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Illinois Law to End Unfair Debt Settlement Practices

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-08-04 - Many seniors accumulate high credit debt and often fall prey to unscrupulous debt settlement firms. For further information pertaining to this article contact: AARP Illinois.

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Law to Put an End to Unfair Debt Settlement Practices - Measure Provides Illinois Consumers with the Strongest Protections in the Nation.

As countless Illinoisans struggle to come out from under piling credit card debt, a new law will be on their side protecting them against deceptive business practices and abusive fees from debt settlement agencies. House Bill 4781, backed by AARP and dozens of advocacy organizations was signed into law today by Governor Quinn, providing Illinoisans with some of the strongest consumer protections in the nation.

The legislation was sponsored by State Representative Marlow Colvin and State Senator Jacqueline Collins, and passed both chambers of the General Assembly with strong bipartisan support.

"Many older individuals accumulate high credit debt, and often fall prey to unscrupulous debt settlement firms," said AARP Illinois Senior State Director, Bob Gallo. "This new law will allow individuals to have the protections they need as they try to get out of debt and get back on their feet."

AARP surveys found that more than one in five debtors were over the age of 55; 27 percent of AARP members reported having difficulty paying off credit card debt; and nearly half - 44 percent - consider credit card debt to be a major concern.

Debt settlement companies often advertise that they can settle all of a consumer's credit card debt in 24 to 36 months for less than 60 percent of the amount owed. But what they are not telling consumers is that in the vast majority of cases most of the debts are not settled, even after all fees have been paid. And, many customers end up facing liens, lawsuits, bankruptcy, and/or ruined credit.

Industry data reveals that 1,000 debt settlement firms handle $18 billion in debt across the nation, with the average customer owing about $30,000 in credit card debt.

HB 4781 will protect Illinois consumers by, among other things:

  • Prohibiting all up-front and monthly fees except for a one-time $50 application fee;
  • Capping fees at 15% of the savings achieved from settling a debt;
  • Prohibiting debt settlement companies from advising consumers to stop payments to creditors;
  • Allowing cancellation of a contract at any time, with prompt refund of fees;
  • Requiring debt settlement companies to be licensed and bonded by the state;
  • Prohibiting deceptive promises, through advertising or marketing, of specific debt reduction results.

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