Attorney General: Finance & Public Utilities


Connecticut Attorney General's Office
Finance Department

Frequently Asked Questions Pertaining to Debt Collection

Can a debt collector call me up at anytime?
 
A "debt collector" or consumer collection agency may not call you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., unless you agree you can be contacted at these times. If you inform the debt collector that you have an attorney, the collector must contact your attorney rather than you.

Can a debt collector call me at work.
 
Yes, unless the debt collector knows or has reason to believe that your employer does not approve of such contacts.

How can I stop a debt collector from continuing to contact me?

A debt collector may continue to contact you unless you have requested the collector to stop in writing. Once the collector receives your written letter, it can only contact you to notify you that there will be no further contact or that the creditor intends to take other action. If you owe a debt to a creditor, sending a letter to the debt collector will not erase your debt. The creditor may pursue action against you in court to collect upon the debt.

A debt collector threatened to ruin my reputation and used obscene language when speaking to me is that legal?

A debt collector may not harass or abuse you or any third parties it contacts in an effort to collect a debt. Debt collectors are prohibited from using obscene or foul language, repeatedly telephoning you to harass you, making threats to your person, reputation or property.

Debt collectors are also prohibited from using any false, deceptive or misleading statements in attempting to collect a debt. For example, they may not tell you that you will be arrested unless you pay your debt, or that they intend to take legal action such as filing a lawsuit to collect the debt when they do not intend to do so.

Can a debt collector keep contacting me even though I explained that I do not owe any money on this debt?

No, a debt collector must stop contacting you if within 30 days after you receive written notice of a debt, you send them a letter stating that you do not owe this money. The collector can continue to contact you if the collector sends you proof of the debt such as a copy of the bill for the amount owed, and you have not sent proof of payment.

How can I obtain more information about a debt collection or a consumer collection agency?

Consumer collection agencies must be licensed by the Department of Banking. If you would like to find out if a collection agency is licensed you make check the website.

Frequently Asked Questions Pertaining to Automobile Insurance

How does an insurer determine the value of a motor vehicle that has been “totaled”?

The controlling Connecticut statute provides: “Whenever any damaged motor vehicle covered under an automobile insurance policy has been declared to be a constructive total loss by the insurer, the insurer shall, in calculating the value of such vehicle for purposes of determining the settlement amount to be paid to the claimant, use at least the average of the retail values given such vehicle by (1) the National Automobile Dealers Association used car guide and (2) one other automobile industry source which has been approved for such use by the Insurance Commissioner. For purposes of this section, “constructive total loss” means the cost to repair or salvage damaged property, or the cost to both repair and salvage such property, equals or exceeds the total value of the property at the time of the loss.”

Can an appraiser steer an insured to particular body shop or repairer?

No. Such practices are prohibited under regulations established by the Insurance Department.

Helpful Information

ADVANCE FEE LOANS

As the economy improves, there is usually an increase in activity of advance fee loan and credit repair scams. Pursuant to state law, it is illegal for loan brokers to charge consumers advance fees to obtain unsecured loans. The Department of Banking has jurisdiction over the regulation of advance fee loan brokers and routinely mails advisory letters to such entities to alert them that such conduct is illegal in our state, and if the practice continues, the company exposes itself to enforcement action pursuant to our laws.  If you are a victim of an advance fee loan scam, you may wish to contact the Department of Banking, Consumer Credit Division at (860) 240-8200.

BANKING

State-chartered banks are regulated by the State through the Department of Banking. To determine if a bank is a Connecticut state-chartered bank, an out-of-state chartered bank or a nationally chartered institution, please see the charter page of the Department of Banking's website to learn which state or federal agency regulates a particular bank. State-chartered credit unions are also regulated by the Department of Banking, 260 Constitution Plaza, Hartford, CT. The Department’s Credit Union Division may be reached at(860) 240-8220. The Attorney General often receives public inquiries pertaining to national banks, federal savings banks and federally chartered credit unions. Customers of national banks doing business in Connecticut may wish to visit the Comptroller of the Currency, or write to: Customer Assistance Group, Suite 3710, 1301 McKinney Street, Houston, TX 7701; Tel:(800) 613-6743;fax:(713) 336-4301. Customers of federally chartered savings banks and savings and loan associations may wish to visit the Office of Thrift Supervision, or write to: OTS Regional Consumer Affairs Office, 10 Exchange Place Centre, 18th Floor, Jersey City NJ 07302; Tel: (800) 253-2181 or (212) 413-1000. Consumers may make complaints on line or obtain more information, including an address and phone number, for these federal agencies listed on the respective websites.

If a credit union is chartered by the federal government, it is regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The NCUA Regional Office has jurisdiction over national credit unions located in Connecticut. This office is located at 9 Washington Square, Washington, NY 12205. The phone number is (518) 862-7400.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

Some consumers, enticed by false promises of owning an independent business and making easy income, become victims of business opportunities fraud.  Typical business opportunity schemes may involve vending machines, amusement games, display racks or computer software.  If you think you may have been deceived by a business opportunity scam, please contact the Department of Banking’s Securities and Business Investments Division, 260 Constitution Plaza, Hartford, CT 06103-1800.  Tel.  (860) 240-8230.

CREDIT REPAIR

Some companies or even individual persons guarantee results in securing a consumer credit or improving a credit history for a specified fee or fees. Such repairs are, in fact, legally impossible. In Connecticut, we have a law that protects consumers against these so called credit repair companies or “credit clinics”.  No credit repair clinic may charge a consumer a fee prior to fully performing the services it agreed to perform, namely correcting your credit.  If negative credit history involves inaccurate information, a consumer has a right to see the credit report and challenge any inaccurate or outdated information.  A consumer does not need the assistance of credit repair services.  Regardless of how a negative credit history developed, even if due to unemployment or illness, credit bureaus may retain this information for seven years and may retain bankruptcy information for 10 years, as long as it is accurate.  Any outdated information may be removed from a credit history report.  Bottom line, the only remedy for poor credit history, if correct, is time and financial caution.  Consumers should not pay a cent to anyone who tells them otherwise.

CREDIT REPORTS

Consumers are advised to obtain a copy of their credit report at least once a year to check for discrepancies.  It is also a wise idea to periodically check a credit report to guard against identity theft.  There are three credit reporting agencies.  Consumers may obtain a copy of their credit reports by contacting any one of the following credit reporting agencies:  Equifax, P.O. Box 105873, Atlanta, GA  30348-5873,  Tel. (800) 997-2493; Experian Information Solutions (formerly TRW), P.O. Box 949, Allen, TX  75013-0949, Tel. (888) 397-3742; TransUnion, P.O. Box 390, Springfield, PA  19064-0390, Tel. (800) 916-8800.

DEBT COLLECTION

Pursuant to state and federal law, no creditor may use abusive, harassing, fraudulent or deceptive acts or practices in an attempt to collect a debt.  For example, a debt collector may not contact a person at unreasonable places or times of day (before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.), harass a person with repeated phone calls, use profane language, or threaten to harm a person or his or her reputation.   If you are being harassed by a creditor, you may wish to contact the Department of Banking Consumer Credit Division at (860) 240-8200 or the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

DEBT CONSOLIDATION

If a debt consolidation company or debt adjuster that charges a fee receives money from a consumer for the express purpose of paying this money to the consumer’s creditors on the consumer’s behalf, the debt adjuster must be licensed by the Connecticut Department of Banking, unless the debt adjustment activities are performed by bona fide nonprofit organizations. To verify whether or not a debt adjuster is licensed in the State of Connecticut, you may visit the Department of Banking Consumer Credit Division or at(860) 240-8200.

IDENTITY THEFT

Identity thieves obtain important personal information, such as social security numbers and bank or credit card account numbers, to commit fraud or theft.  For more information on how to protect yourself from identity theft, please click visit the Attorney General's Office Identity Theft page.

INSURANCE

The legislature has established a Consumer Affairs Division in the State Insurance Department that handles complaints involving insurance coverage.  The Division’s phone number is (860) 297-3889.  To go to their website, click here Connecticut Insurance Department Consumer Affairs Division.

   Health Insurance

The State Insurance Department must approve HMO rate increases, individual plan increases and Medicare Supplement increases.   Generally, health insurance rate increases are approved when the premiums are insufficient to satisfy claims obligations.  Factors that affect rate increases include age, gender, geographic area, and group size.  Rates for some individual plans increase simply because they become a “closed block of business.”  This means no new (healthy) members can be added to the plan and usually only those with health conditions remain.  The remaining members age, and generally access more benefits, resulting in the need for an increased premium to cover the insurer’s claims obligations.

   Cancellation of Certain Insurance Policies:

   Homeowners’ Insurance

Connecticut law requires the insurer to provide the insured with 30 days’ advance written notice of cancellation of a homeowner’s insurance policy.  The cancellation notice must contain or be accompanied by a writing that sets forth the reason for cancellation, and the insurer must either tender the excess of the paid premium above the pro rata premium for the expired time, or, if not tendered, refund the excess on demand.

   Auto Insurance

Automobile insurance policies may be cancelled by an insurer under certain conditions.  A policy may be terminated for non payment of premium or if the driver’s license or motor vehicle registration of either the named insured or any operator either resident in the same household or who customarily operates an automobile insured under the policy has been revoked during the policy period.

If an insured voluntarily cancels an automobile policy, Connecticut law permits an insurer to charge a “short rate” for the expired time.

   Motor Vehicles Covered by Auto Insurance

An insurer must follow certain statutory guidelines to determine the value of a motor vehicle that has been “totaled”. The controlling Connecticut statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 38a-353,  provides:  “Whenever any damaged motor vehicle covered under an automobile insurance policy has been declared to be a constructive total loss by the insurer, the insurer shall, in calculating the value of such vehicle for purposes of determining the settlement amount to be paid to the claimant, use at least the average of the retail values given such vehicle by (1) the National Automobile Dealers Association used car guide and (2) one other automobile industry source which has been approved for such use by the Insurance Commissioner.  For purposes of this section, ‘constructive total loss’ means the cost to repair or salvage damaged property or the cost to both repair and salvage such property, equals or exceeds the total value of the property at the time of the loss.”

An insurance appraiser is prohibited by state law from requiring  an insured to use a particular body shop or repairer.

MORTGAGES

Although a consumer may have purchased a home and obtained a mortgage from a certain lender, loans and the rights to service mortgages are often bought and sold to a different entity.  A mortgage servicer is responsible for collecting monthly loan payments, crediting an account and handling an escrow account if applicable. The Department of Banking regulates certain activities of mortgage servicers in this state. If you are having problems with a mortgage servicer posting or crediting your payments, or problems with your escrow account, please visit the Department of Banking Consumer Credit Division or contact them at (860) 240-8200 or visit the Federal Trade Commission or contact them at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

PREDATORY LENDING

One of the most oppressive forms of consumer abuse today is “predatory lending”.  Predatory lending is a term often used to describe certain unfair and deceptive acts and practices by mortgage lenders in which consumers are enticed into purchasing high cost, high fee home loans and second mortgage loans which they cannot repay or refinance.  The Attorney General is continuing efforts to combat predatory lending and actively pursues any predatory lending complaint that comes to his office.

PUBLIC UTILITIES

The Attorney General’s Finance and Public Utilities Department  also works to protect consumer interests through its representation of the Department of  Public Utilities Control (DPUC) and the Connecticut Siting Council.  DPUC regulates public service companies, including electric, gas, telephone and water companies.  DPUC maintains a Consumer Assistance and Information Division, which responds to consumer complaints and questions about public utilities. Visit the Department of Public Utility Control or contact them at (800) 382-4586.

The Connecticut Siting Council is responsible for issuing certificates of environmental compatibility and public need for the location of facilities such as electric transmission lines, gas pipelines, electric power plants and cell phone towers.  To learn more about the activities of the Siting Council and how to submit  public comments regarding site proposals, you may visit the agency’s website or write to: Connecticut Siting Council, Ten Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051.  The agency’s telephone number is (860) 827-2935.

SECURITIES

Securities are financial investments that include, among other things, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, investment contracts, certificates of interest in profit sharing agreements, and interests of limited partners in a limited partnership.  State law prohibits any person from engaging in deceptive, fraudulent or unethical acts or practices in the offering for sale, or sale of, securities.  If you think you may have been victimized by an unlawful securities practice, the following resources may be helpful to you:

Department of Banking,
Securities and Business Investments Division

260 Constitution Plaza
Hartford, CT 06103-1800
Tel.  (860) 240-8230

Securities and Exchange Commission
450 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20549

National Association of Securities Dealers
George Friedman, Director of Arbitration
NASD Office of Dispute Resolution
125 Broad Street, 36th Floor
New York, New York 10004
Tel.  (212) 858-4400

SECURITY DEPOSITS

Under Connecticut law a security deposit is any advance rental payment other than an advance for the first month's rent, or a deposit for a key or any special equipment.  Landlords are obligated to keep a tenant's security deposit in an escrow account in a bank.  Landlords can not charge more than two month's rent as a security deposit.  If a tenant is 62 years of age or older, the landlord may not charge more than one month's rent as a security deposit.

Landlords must return to a  tenant the full amount of a security deposits plus interest within 30 days of when the tenant moves from the premises unless the landlord has suffered damages as a result of the tenant's failure to comply with the tenant's obligations.  If a landlord does not return the full amount of a security deposit plus interest to a tenant than the landlord must return to the tenant the balance of the security deposit paid by the tenant plus interest along with a written statement itemizing the nature and extent of any damages.

If, however, a tenant does not provide his/her landlord with written notice of a forwarding address to send the tenant's security deposit to, then the landlord is not obligated to return the security deposit or provide a written notice of damages until 15 days after the landlord receives the tenant's forwarding address in writing.

The State Banking Commissioner investigates complaints regarding a landlord's failure to return to a tenant a security deposit, issues orders regarding the landlord's return of the security deposit and refers his orders to the Attorney General for enforcement in court.

For further information regarding security deposits, or to file a complaint, you may contact:

Security Deposit Investigator
Connecticut Department of Banking
260 Constitution Plaza
Hartford, Connecticut  06103-1800
(860) 240-8154 or toll-free (800) 831-7225 or by
E-mail at Security Deposit Investigator

TOBACCO

In 1998, Attorney General Blumenthal and the attorneys general of 45 other states entered into an agreement, known as the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), with tobacco manufacturers.  The text of that agreement can be found when you visit the National Association of Attorneys General.  The MSA requires tobacco manufacturers to pay the states billions of dollars to compensate them for taxpayer money spent on treating patients suffering from tobacco-related diseases.  It also places important limitations on the way tobacco companies are allowed to market their products. Among other requirements and limitations imposed upon the tobacco companies, the MSA prohibits tobacco companies from using billboard and transit advertising, and from using cartoon characters to sell cigarettes.  The MSA also disallows the public distribution of free samples of tobacco products and bans any form or method of tobacco advertising that targets youth.  Additionally, the agreement resulted in the creation of the American Legacy Foundation, an independent national public health organization, please visit the American Legacy's Foundation, dedicated to smoking prevention and cessation.

The Attorney General continues to work vigorously to reduce youth access and exposure to tobacco products and to ensure that tobacco companies comply with the terms of the MSA and other applicable State laws.

For information and publications about youth smoking prevention and the dangers of smoking, visit Tobacco Free Kids or visit the American Council on Science and Health.

Connecticut Tobacco Directory

For access to the Directory of Compliant Cigarette and Roll-Your-Own Brand Families visit the Department of Revenue Services Connecticut Tobacco Directory page.

This Directory lists all tobacco product manufacturers and brand families that are certified as being in compliance with Connecticut law. Only cigarettes in brand families listed in this Directory may be stamped by Connecticut stampers. Only cigarettes in brand families listed in this Directory may be sold, offered for sale or possessed for sale in Connecticut by licensed cigarette distributors and license cigarette dealers. Only roll-your-own tobacco in brand families listed in this Directory may be sold, offered for sale or possessed for sale in Connecticut by licensed tobacco product distributors.



Content Last Modified on 1/13/2006 2:43:41 PM