Tens of thousands of low-income New Yorkers are faced with consumer problems each year –credit card debt, medical debt, identity theft, telemarketing and other financial scams. MFY’s Consumer Rights Project operates in tandem with MFY’s ongoing projects to provide advice, counsel, education and representation to low-income individuals on a range of consumer issues, prioritizing direct services to people living on fixed incomes and people with disabilities.
Equally important is the Consumer Rights Project’s efforts to reform the laws and regulations governing the collection of debt in New York. In 2008, MFY released Justice Disserved, a groundbreaking report demonstrating the connection between improper service (often called “sewer service”) and the escalating number of default judgments in consumer debt cases. MFY testified before the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, advocated for greater enforcement of existing laws with the New York State Attorney General, and worked with City Councilmember Daniel J. Garodnick to craft new city legislation to rein in shoddy process servers.
The Project provided leadership to a statewide initiative to enact the Exempt Income Protection Act, to shield elderly, disabled, veteran and lower income New Yorkers from unlawful practices by debt collectors. It took effect January 1, 2009.
The Consumer Rights Project trains social service providers on consumer issues and conducts workshops for seniors and others to help prevent financial exploitation.
Click here to watch a short video about CLARO, the Civil Legal Advice and Referral Office, which provides court-based legal assistance to New Yorkers who are sued in debt collection cases.