The Association of Settlement Companies (TASC) was arguably the most embattled trade association during 2010. Nearly all of their membership routinely included many now banned practices as a part of their everyday operations. TASC is trying to forget all that bad press by “reinventing” themselves as American Fair Credit Council (AFCC). The question is, are they truly inventing themselves or is this simply a renaming ploy in order to ditch their dirty laundry?
Who was TASC?
TASC was a trade association comprised almost entirely of advance fee debt settlement companies. These companies had long track records of making false and deceptive claims, unfair advertising and failing to fulfill their promises. The abuses were so widespread that the Federal Trade Commission updated their Telemarketing Sales Rule in order to ban debt settlement companies from charging any fee prior to completion of a settlement through their plan.
Faced with the task of actually having to earn their fees, many debt settlement companies shut down operations. TASC membership took a huge hit as many of its members decided they would be unable to operate fairly and still turn a profit.
TASC attempted to publicly support increased regulations to “clean up” the debt settlement industry. They issued multiple press releases after the new regulations were issued in order to appear as a champion of consumer protections.
Who is AFCC?
It remains to be seen who AFCC is. If they are simply a rebadged TASC, then consumers will still be taken to the cleaners. If they are serious about keeping a long-term positive image, then they will actually require that their members adhere to best practices. They will actually kick out noncompliant members from their association if they want to truly be the consumer advocate that they are projecting as their new image.
However, if AFCC continues to support “ways around” the regulations rather than best practices, then the association will continue to fail the consumers that they claim to protect. Some of the ways around regulations that have been discussed prior include:
- meeting clients at neutral locations to sign paperwork and avoid Telemarketing Sales Rule limitations
- relocating offshore to evade U.S. protections and regulations
- rent a lawyer agreements that allow for retainers for legal services, even though no lawyer actively works on the client’s behalf
These destructive practices have been discussed at TASC’s previous conferences. If AFCC embraces such foolery, then it will continue to fail to protect vulnerable consumers from fraudulent and deceptive practices performed by its membership.
Long is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Industrial Relations. He subsequently received his Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. His Certificate in Financial Planning was issued by Florida State University.
Long has achieved the Accredited Credit Counselor and Accredited Financial Counselor certifications through the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education. Long originally achieved the Certified Credit Counselor designation through the National Institute for Financial Education.
In addition to years of nonprofit leadership, Long has been an innovator in the field of volunteer tax return preparation programs. He assists volunteer associations and nonprofit organizations who seek to integrate credit counseling and asset-building programs with free personal income tax preparation. His approach to using free credit reports as both an incentive and a screening tool for placement into asset-building programs has been shared with members of the National Community Tax Coalition, the EITC-Carolinas Initiative of MDC, Inc. and nonprofit groups across the Carolinas.
Long assists members of our armed forces in the Carolinas, Iowa, Rhode Island, Georgia and Germany with financial readiness. Please support our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors!
"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."