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Senate acts on Consumer Protection Package

Bills would boost protections for residential electric ratepayers, home heating oil users, and automobile transactions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 24, 2024   

CONTACT: Ben Kaplan, Communications Director, Office of Senator Susan L. Moran    

(BOSTON–4/24/2024) Today the Massachusetts Senate took action to protect residents and consumers from predatory tactics and promote fairer interactions with businesses in the state, passing bills that would ban third-party residential electric suppliers, enhance the state’s Lemon Law for car buyers, and mandate home insurers cover residential oil spill damages.

“Today we are sending a clear message to consumers around the Commonwealth that the Massachusetts Senate has your back,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “These legislative measures are more than just consumer protection provisions—they are important to support equity and our residents’ physical and financial safety. I am proud that the Senate took action today to move towards a Commonwealth where we prioritize transparency and safety for all residents. I want to offer my thanks to Attorney General Campbell, Chair Rodrigues, Senator Crighton, and Senator Feeney, and all the Senators and advocates who championed these protections.”

“The Senate has again taken the lead in approving three strong consumer protection measures that will help and improve upon the quality of life for so many residents of the Commonwealth. These bills reinforce and strengthen safeguards that are already in place and affect almost everyone; ensuring that consumers pay a fair rate for electricity, have homeowners’ insurance that actually works, and buy a vehicle in confidence. Thanks to Chairs Feeney and Crighton for their work on this legislation, and Senate President Spilka for her leadership on moving these issues forward,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, (D-Westport) Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

“Protecting Massachusetts consumers is a priority for my office, but we recognize we cannot do that work alone. I am pleased to see the Senate make progress on consumer protection legislation, including bills that would ban the harmful residential competitive electric supply industry and expand consumers' rights and protections when purchasing an automobile. My office and I will continue to work alongside the Legislature in advocating for these bills to become law,” said Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell.

"As Vice Chair of the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure I am proud to stand with my colleagues as we take decisive action to safeguard the interests of our residents. Today's passage o this package underscores our commitment to ensuring fairness and transparency in the marketplace," Senator Susan L. Moran (D-Falmouth) said. "We are solidifying the rights of consumers across the Commonwealth through measures that not only strengthen existing safeguards but also address disparities that disproportionately impact vulnerable communities."

S.2738: An Act relative to electric ratepayer protections : This bill bars electric suppliers from enrolling new individual residential customers in contracts and protect residents from unfair and deceptive practices in the competitive electric supply market. According to the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Utilities, data analysis show that consumers lost more than $577 million to competitive electric suppliers between July 2015 and June 2023.

The AG’s Office has issued three reports on the impact of the market in Massachusetts, which together with additional analysis found that low-income residents and residents of color are disproportionately affected by the industry by being more likely to sign up, and subsequently being charged higher rates.

S.2737: An Act relative to the remediation of home heating oil releases: This bill mandates that insurers in Massachusetts provide residential owners with insurance for damage to home and property caused by a leak in a residential liquid fuel tank or home fuel supply lines. Approximately 100 homeowners experience an oil leak in Massachusetts every year, according to MassDEP. Leaks can incur costly damage to the residence itself, but under Massachusetts law, owners are responsible for environmental cleanup, which can rise to $100,000 or more, to dispose of contaminated soil and mitigate the spread in surrounding areas.

Current state law says that companies “shall make coverage available” for owners. While coverage is available, there are many documented cases of companies not making owners aware that the provision is available. This often results in homeowners being unaware they do not have insurance coverage until after they experience a liquid fuel tank leak.

S.2736: An Act modernizing protections for consumers in automobile transactions: This bill adds legal safeguards for residents who purchase used and leased cars in Massachusetts by creating four new consumer protections in the car buying process. If passed, the legislation would expand the rights of car buyers who expect a purchased vehicle to be in a state of good repair and free of problems. It would also boost the dollar amounts for current consumer protections to reflect vehicles and repairs that are more expensive.

Provisions of the bill include:

· Expanding the Lemon Aid Law by providing consumers seven days from the date of delivery to inspect their vehicle and obtain a full refund if the vehicle fails inspection. Current law provides seven days from the date of sale.

· Increasing the surety bond amounts for used car dealers from $25,000 to $50,000, permitting the Attorney General to file claims against surety bonds for consumers, and removing the requirement for a court judgement for recovery against a bond.

· Ensuring those who lease a vehicle have the same rights to repossession notice and right to cure as those who finance a vehicle.

· Increasing the used vehicle warranty from 125,000 miles to 150,000 miles, thereby protecting consumers who purchase more affordable vehicles with higher mileage.

The bill placing a ban on third-party residential electric suppliers, S.2738, passed by a vote of 34 to 4. The bill protecting consumers in auto sales, S.2736, and the bill mandating insurance coverage for residential oil spills, S.2737, were passed without objection. Having been passed in the Senate, the three bills now head to the House of Representatives


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