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City of Cambridge

Consumers' Council

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The Consumers' Council works in cooperation with the Massachusetts Attorney General to mediate individual/business complaints in an attempt to avoid legal action by either party. The Council provides resources, support and influence on consumer matters, including advisories relating to fraud and scams. Council staff is watchful of any trends in the marketplace that may call for direct legal intervention by the Attorney General. Using the experience and information gained from the hundreds of individual complaints filed each year by area residents, the Council serves as an informed voice offering suggestions for new or amended legislation that would provide consumer protection for the citizenry.

To reach the Consumers' Council Consumer Information and Public Assistance Hotline, call 617.349.6150. The hotline is staffed Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.






 Test your knowledge and take a quiz on consumer rights.

Consumer Quiz              Quiz Answers


Tips and FAQs

What types of complaints does the Consumers' Council receive?

Some of our common complaints concern:

  • Advertising/Telemarketing
  • Auto Repair, Sales and Leasing
  • Cable and Satellite Services
  • Credit Cards
  • Debt Collection
  • Banking and Mortgages
  • Fitness/Health Clubs
  • Home Improvement Contractors
  • Landlord/Tenant Issues
  • Travel Agencies/Airlines
  • Retail Sales (Store, Internet and Mail Order)
  • Dating Services
  • Moving and Storage
  • Telecommunications
  • Utilities

 

 

Who can file a complaint with the Consumers' Council?

The Consumers' Council serves all residents of Cambridge, Somerville and Waltham regardless of where a business is located. The Consumers' Council also accepts complaints from individuals who have conducted a transaction with a business located in Cambridge, Somerville or Waltham regardless of where the individual lives.

Attention is given to the elderly, people with disabilities, those with language barriers, and all others without regard to income.

How do I file a complaint with the Consumers' Council?

Consumers should contact the Consumers' Council for a complaint form when they feel that they have been a victim of improper business practices and after they have attempted to resolve the dispute on their own.

Please keep in mind the following before returning the complaint form to our office:

  1. Include your most recent mailing address and a phone number where you can be reached during the day.
  2. Ensure to state both the problem you are having with a business and the specific action you are seeking.
  3. When describing your complaint, attempt to establish a timeline that includes important dates and events. For example, include date of purchase, date of cancellation or date of repair.
  4. Be sure to attach copies of any contracts, work orders, repair orders, bills, receipts, advertisements or any other documentation that you reference in your complaint.  PLEASE DO NOT SEND ORIGINALS!
  5. Please be sure to sign your complaint form!

 

If your complaint involves a financial matter, such as a credit card billing dispute or a complaint regarding your bank account, please make sure to complete and send a release form with your complaint form! 

What happens after I file a complaint?

The Consumers' Council is staffed with mediators who will review your complaint to determine whether it is appropriate for mediation. If your complaint is not appropriate for mediation, you may be referred to another government agency or resource for assistance.

If the complaint is one with which we may be able to assist you, a mediator will contact you before they attempt to contact the business. At that time, we may request more information or further documentation to assist in the mediation process.

If our mediation efforts are not successful, you will be offered guidance on other ways you can resolve your dispute.

Regardless of the outcome,the complaint will be on record with the Attorney General's Office

Can the staff of the Consumers' Council provide me with legal advice?

The Consumers' Council cannot provide legal advice to consumers.  If you have questions concerning the specific application or interpretation of the law, we will suggest that you consult a private attorney.  If you do not have an attorney we will provide you information to assist you in finding one.

How can I freeze my credit?

This article details how to freeze Credit .Security Freeze

How do I get a free credit report?

The three nationwide credit reporting companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report.

To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com

1-877-322-8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.


What is the cost of filing a Small Claims Court case?

Consumers may sue businesses that may have engaged in unfair or deceptive acts or practices against them. For claims of actual damages under $7,000, a consumer may file a legal action in the Small Claims session of the District Court, Boston Municipal Court, or if the claim involves housing issues, in the housing court Small Claims session.

The filing fee for small claims $500 and under is $40. 

The filing fee for claims of $501 to $2000 is $50. 

The filing fee for claims of $2001 to $5000 is $100. 

The filing fee for claims of $5001 to $7000 is $150. 

The filing fee for claims of property damage of more than $7000 arising from an automobile accident is $150. 

You will pay the filing fee to the court when you file your Small Claim. Attorneys are not always needed in Small Claims Court, but you are permitted to hire an attorney if you wish. In a Small Claims proceeding, the case may be resolved by a mediator, or if not, a trial will be held before a magistrate.


How long should I keep sensitive documents?

shred.

Is Xfinity the only cable television provider in Cambridge?

Yes. Currently Xfinity, formerly Comcast, is the cable service provider for the City of Cambridge. The contract is valid until 2021.

What is the current price list for Xfinity Services?

The current pricing structure for Comcast is available at this link Comcast Price Rates

Does Xfinity offer a senior citizen discount?

Xfinity does offer a 10% discount for senior citizens. Go to this link for the form Senior discount form

Internship Opportunities

The Consumers’ Council offers three (3) internships per year—one during the fall semester, one during the spring semester and one during the summer.

Internship Description

Position Title: Investigator/Mediator

Hours Per Week: Flexible; At least two (2) full days of work are required.

Minimum Requirements: Currently enrolled in an Undergraduate or Juris Doctor Program

Position Specifics: The Investigator/Mediator position is designed to assist the Council in both investigating and mediating consumer complaints for residents of the City of Cambridge, the City of Somerville and the City of Waltham. Interns typically carry an average caseload of 20-25 complaints. Interns will also be expected to respond to telephone, email and walk-in inquiries concerning consumer rights as well as providing appropriate resources and referrals to other state and federal agencies. Interns typically assist the Executive Director/Consumer Information Specialist in researching current consumer issues, policies and other government responses associated with the current economic climate. Interns are regularly asked to conduct legal research throughout the investigation of cases. Finally, interns should become familiar with the Massachusetts’ Consumer Protection Act (M.G.L. Chapter 93a), which will greatly assist them within the mediation process; however, no prior knowledge is required, but is desirable.

Location/Transportation: The Consumers’ Council is located in Central Square adjacent to Cambridge City Hall. Our office is located in the John Lombardi Municipal Building on the first floor. If you are taking the T, we are located about 5 minutes from the Central Square stop on the Redline.

Work Environment: Office environment with fluorescent light, air conditioning, computers and other standard office equipment.

Please submit resume and letter of interest to:

Laura M. Nichols, Cambridge Consumers’ Council, 831 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 or via email to consumer@cambridgema.gov.

Resumes are reviewed on a rolling basis. If you are applying through an internship program at a college or university, please submit a copy of program requirements with your application.

Last Updated: 9/21/2017

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