Mayor's Office of Consumer Information (MOCI)
Working in Cooperation with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office
City Hall, Room 315
Tel: (413) 787-6437 - TTY: (413) 787-6154
(413) 787-7781 (Fax)
The Mayor’s Office of Consumer Information (“MOCI”) is a Local Consumer Program funded by and working in cooperation with the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General to help consumers resolve complaints who otherwise have to seek legal recourse through the court system. It serves residents of the City of Springfield and its surrounding cities and towns throughout Hampden County, and parts of Worcester County. The MOCI cannot guarantee the outcome of a complaint but ensures that it will, with the cooperation of both parties, aim to effectively mediate the complaint in hopes of reaching an amicable resolution.
Since 2000 MOCI has handled tens of thousands of complaints, recovered over $11.5 million dollars for consumers in the form of a refund or credit, and held hundreds of community outreach events.
The goal of the MOCI is to empower consumers with knowledge of their rights and to educate them on ways to protect themselves from becoming a victim of a scam, fraud or identity theft. After all, its motto is "Education is the Best Prevention."
The MOCI's services are provided throughout Hampden County and the following cities and towns of Worcester County: Brookfield, Charlton, Douglas, Dudley, East Brookfield, Holden, Holland, North Brookfield, Oxford, Paxton, Southbridge, Spencer, Sturbridge, Sutton, Tolland, Wales, Warren, Webster, and West Brookfield.
It provides education, referral and informal mediation services at no cost to consumers. Mediation allows consumers and businesses the opportunity to address and resolve disputes, although no legal advice or services are provided. Spanish-speaking staff is available. WALK-INS ARE WELCOMED FROM 10AM TO 3PM, otherwise by appointment.
The MOCI staff will educate consumers on their rights in many consumer-related areas and has an array of brochures readily available. Following are some of the areas the MOCI can assist with:
To speak to a consumer advocate to learn of your consumer rights, seek advice on how to resolve your dispute or to request mediation, call (413) 787-6437.
In addition, the MOCI provides consumer-related educational outreach to Hampden County area schools and colleges, senior centers and civic agencies, free of charge. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, Identity Theft, Credit, Buying a Car and Home Improvement. To request a speaker, download the speaker request form.
Forms for Download
If you wish to speak with a mediator about filing a consumer complaint, you may reach us at (413) 787-6437 Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm. To file a formal written complaint, download the PDF. Submit the completed form to us, along with supporting documents.
Mortgage Foreclosure Assistance - Are you struggling to make your mortgage payment? If so, there is help for you.
Facing Foreclosure? The MA Attorney General's HomeCorps may be able to help: AGO HomeCorps Initiative
To learn of your consumer protection rights, fraud and corruption, civil rights, and promoting meaningful economic recovery, visit: Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office: Consumer Protection
For additional consumer protection information (Lemon laws and home improvement) visit: Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. Learn how to deter, detect and defend against it, visit: Federal Trade Commission: Identity Theft
Did you know that you are entitled to a free annual copy of your three credit reports, with no strings attached? When requesting your credit reports, be sure not to use a public computer or Wi-Fi and allow at least 20 minutes for the process. Securely request your free credit reports from Annual Credit Report.
Are you feeling overwhelmed with pre-approved credit card offers in your mailbox? Did you know that they put you at risk of identity theft if they end up in the wrong hands? To stop receiving pre-approved credit card offers, click here: Opt-Out of pre-approved credit card offers
Would you like to reduce the volume of junk mail in your mailbox? You can actually stop junk mail by simply requesting to opt-out: Stop Unsolicted Mail, Calls and Emails
To stop telemarketing calls to your home or mobile telephone, register at: National Do Not Call Registry
Are debt collectors harassing you at home or work? Learn what you can do to stop the calls your consumer rights: Fair Debt Collection
Every household should have what's often referred to as the, "Consumer Bible." Here's how you can obtain yours: 2015 Consumer Action Handbook.
There is now accountability for predatory lending. The CFPB will "Educate, Enforce and Study" consumer issues. Visit their website at: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Before doing business with a merchant, you may want to first check its ratings and complaint history with the Better Business Bureau
Elder scams and financial exploitation are on the rise. The U.S. Department of Justice launched a website, Elder Justice to help protect seniors
We are now serving parts of the Worcester County community
Since July 1, 2014, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office funded our office to serve parts of Worcester County area. The cities and towns we cover are: Brookfield, Charlton, Douglas, Dudley, East Brookfield, Holden, Holland, North Brookfield, Oxford, Palmer, Paxton, Southbridge, Spencer, Sturbridge, Sutton, Wales, Warren, Webster, and West Brookfield.
The Con$umer Toolbox Episodes
The MOCI invites you to learn more about your rights as a consumer through a lively discussion on its monthly television program, The Con$umer Toolbox. You can find all of the episodes on YouTube through these links. We hope you enjoy watching.
Episode 1: Find out what services the program offers and how the mediation process works.
Episode 2: Learn about scams and fraud through a discussion with Chicopee Police Officer Michael Wilk.
Episode 3: Do you know what to do when your car fails inspection? Watch this video for all the answers.
Episode 4: Ms. Milagros Johnson is joined by two experts in the field of consumer protection to discuss the different types of scams and fraud happening in our surrounding cities and towns, including Franklin County and Berkshire County.
Episode 5: Guest, Joan O'Brien, Assistant District Attorney for the Hampden County District Attorney's Office discusses the various types of elder scams, fraud and financial exploitation.
Episode 6: Workshop at UMass/Springfield on the topic of Identity Theft. This video discusses everything you need to know about ID Theft and more.
Episode 7: Guest Corey Pilz of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications & Cable discusses your rights having to do with telecommunications and cable.
Episode 8: Guest Steve Desilets, City of Springfield Code Enforcement Commissioner discusses housing codes and violations, and ways consumers can protect themselves when hiring a home improvement contractor.
Episode 9: Guest Eric Gouvin, Dean and Professor of Law at Western New England School of Law discusses Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law and holiday scams.
Hampden & Worcester County consumer outreach
We continue to receive requests for outreach events thoughout Hampden County and parts of the Worcester community. If your school or organization is interested in getting empowered on a consumer topic (such as Scams & Fraud, Identity Theft, Credit, Buying a Car) complete the Speaker Request Form or contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We are prepared to serve you FREE of charge.
Director of the Mayor's Office of Consumer Information
Milagros S. Johnson
To speak to a Consumer Specialist, call (413) 787-6437 between the hours of 9am and 4pm.
PLEASE NOTE: Our WALK-IN office hours are 10am to 3pm, or by appointment only.
Camille is our new Case Manager. She's a recent graduate of Ithaca College with a degree in Legal Studies.
3 FREE Consumer Workshops in Palmer
We're offering several of our most popular and requested consumer workshops at various locations throughout Hampden County. The topics are:
Identity Theft: The fastest growing crime in the U.S. Learn how you can protect your personal information and what to do if you become a victim.
Credit: We all need credit, sooner or later. Learn about credit and how to use it wisely, how to improve your credit score, and how to dispute credit reporting errors.
Buying a Car: Everything you need to know before you go shopping for a car and while you're at the dealer, as well as what to do if your new car is a lemon.
Please mark your calendars and don't forget to register. These are the dates, places and times:
Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 7pm at Wilbraham Public Library - Topic: Identity Theft
Tuesday, September 5, 2017 at 7pm at Wilbraham Public Library - Topic: Credit
Monday, October 16, 2017 at 5pm at UMass/Springfield - Topic: Buying a Car
Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 6:00pm at Palmer Public Library - Topic: Identity Theft
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 6:00pm at Palmer Public Library - Topic: Credit
Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 6:00pm at Palmer Public Library - Topic: Buying a Car
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 6pm at Wilbraham Public Library - Topic: Buying a Car
Monday, November 6, 2017 at 6:30pm at West Springfield Public Library - Topic: Elder Fraud
Thursday, November 9, 2017 at 2:00pm at West Springfield Public Library - Topic: Elder Fraud
Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 5pm at UMass/Springfield - Topic: Identity Theft
According to a recent study by the U.S. News & World Report, a large number of consumers lack financial literacy knowledge, with most not knowing how a credit score is calculated, how to dispute credit reporting errors, or which credit card to apply for based on their credit rating. We find the resource helpful and resourceful and encourage you visit it to learn more about credit and how it affects you.
Recognizing Aggressive Energy Marketing
Are you tired of answering your telephone and hearing a pre-recording about your electric bill and how you can reduce the cost?
This short video provided to us by Eversource will help consumers to identity current aggressive marketing tactics and how to respond to potential fraud. Please share the video.
Your Consumer Rights!
What matters to consumers, matters to us! And we make this our priority.
Our recent segment of The Con$umer Toolbox features a very special guest, Greg White, General Counsel and Chief of Staff at the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation in Boston, and we discuss important matters on home improvement (the homework consumers must do before hiring a contractor), identity theft, skimming devices and much more. Watch it here!
Helpful Contact Information:
- MA Attorney General's Office: (617) 727-8400
- MA Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation: (888) 283-3757
- MA Division of Standards: (617) 727-3480
Massachusetts #16 in Identity Theft in 2016
According to the Commission Consumer Sentinel Network, the Federal Trade Commission received 7,240 identity theft complaints from Massachusetts residents in 2016. In fact, 38% of those were employment or tax-fraud related.
There are several forms of identity theft and many ways for you to protect your personal information, as much as there are steps for you to take to defend your identity when becoming a victim. To learn more, visit the Federal Trade Commission.
Fall 2017 Educational Workshops
We are currently scheduling for consumer-related educational workshops throughout Hampden County and parts of Worcester County on a variety of topics including identity theft, credit and buying a car. If your school, library, organization or employer is interesting in having us host an event (free), please reach out to us via email at email@example.com or submit a Speaker Request Form (available on the left column). Remember that "Education is the best prevention" to protecting your consumer rights, and preventing falling victim of a scam.
How to Freeze Your Credit Reports
Identity theft should not be ignored. It is a topic we must talk about, as it's not going away anytime soon. Identity theft does not discriminate, and can affect anyone from a child to someone who has deceased. Harsh words, I know, but these are the facts!
Consumers can now place a "freeze" on their credit files online. A credit freeze is a seal on the credit file (a layer of security) which prevents anyone who has access to your personal information to open a new line of credit. The freeze can be placed for free if you're a victim of identity theft, or for a small fee ($5-$10) if you're not.
CHILD IDENTITY THEFT
Child Identity Theft is on the rise.
Just like adults, children too can become a victim of identity theft. To make matters worse, the offense can go undetected for many years because children, or their parents, do not feel the need to check their credit files. There are several ways for parents to guard their child's personal information and for identity theft protection. Watch this video
How to Write an Effective Consumer Dispute Letter
If you are experiencing a problem with a product or service, which you already brought to the attention of the business but it remains unresolved, you may want to consider writing a dispute letter.
- Avoid writing it when you are upset; be sure to keep your emotions at bay.
- State only the facts of the dispute and avoid "he said/she said."
- Include a description of the product (model number, serial number), and date and location of purchase.
- Invite the business to respond to your letter by a certain date, and include your contact information.
- Include copies of any supporting documents or photographs, if necessary.
- Finally, be sure to send the letter via certified mail/return receipt requested.
If the letter does not help resolve the issue, you may want to file a complaint.