Koster settles over up-front fees

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Apr 21, 2011


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said Wednesday that Florida-based debt settlement firm Vortex Debt Group Inc. will refund fees paid by Missouri consumers and cease operating in the state.

The Attorney General's Office alleged Vortex Debt Group engaged in deceptive and unfair practices by promising to reduce consumers' debt, taking significant fees from consumers in exchange for the claimed service, and failing to actually reduce consumers' debts. This often left consumers with more debt and less money, Koster said.

Under the judgment, filed Wednesday in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Vortex Debt Group will no longer accept any business from Missourians and will refund fees paid by Missouri consumers who submit complaints to Koster's office within one year.

The Attorney General's Office will send notices in the coming weeks to about 300 Missouri consumers who had signed up for purported debt-relief services with Vortex. The notices will inform the consumers of their right to a refund of fees.

"Debt settlement companies promise to help people reduce their debt load, but in fact these companies take significant fees from consumers without providing the promised debt relief," Koster said in a statement.

"I urge Missourians experiencing debt problems to contact a not-for-profit consumer counseling agency or to seek competent legal representation from a consumer bankruptcy attorney in order to deal with debt-related issues."

Koster said consumers should be aware that under Missouri law, it is illegal for these types of businesses to collect up-front fees before providing the service.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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