Premier Consulting Group will pay a fine of $69,075 for charging consumers illegal upfront fees for debt-settlement services they never received, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reports.
The fine results from a bureau investigation conducted last year that revealed that two debt-settlement service providers, Premier Consulting Group and Mission Settlement Agency, as well as several related entities, including the Law Office of Michael Lupolover, routinely charged consumers upfront fees before settling consumers' debts.
Under the Federal Trade Commission's Telemarketing Sales Rule, that's a naughty no-no.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has already brought criminal charges against Mission Settlement, its owner and related entities. In November, the owner of Mission Settlement was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges of mail and wire fraud. Earlier this year, the CFPB settled its civil case against Mission Settlement and its owner.
‘These companies took advantage of consumers in financial distress, charging tens of thousands of dollars for services they failed to deliver,’ says Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, in a release. ‘Charging upfront fees for debt-settlement services is against the law, and today's action is another reminder that these illegal practices will not be tolerated.’
The CFPB says in its release that consumers who were harmed by these violations may be eligible for relief from the bureau's Civil Penalty Fund in the future.