The Attorney General of Massachusetts has reached a settlement approaching $1 million with a finance company accused of engaging in illegal collection practices while attempting to collect on leases used to purchase pet dogs, which is also illegal in Massachusetts.
Under the terms of the settlement, Monterey Financial Services will cancel nearly $700,000 of leases that it was still collecting on, provide $175,000 in restitution to consumers, and pay a fine of $50,000.
“Families in Massachusetts looking to get a dog should not be trapped in leasing agreements that are harmful, expensive, and illegal,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a statement. “We will take action to stop this exploitive practice of using dogs as emotional leverage, and are pleased to get results for pet owners involved with these finance companies.”
The company was accused of making excessive phone calls to customers who were behind on their lease payments. Under state law in Massachusetts, companies are limited to only making two phone call attempts per week to try and contact consumers to collect on unpaid debts.
Similar to leasing vehicles, if customers fell behind on their lease payments, the dogs could be repossessed, the AG’s office said.
As part of the settlement, Monterey Financial denied it engaged in any unlawful conduct or violated any law and the settlement itself did not constitute an admission of guilt by the company.
Monterey identified more than 200 leases it had made for dogs in Massachusetts. The company has agreed to waive early termination penalties, transfer ownership of the dogs to the lessee, and notify the lessee that they have no further obligation under the original agreement. The company will also remove any negative tradelines from its customers’ credit reports.