April 20, 2011
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster announced today that the Florida-based debt settlement firm Vortex Debt Group, Inc., will refund fees paid by Missouri consumers and cease operating in Missouri.
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 this claimed service, and failing to actually reduce consumers’ debts. This often left consumers with more debt and less money.
Under the judgment, Vortex Debt Group will no longer accept any business from Missourians and will refund fees paid by Missouri consumers who submit complaints to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office within one year of today’s date. The Attorney General’s Office will send notices in the coming weeks to the approximately 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.
Today’s judgment further emphasizes the Attorney General’s Office’s commitment to cracking down on the for-profit debt-settlement industry. In December 2010, the Attorney General’s Office obtained a consent judgment against Elite Financial for similar conduct. Elite Financial has returned approximately $20,000 since that time to consumers who had done business with the company.
“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. “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.
Today’s judgment was filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court.