On November 24, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey announced settlements with two student debt relief companies over allegations of charging consumers upfront fees prior to delivering the services offered. According to the AG’s Office, at least 200 students were affected by the companies’ deceptive practices, which included misleading consumers to believe that the companies were affiliated with the government or had special connections with the Department of Education and, therefore, could assist borrowers lower their monthly loan payments. To resolve the AG’s allegations, the companies will pay $56,000 and $40,000, respectively and agree to no longer provide or advertise services in Massachusetts.
Concurrent with the settlement announcements, the AG’s Office revealed an initiative designed to assist borrowers repay their loans. Working with trained attorneys in the Insurance and Financial Services Division, the new Student Loan Assistance Unit will provide borrowers with access to a dedicated hotline and mediation program. The program will review current student loan and payment situations to help borrowers (i) get out of default or delinquency; (ii) apply for various income-driven repayment plans offered by the federal government; and (iii) advocate for complete discharges of the loans in appropriate circumstances.