- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for National Consumer Protection Week: AG's Office Issues Consumer Advocacy Report Highlighting Tips and Trends From 2021
BOSTON — In celebration of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Maura Healey today released a Consumer Advocacy Report, highlighting her office’s successful efforts to assist and protect consumers, significant challenges residents faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and complaint trends from 2021.
This week, the AG’s Office is also hosting a series of virtual consumer education events on topics impacting consumers, including identity theft, robocalls, housing assistance, landlord-tenant rights, the unauthorized practice of immigration law, and home improvement contracting scams. A complete list of the events is available here.
“National Consumer Protection Week is a great opportunity to empower our residents and remind them of their rights as consumers and that we are here to help when they need us,” said AG Healey. “This report highlights the important work my office does every day to assist consumers across Massachusetts.”
Complaint Trends in 2021
According to today’s report, in 2021, the office’s Consumer Advocacy & Response Division (CARD) received more than 24,000 consumer complaints and secured more than $7.2 million in savings and refunds for consumers. The volume of complaints dropped from 2020, but was well above pre-pandemic levels. While the majority of complaints in 2021 concerned auto, housing, home improvement, and solar energy issues, the AG’s Office continued to receive complaints related to the COVID-19 public health crisis, including cancelled vacations, air travel, and events.
Auto Issues Remain Top Complaint
For years, auto issues have been the top complaint at the AG’s Office, and 2021 was no exception with more than 1,800 consumer complaints about auto related matters. Complaints about used car sales were the most frequent, followed by issues with auto repair and auto financing.
The report highlights some of the key work by the AG’s Office in advocating for drivers against deceptive practices within the automobile industry. This includes legislation that was filed in partnership with Sen. Paul Feeney and Rep. Carlos González to increase consumer protections related to the purchase of a used or leased cars. The companion bills, An Act modernizing protections for consumers in automobile transactions, H.377 and S.2323, seek to close a loophole within the Massachusetts Lemon Law and update other related out-of-date provisions. The proposed bills will extend the mileage limits from the Used Vehicle Warranty Law to reflect more modern standards of performance for cars, strengthen the safety-net for consumers in the event an auto dealership goes out of business by increasing surety bond amounts, and extend existing notice requirements for auto repossessions to protect consumers with leased vehicles.
After an uptick in complaints from consumers regarding unfair or deceptive pricing practices by auto dealers, the AG’s Office also released an advisory in 2021 to remind consumers and auto dealers of their respective rights and obligations when it comes to automobile advertising and pricing.
In addition, the office secured notable settlements on behalf of drivers, including $27 million from subprime auto lender Credit Acceptance Corporation, and $800,000 in debt relief and refunds from United Auto Credit Corporation for facilitating the sale of defective and unsafe vehicles by used car dealerships.
Housing Assistance a Priority
In 2021, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, the AG’s Office was an important resource for tenants, landlords, and homeowners. In particular, the office worked to ensure that tenants were protected from illegal evictions and that both landlords and tenants knew their rights with an advisory that was issued in January. In 2021, the AG’s Office also held 38 trainings and webinars on landlord-tenant rights and obligations.
During the pandemic, many homeowners entered into a forbearance period with their loan servicer. Forbearance periods are now beginning to expire. To assist in this transition, the report features tips for homeowners nearing the end of their pandemic-related mortgage forbearance period and looking to catch up on missed payments.
The AG’s Office also continues to advocate for homeowners in the courts as well. In January 2021, the office reached a settlement with a national mortgage servicing company, Kyanite Services, Inc., that provided $975,000 in restitution for more than 180 Massachusetts borrowers and resolved claims that the company impeded homeowners from attempting to obtain loan modifications to avoid foreclosure.
The AG’s Office offers guidance and tips for consumers on a variety of different subjects. While the office seeks to assist every resident that reaches out, it is encouraged that they remain vigilant and take initiative to protect themselves from deceptive practices.
The report features consumer tips for a number of matters, including:
- “Buy Now, Pay Later” retail loans
- COVID-19 mortgage forbearance
- Auto dealership rights
- Landlord/tenant protections
The AG’s Office also supports 18 Local Consumer Programs (LCPs) across Massachusetts. These LCPs are non-profit or municipal organizations that accept consumer complaints directly referred from the office and provide free consumer assistance. AG Healey’s Healthcare Division, Insurance and Financial Services Division, Student Loan Assistance Unit and Civil Rights Division also provide direct assistance with many types of complaints.
Consumers seeking assistance are encouraged to file a complaint online or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 617-727-8400.