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Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute, 93A, Attorney Fees and Interest

In a ruling by the Federal District Court in Massachusetts, Judge Young held that when a consumer wins a Consumer Protection claim (93A case) and the Court orders that the defendant pay the consumer his or her attorney fees, interest on the attorney fees begins to accrue when the original judgment enters. In Massachusetts Courts court, the interest rate is one percent per month from the time suit is filed , however the federal court rate is 5.22% from the judgment date.
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Financial Literacy and Subprime Mortgages in Massachusetts

In a recent study economists found a “large and statistically significant negative correlation” between financial literacy and subprime mortgage defaults. In our opinion, the ramifications run deeper than putting a new agency under the Federal Reserve Bank, the so called Financial Reform Act. Our clients, more and more, are asked to manage their retirement accounts (401k, 403b, IRA, etc.), and to make non-retirement savings decisions. Indeed, the economists stated: “Of even greater concern however, is that differences in financial literacy are correlated with consumption and savings decisions.”
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How Property Tax Overrides Affect Massachusetts Consumers

In our bankruptcy blog, we try to inform our clients of an array of consumer issues that will have an impact on their finances and investments. Many of our Boston area clients, in and around Boston, have homes; many of those homes are their largest investment. With the economy precarious, and the job situation bleak, we hear some of our clients talking about voting against Proposition 2 ½ overrides. A new study by Northeastern Professor Barry Bluestone, Dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, clearly indicates that, in the long run, voting in favor of overrides, notwithstanding the increased taxes, has a direct correlation to enhancing home, therefore investment, value.
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Failure to Make Mortgage Payments Result in Slow Prosecution in Massachusetts

The Federal Trade Commission is coming down hard on the folks at because, well, because, it’s not free! The three main credit bureaus will forward your credit score each month for a fee of $15, however, personal bankruptcy attorneys don’t generally recommend these costs. After all, for the $180 you would pay them each year, you could work on reducing debt! The various credit bureaus will let you know of possible fraud activity, however, absent a notion of expected fraud, we question the cost. With respect to the score, the only time our clients really need their actual score is when they are applying for a loan and they need to be above a certain score to get approved. Perhaps then the associated costs are valid.
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Taxes, Lies and Videotape… Ramblings of a Boston Personal Bankruptcy Lawyer

None of our clients enjoy paying taxes. Our personal injury clients do not pay taxes on their net recoveries, but they pay taxes! Our bankruptcy clients can discharge some older tax bills, but no recent taxes, and they know they will be paying their taxes in the future. However, like death, taxes come for us eventually. That said, there seems to be a lot of misconception out there about why pay and who pays what. Read more

Massachusetts Consumers Will Reap Benefits of New Energy Policy

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities announced plans to increase energy efficiency with a goal of saving Boston and Massachusetts electric and natural gas consumers over $6 billion per year over the next three years. We know our clients are looking to save money on natural gas and electric bills, and they may see real savings under the new energy policy: the Green Communities Act.

Essentially, the new law includes funding for the nations first carbon allowance auction, along with improved energy assessments of homes and incentives for the purchase of high efficiency lighting and appliances, heating and air conditioning and insulation. The plans require better multicultural and community based outreach. The requirements include a target of 2.4% savings in electricity costs, based on a decline in use of electricity, due to conservation. The Department of Public Utilities estimates that the law would add, or save, 4,000 jobs.

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Massachusetts Foreclosures Up in 2009

The results are in for 2009: lenders filed a record 27,828 foreclosures in 2009, which is up from 2008. The jump was 28.1% according to the Warren Group, owner of Banker and Tradesman business newspaper. However, the number of “completed” foreclosures, is down 25.4% to 9,269. More than 2000 foreclosures were filed most months of 2009. In our bankruptcy practice, we have noticed a similar decrease in clients facing foreclosure.

Massachusetts Consumers Need to Know Fair Debt Collection Laws

Our personal bankruptcy clients often point out that they are being “harassed” by the collection agencies and lawyers, in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. One Boston area law firm uses the brother of the attorney as their attack dog – he implies he is the lawyer and his words are vicious.
Thus, it is important for consumers to know their rights. The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects consumers from abuse by collection agencies and collection lawyers. Note, the federal law does not apply to the actual creditor, only to “third parties” such as the collection agencies and collection attorneys. The Massachusetts law, Chapter 93A, Section 49, Debt Collection in an Unfair, Deceptive or Unreasonable Manner gives Massachusetts consumers additional protections.
What to do? First, get the information. You are entitled to the written details of the creditor, the amount due, all penalties, interest, and an explanation of your rights. Ask for the name, company and address of the person you are talking to.
Second, if there is a mistake in the amount, or the penalties, send a detailed letter explaining your position. Remember, often collection agencies, and their associated law firms, have “purchased” your debt and have no idea of the real terms of the original debt.
Third, do not accept harassment. Collection agencies are prohibited from calling between 9 pm and 8 am. They are prohibited from using abusive or threatening language. You may also write a letter to the agency stating that you do not want to be called or contacted in writing, and they must abide by this written request; although they are allowed one more letter stating their plan. If they do not adhere to the law, contact the Federal Trade Commission and contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
Fourth, if the debt is in fact yours, and the amount is correct, work it out. They are often willing to take a percentage on the dollar, and to accept a monthly payment plan. If you propose a plan you can truly do, and it is acceptable, the case is closed. They would love to close the file and accept the agreed upon payments. If you fail to make an agreed upon payment, contact them and work it out; otherwise, their automatic collection system will restart.
Finally, there is always litigation. The law provides for damages and attorney fees. This can be expensive and time consuming, however, it is sometimes necessary with the worst offenders.