03/07/2017

Consumer Protection

An Act protecting the privacy of consumer financial information (“Massachusetts Financial Privacy Act”)
Modeled after California’s strongest-in-the-nation consumer financial privacy law, this bill gives consumers control over their nonpublic financial information. Financial institutions would be required to get consumers’ permission (“opt-in”) before sharing consumer nonpublic financial information with outside companies, and to notify consumers and give them the opportunity to halt information-sharing (“opt-out”) with affiliate companies.

An Act to regulate debt collection activity
The vast majority of American households pay their bills on time.  Nearly all of those who do fall behind on their bills were current until they faced a financial catastrophe such as unemployment, illness, or disability. Financially-distressed families struggling with unmanageable debt deserve to be treated fairly.
This bill would:
1) Provide greater protections for consumers – particularly the elderly and disabled – from the often abusive practices of debt collectors.
2) Require debt collectors to provide consumers with certain information, such as a copy of the contract they have allegedly violated if they are being sued, or notice if their debt has been purchased by another party.
3) Include measures to make it easier for already financially-distressed households to pay off their debts and reach financial stability.

An Act to Protect Victims of Unlicensed Debt Collections
This bill clarifies the Attorney General’s power to seek damages for victims of unlicensed debt collection and gives the Attorney General’s office the authority help people who have been harassed by unlicensed debt collectors to gain compensation for damages.

An Act regarding document preparation fees for motor vehicle sales
Massachusetts car buyers are currently being charged so-called “document preparation” fees that can range as high as $400 for processing paperwork and storage of documents.  In February, the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation conducted a state-wide survey, finding that 70% of the car dealers it surveyed charged these fees, and that the reasons given for the fees appeared to be questionable.  Generally “document preparation” fees are not revealed until the final stages of a negotiation over the price of an automobile.  This bill will allow a car dealer to charge one “Document Preparation Service Fee” associated with all preparation and processing of all documents related to the sale.  This bill will prohibit the dealer from representing that the fee is a governmental fee or is one required by the government and will cap the total Document Preparation Service Fee at $75.