Attorney General John Kroger today announced a $4.5 million multi-state settlement that resolves allegations that AscendOne Corporation misled consumers about their debt management services.
“Consumers who are struggling to manage their debt need help, not deceptive marketing of debt management plans,” said Keith Dubanevich, Chief of Staff and Special Counsel to Attorney General Kroger.
Today’s settlement is with AscendOne Corporation, a Maryland-based company and its wholly-owned subsidiaries: Amerix; CareOne Services, Inc.; FreedomPoint Financial Corporation; and 3C, Inc.; and Bernaldo Dancel, the owner of the companies. Oregon will receive $169,400 of the $4.5 million settlement that will be shared by 20 states and the District of Columbia.
The debt management services at issue involved the companies receiving monthly payments from consumers and then distributing the money to creditors at a rate negotiated as part of what is generally known as a debt management plan.
The complaint filed with today’s settlement includes allegations that AscendOne misled consumers by representing or causing the likelihood of confusion that the debt management services it offered would be performed by non-profit credit counseling agencies when, in fact, AscendOne performed the services. It was further alleged that some of the consumers AscendOne enrolled into debt management plans did not benefit from the plans. The complaint also alleged that AscendOne offered, sold and/or performed debt management services without first obtaining a license or registration for such services in Oregon.
The settlement prohibits AscendOne and their owner from offering, selling or performing debt management services unless they comply with all state law requirements, including becoming licensed. The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services regulates debt management service providers and enforces the law in coordination with the Oregon Department of Justice.
“Be cautious and ask a lot of questions before hiring anyone to help you with your debt,” said Cory Streisinger, director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services. “Your fees and your rights should be clearly spelled out before you sign up, and always make sure the company is licensed.”
The settlement further prohibits AscendOne from misrepresenting services as being performed by a non-profit, the purpose of fees charged, and the impact entering into a debt management plan could have on a consumers’ credit history. The settlement also provides that AscendOne can not enroll consumers into debt management plans unless they first determine a consumer can afford the plan.
The settlement also includes Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.
Attorney General John Kroger leads the Oregon Department of Justice. The Department’s mission is to fight crime and fraud, protect the environment, improve child welfare, promote a positive business climate, and defend the rights of all Oregonians.
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