In full transparency, the following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office submitted to SOURCE media.
BOSTON – Online loan servicer Avant will pay $1.6 million in a settlement with Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office over allegations that the company used abusive debt collection practices against consumers.
The assurance of discontinuance, filed in Suffolk County Superior Court with Avant, LLC, resolves allegations that the company violated the AG’s debt collection regulations by failing to provide consumers proper debt validation notices and making illegal, high volume debt collection calls to consumers.
“Our debt collection regulations are in place to protect consumers from abusive and illegal practices by companies like Avant,” said AG Healey. “This settlement will provide more than a million dollars to aid Massachusetts consumers who are harmed by deceptive and unfair practices.”
“Call frequency is among the top reasons for consumer complaints about debt collection,” said April Kuehnhoff, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “Massachusetts is one of a handful of state and local governments that have imposed limits on collection calls, and we applaud the AG’s Office for its vigorous enforcement of these rules.”
Avant is an online loan servicer for short term installment loans. The AG’s Office began an investigation into Avant after receiving complaints from consumers. The investigation found that Avant failed to provide a proper validation notice to consumers who fell behind on payments.
Under the debt collection regulations, consumers are entitled to receive certain documents verifying their debt, including any agreement which bears the consumer’s signature and an accounting of the date and amount of payments, credits, balances, and charges on the debt.
The AG’s Office also found that in the event of a borrower default, Avant would pursue its customers with collection calls and letters, doing so thousands of times in the time period investigated, often calling a debtor’s residence, cell phone, or other personal telephone more than twice in a seven-day period, in violation of the debt collection regulations.
As a result of the AG’s investigation, Avant has now corrected its practices, including sending the required validation notice in its collection letters for consumers falling behind on payments, and updating its call policy to comply with state regulations. The assurance of discontinuance requires them to continue to comply with Massachusetts laws and regulations.
The $1.6 million payment will go to the Local Consumer Aid Fund to help support, protect, and advocate for consumers across the state on a variety of issues.
The AG’s Office is dedicated to going after abusive debt collection practices and encourages anyone with questions or concerns about debt collection practices to learn more about fair debt collection, call the AG’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400, or file a complaint online.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Brendan Jarboe, paralegal Marina Bueno, and Division Chief Max Weinstein, all of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division.