importance for consumers to hire a registered contractor and for contractors to get registered as the law requires.
“Home improvement projects can go wrong. For their protection, it’s vitally important that consumers hire a registered home improvement contractor,” said Undersecretary Chapman. “Doing so makes them eligible for our arbitration program, and with a court judgement in their favor, consumers have access to our Guaranty Fund for reimbursement up to $10,000.”
Jonathan Miller, Chief of Attorney General Maura Healey’s Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau, highlighted the office’s consumer protection work in two priority areas, auto transactions and debt collection practices. Attorney General Healey recently announced the formation of the Consumer Advocacy and Response Division, a team of consumer specialists charged with providing direct and specialized assistance to consumers seeking help from the Attorney General’s Office.
“Our office has seen far too many vulnerable Massachusetts consumers being taken advantage of, from being pushed into unfair and unsustainable auto purchases to being aggressively pursued for debts they do not owe,” Miller said. “We have ramped up our efforts to deliver the highest quality assistance across the state, and our dedicated teams are working to ensure that consumer protection laws and regulations are followed and that harmed consumers receive the relief they are entitled to.”
Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT, reported on popular scams and the importance of the BBB Scam Tracker. “When the BBB Scam Tracker launched we knew we would get revealing data about the most prevalent scams affecting consumers,” said Fleming. “As expected, high on the list was tax season scams and fraudsters impersonating employees with the Internal Revenue Service.”
Ms. Fleming reported that for the second year in a row the U.S. Better Business Bureau finds that the most complained about industry is again cell phone service and supplies. Nationally, the Better Business Bureau recovered more than $5 million for consumers during the first quarter of 2016.
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 on Twitter @Mass Consumer.