The California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation has announced an investigation into student loan debt relief companies while also announcing its first enforcement action, against a company accused of taking money from individuals while misrepresenting that it could have their student loans dismissed.
The enforcement action against Optima Associates accuses it of violating the Student Loan Servicing Act by not having a proper license, the California Consumer Financial Protection Law for engaging in deceptive acts or practices, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule for receiving payment before administering any debt relief services. Optima was ordered to and ordered it to desist and refrain from operating without a license, from engaging in deceptive acts or practices, refund all of the fees it collected from 18 consumers in California, and pay a fine of $45,000.
A copy of the order against Optima can be accessed by clicking here.
“Student-loan borrowers seeking help with repayment deserve protection from predatory debt-relief scams,” said DFPI Commissioner Manuel P. Alvarez, in a statement. “This action holds Optima Advocates accountable for its deceptive practices and will bring relief to those having a hard time repaying their student loans.”
Along with the enforcement action, DFPI also announced it has sent subpoenas to four other student loan debt relief companies as it investigates whether those companies engaged in unlawful, unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices while also making sure they had the proper licenses to operate in California.
Last month, DFPI announced that it had sent subpoenas to a dozen debt collection firms as part of an investigation into consumer complaints about alleged unlawful, unfair, deceptive, or abusive collection practices.