Hochul signs legislative package for consumer protection

Posted 8 November 2021 at 8:17 pm

One of the bills targets abusive debt collection practices

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

Governor Hochul today signed a legislative package relating to consumer protection.

“When bad actors try and take advantage of consumers, New York will fight back,” Governor Hochul said. “I’m proud to be signing legislation that will protect New Yorkers from unscrupulous practices by debt collectors and utility companies. These three new laws will make New York a better, fairer place for all consumers.”

The Consumer Credit Fairness Act takes action to curb abusive debt collection lawsuits by requiring defendants to be notified about legal action from a creditor, requiring court filings to include more information about the debt targeted in a lawsuit, lowering the statute of limitations for consumer credit transactions, and establishing specific requirements for applications for default judgments in consumer credit action.

By increasing the information that consumers receive in the process of legal action, there is less gaps in State civil procedure laws, and it prevents extreme actions such as wage garnishment and bank account freezing, giving consumers more time to act on burdensome debt collection practices.

Legislation S.4823/A.3359 prohibits utility companies from engaging in harassment, oppression, or abuse when working with a residential customer. By ensuring utility customers’ rights, it will alleviate the stressors associated with missing a utility payment. This comes in response to various unscrupulous practices that utility corporations engage in, such as creating a “payment agreement” with customers that encourage customers to take large down payments in exchange for utilities such as energy not being shut down.

Legislation S.1199/A.5838 require the at least one of the commissioners of the Public Service Commission to have experience in utility consumer advocacy. This is to reorient the Public Service Commission towards its original goals of ensuring customers are given adequate service at reasonable rates. Having experience in advocating for the interests of utility consumers will give the Commissioner a perspective that focuses on befitting utility customers, preventing the Commission’s interests from skewing toward commercial interests or public utility interests.