Area Consumer Complaint Office, Now in Newburyport, Receives Grant from Attorney General

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

The local agency handling consumer complaints is sharing in nearly $2 million awarded by Attorney General Maura Healey for local consumer mediation programs.

North Essex Dispute Resolution Center of Newburyport operates the program that was once part of Community Action of Haverhill.

“We regularly support these local nonprofits and municipal programs to help ensure consumers across the state have access to mediation and advocacy services,” said Healey. “We are proud to partner with these programs that deliver direct services and education to people in their communities.”

Last year, North Essex Dispute Resolution Center Executive Director Thomas Joy said moving the office from Haverhill to Newburyport has not had an adverse impact on services provided.

“By creating the new Center, we preserved and increased services to the area. Nothing has changed in the type of cases we handle. We continue to provide advocacy, mediation and conciliation services throughout the region,” Joy said in an email to WHAV.

At the time, however, Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini lamented the loss of the agency to Newburyport. “There’s plenty of people that can drive to Newburyport, but we also have a large class of people that cannot. They’re the ones most in need of assistance,” he said.

The mayor said he and Gertrude Duchesneau established the Haverhill office. “Trudy and I helped set that program up. She was the first employee. And it was set-up through the attorney general’s office and Attorney General Bob Quinn, who at the time I was an inter for,” he remembers.

The AG’s office uses legal settlement money to pay for a statewide network of Local Consumer Programs and Face-to-Face Mediation programs. According to statement from Healey’s office, these programs deliver “the same consumer advocacy services as the AG’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division. Due to their local knowledge and community involvement, LCP and FTF programs are able to provide effective assistance and services to spread consumer awareness and outreach, resolve consumer disputes and hold educational events in their own communities.

Consumers may receive help with a variety of issues, including defective products, automobile matters, debt collection, landlord-tenant disputes, mortgages, home improvement contract issues and utilities.

The AG’s Office provides oversight and support of the programs through monitoring and site visits. Over the last nine months, 7,195 cases were handled, returning more than $4.5 million to consumers.

Besides North Essex Dispute Resolution Center, Healey’s office awarded a similar grant to Centro de Apoyo Familia of Lawrence

For complaints or questions about consumer protection, the attorney general offers a consumer hotline at 617-727-8400.

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