CONSUMER PROTECTION

Massachusetts is privileged to have some of the strongest consumer protection laws in the country. But as Shannon knows from her 23 years of experience as a workers’ rights lawyer, even the best laws do not enforce themselves. With inflation and corporate price gouging making life more difficult for Massachusetts residents, we need a strong consumer watchdog in the Attorney General’s Office. Shannon is committed to ensuring that the Attorney General’s Office takes a proactive approach to protecting consumers by increasing outreach and establishing more outposts across Massachusetts to determine where the problems are.

Shannon will use our strong laws to protect consumers from abusive corporations and bad actors.

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      1. Protect consumers from scams
      2. Combat forced arbitration
      3. Advance racial justice for consumers
      4. Investigate crisis pregnancy centers
      5. Protect student loan borrowers
      6. Modernize regulatory protections
      7. Investigate corporate price gouging
      8. Protect manufactured housing communities and residents

Protect Consumers from Scams

Shannon has spent decades going after businesses who engage in predatory practices, and she’ll use that experience to protect consumers from scams – both old and new. 

Over the last few years, homeowners have reported businesses targeting them through new types of home equity and foreclosure scams. Tenants in apartment buildings have also reported an increase in utility scams.  Payment apps such as Zelle, Cash App, and Venmo have become prime targets for scammers and thieves, and banks routinely refuse to grant refunds to customers who have had their money stolen through unauthorized transfers in these apps.

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      • Ensure the Office of the Attorney General is accessible throughout the state for residents to lodge consumer complaints and receive timely responses regarding action on those complaints;
      • Partner with worker centers, civil rights groups, consumer protection organizations, and other community organizations to increase outreach efforts, particularly multilingual outreach, to ensure consumers know their rights if they have been the victim of a consumer scan, including internet and payment app scams;
      • Go after businesses that scam homeowners with illegal charges on mortgages;
      • Partner with the Department of Public Utilities and utility companies to crack down on utility scams;
      • Address foreclosure scams that target vulnerable communities and individuals
      • Ramp up criminal and civil investigations of banks and businesses engaging in fraud; 
      • Investigate and crack down on new types of internet scams;
      • Ensure that banks comply with federal law and guidelines to refund customers who have their money stolen through unauthorized transfers on payment apps such as Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App.

Combat Forced Arbitration 

The Attorney General has the power to investigate and go after businesses that try to shield themselves from private complaints and avoid liability for illegal practices through mandatory arbitration clauses. As a labor lawyer, Shannon has spent years litigating against companies who use these clauses to silence workers and consumers and prevent them from having their day in court. 

As Attorney General, Shannon will: 

      • Prioritize investigation of businesses that use forced arbitration as a shield to avoid responsibility to their customers and workers;
      • Investigate businesses that have amassed significant amounts of consumer complaints that cannot be addressed through individual claims due to arbitration clauses;
      • Support legislation to limit the use of forced arbitration clauses in consumer and employment contracts;
      • Regulate arbitration clauses that are unfairly used to prevent consumers from obtaining justice and having their day in court.

Advance Racial Justice for Consumers

The Attorney General has an important role to play in the interconnected fights for economic and racial justice. For generations, public policy choices have created an obscene racial wealth gap, which has worsened due to predatory lending and debt collection practices. Evidence continues to show disturbing disparities in access to credit and insurance rates negatively impacting communities of color. Research has also shown that communities of color pay more for car insurance than white communities despite similar driving records.

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      • Investigate banks who fail to do business in communities of color or are found to be engaged in predatory lending practices that disparately impact communities of color; 
      • Investigate insurance rates by zip code across Massachusetts to determine racial disparities and investigate rating systems that cause these disparities;
      • Investigate discrimination in lending practices that lead borrowers of color to pay more for credit than white borrowers despite similar credit histories.

Investigate Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Abortion remains legal in Massachusetts despite the Supreme Court’s horrific decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Nevertheless, so-called crisis pregnancy centers outnumber legitimate abortion care providers 3-to-1 in Massachusetts. Crisis pregnancy centers are fake clinics that use deceptive advertising practices to deceive pregnant people into believing they offer abortion care. In reality, these fake clinics aim to manipulate and dissuade people from receiving abortion care, often do not have medical professionals on staff to discuss pregnancy care with clients, and are often funded and managed by anti-abortion organizations. 

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      • Investigate crisis pregnancy centers for utilizing deceptive advertising practices;
      • Bring enforcement actions under Chapter 93A against crisis pregnancy centers found to be engaging in unfair and deceptive practices;
      • Expand on Attorney General Maura Healey’s multilingual outreach efforts to warn patients about these fake clinics.

Protect Student Loan Borrowers

Before and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many student loan borrowers have struggled with overwhelming student debt. More than one million student loan borrowers in Massachusetts deal with a predatory student loan servicing industry which routinely works against borrowers’ best interests and steers them into options that add even more interest to their loans. Research has further shown that the student loan debt crisis disproportionately impacts Black borrowers, with one recent study finding that young Black adults take on 85% more education debt than their white counterparts, further exacerbating the already obscene racial wealth gap. 

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      • Advocate for student loan forgiveness;
      • Support making tuition and mandatory curriculum fees free at public colleges and universities;
      • Ensure that the recently-enacted Student Loan Borrower’s Bill of Rights is strongly enforced;
      • Ensure that the Student Loan Ombudsperson Office has the resources it needs to resolve complaints from student borrowers and monitor student loan servicers;
      • Increase multilingual outreach efforts from the Student Loan Ombudsperson Office to student borrowers, particularly in communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the student debt crisis;
      • Decertify private servicers of federal student loans who routinely violate the state Student Loan Borrower’s Bill of Rights and engage in predatory behavior; 
      • Ensure student loan lenders implement public service loan forgiveness and similar loan repayment plans designed to ease the burden on borrowers;
      • Investigate and remedy any loan servicing failures that are unfairly burdening borrowers with unwarranted additional costs.

Modernize Regulatory Protections

Many of our consumer protection regulations have not been updated in decades. It is vital for the Attorney General’s Office to routinely evaluate existing consumer protection regulations to ensure they include up to date protections against new types of fraud, scams, and marketplace abuses. 

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      • Bring our consumer protection regulations into the 21st century and add protections against new and growing types of fraud and marketplace abuses;
      • Investigate out-of-state businesses that scam and abuse Massachusetts consumers; 
      • Update disclosure requirements to ensure consumers have necessary information about cancellation costs and other relevant information;Improve collection and use of data on consumer complaints to inform and enhance enforcement actions.

Investigate Corporate Price Gouging

Record-high gas prices and rising inflation are putting working Massachusetts residents and families in a difficult financial position, so many of whom have already faced years of economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 crisis. For decades, Shannon has successfully taken on corporations who have cheated workers and consumers and has changed industry practices. 

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      • Launch an investigation into whether oil companies are taking advantage of inflation and the Russian invasion of Ukraine to engage in illegal price gouging;
      • Take legal action under Chapter 93A against corporations engaging in price gouging;
      • Coordinate with fellow Attorneys General to initiate regional and/or national legal actions and investigations against the worst corporate bad actors;
      • Partner with unions, worker centers, and consumer protection organizations to uncover instances of price gouging and other illegal behavior.

Protect Manufactured Housing Communities and Residents

The Attorney General’s Office has published regulations to protect manufactured housing communities and residents in accordance with the Manufactured Housing Act. But these laws and regulations are only as good as they are enforced. Over the past several years, residents of manufactured housing communities have seen a wave of big corporations buying up entire communities, raising rents, and forcing residents out. These acts of corporate greed are worsening our affordable housing crisis, throwing residents into economic uncertainty, and present serious consumer protection issues.

As Attorney General, Shannon will:

      • Reinstate staffing and resources to the Manufactured Housing Unit in the Attorney General’s Office;
      • Expand outreach to manufactured housing communities to ensure they know their rights under the law and have access to legal assistance;
      • Investigate any big corporations who may be violating state law and regulations with respect to manufactured housing communities.