Association of Credit Counseling Professionals
c/o Russell Graves, Interim President
PO Box 866
Marmora, NJ 08223
ACCPROS is a new credit counseling trade association that is trying to come onto the scene and do a better job of protecting consumers than some of the other trade associations are doing. Some, it could be argued, involved in those other trade associations are more self-serving than consumer serving.
The Association of Credit Counseling Professionals has been formed to enrich the credit counseling industry by focusing on best practices, integrity and compliance.
To fulfill this mission, the Association WILL:
- Represent the industry with a member elected governing body.
- Adopt and implement credit counseling standards for its members that focus on best practices, quality service, education, and training.
- Enhance Relationships between credit counseling agencies, state and federal industry regulators and the creditors who support our mission.
- Provide a forum to discuss issues of common interest to better serve consumers seeking financial guidance.
- Enhance the knowledge and skills of credit counseling professionals by providing information about business, legal and technical matters.
- Advocate for reasonable and practical protection for consumers with regulators and lawmakers.
Still early days but the founding members are:
- Cambridge Credit, Chris Viale
- Credit Advisors, Sam Hohman
- Consumer Credit and Budget Counseling, Russell Graves
- Christian Credit Counselors, Greg McTaggart
- Advantage Debt Management of America, Brad Wood
If this group focuses on what is best for the consumer, rather than what is best for the credit counseling industry that puts market share and revenue first, then this trade association might be just what consumers need.
Here are the founding by-laws of the organization:
The purpose of our standards is to ensure that all Regular Members follow the highest ethical standards, act for the benefit of consumer debtors, act within all applicable laws, and avail themselves to standards greater than the law while maintaining good relations with all stakeholders.
Affiliate Member Standards:
- Affiliate Regular Members may not be credit counselors offering debt management plans.
- Affiliate Regular Members must follow all applicable federal laws, state and local laws.
- Affiliate Regular Members may not provide false or misleading information or engage in deceptive, misleading, or false advertising.
Regular Member Standards:
- Regular Members must follow all applicable federal, state and local laws including and not limited to:
a. Carrying the appropriate insurance and bonding required;
b. Charging only those fees allowed by law;
c. Disbursing money and information to creditors in a timely manner;
d. Compensation of employees and counselors;
e. Board composition and make-up.
- Regular Members must be accredited by an Association approved third party accrediting body. Currently this includes, Council on Accreditation, BSI and BVQI.
- Regular Members may not discriminate in the offering of their services
- Regular Members must provide financial education programs or tools open to all consumers.
- Regular Members must have counselors certified by an Association approved certification program within six months of becoming a counselor. During the period that the counselor is not certified, their work shall be reviewed and approved by such a certified counselor.
- Regular Members must provide continuing education for counselors.
- Regular Members must provide comprehensive counseling sessions, providing a written assessment and plan of action to client prior to entering a debt management plan. Such comprehensive counseling shall include a thorough individual budget plan and consideration of client’s objectives.
- Regular Members agrees to give consumers disclosures prior to accepting a debt management plan that include directives for the consumer to close all credit lines and not open any new credit without agency’s approval .
- Regular Members must disclose approximate term of repayment to the client at plan’s inception in writing
- Regular Members will not instruct consumers to not pay or to discontinue communication with creditors.
- Regular Members may not refuse counseling services due to inability to pay.
- Regular Members agree to safeguard all client information and funds by:
a. Supplying debt management clients with monthly accounting and statements upon request;
b. Following internal controls to protect assets of company from fraud, misrepresentation or misallocation;
c. Following internal controls to protect client funds from fraud, misrepresentation, or misallocation;
d. Keeping all client funds in a trust account separate from all agency funds; and
e. Keeping all client data and financial information safeguarded and private.
- Regular Members may not provide false or misleading information or engage in deceptive, misleading, or false advertising.
- Regular Members agree that they shall not treat creditors differently based on creditor benefits and shall always put the interest of the consumer first.
- Regular Members must have systems to ensure timely, accurate, and effective delivery of services and transfer of funds as agreed with states, creditors and clients.
- Regular members may use locator services as defined by the organization.
- Regular members may not outsource the provision of credit counseling/debt management services to any unlicensed entity. All counseling and debt management plan enrollment processes must be performed by licensed credit counselors.
- Regular Members must have an independent annual financial audit.
- Regular Members must supply Association with accurate data, when requested, by stated deadline.
- Regular Members must notify the Association of any government action that results in the inability to continue business in any jurisdiction for reasons related to a lapse in fiduciary duty owed to the consumer or for actions which in any way directly harmed the consumer. Upon such notification, the Association will perform an independent review of the organization to determine continued membership.