Credit Repair Service Accused Of Misleading Customers, Charging Illegal Fees

Image courtesy of Chris Blakeley

It can take years, decades even, to repair one’s credit. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, despite promises of relief from companies offering their services for a price. Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued one such company, Prime Marketing Holdings, for allegedly misleading consumers and charging illegal fees. 

The CFPB accused the company — which operates under a number of names, like Park View Credit, National Credit Advisors, and Credit Experts — of misrepresenting the cost and effectiveness of its services.

According to the complaint [PDF], Prime has marketed credit repair services to consumers across the country who had recently sought to obtain a mortgage, loan, refinancing, or other extension of credit.

Prime allegedly lured consumers in with misleading, unsubstantiated claims that it could remove virtually any negative information from credit reports and could boost credit scores by significant amounts, the CFPB claims.

To fulfill these claims, Prime Marketing allegedly promised to improve customers’ credit scores by challenging items on their credit reports, regardless of whether the information is accurate.

The complaint claims that once a customer signed up for services, Prime Marketing would charge a variety of illegal advance fees that it had not disclosed previously.

Under federal law, telemarketers and certain companies are barred from requesting or collecting fees for credit repair services until certain conditions are met around the delivery of services.

In the case of Prime Marketing, the CFPB claims, the company violated this law by charging consumers initial fees that it at times claimed were required to obtain special credit reports for consumers. The company also charged set-up fees totaling hundreds of dollars and monthly fees that often came to $89.99 per month.

Additionally, the company allegedly failed to disclose the limits of its “money-back guarantee.”

For example, the company’s sales contracts typically limited this guarantee to the removal of “a minimum of one disputed item within one hundred and eighty days of the execution of this Agreement.”

According to the CFPB lawsuit, at times, Prime Marketing represented, directly or indirectly, that the guarantee applied to increases in a credit score.

Most often, the suit claims, Prime Marketing failed to explain in telemarketing calls that customers had to pay for at least six months of service to be eligible for the money-back guarantee.

The CFPB lawsuit seeks to halt the company’s harmful conduct and to obtain relief for consumers, including refunds of fees paid to the defendant.

In addition to filing the lawsuit on Friday, the CFPB released a consumer advisory that outlines consumers’ rights and warns them of potentially harmful practices to look out for.

As part of the advisory, the Bureau is highlighting that consumers do not have to pay anyone to help correct inaccurate information in their credit reports. The Bureau also reminds people of their right to obtain a free credit report from each of the largest three credit reporting companies every year and the steps they can take on their own if they need to dispute inaccurate information on their reports.

The full advisory can be found on the CFPB website.