Legal Aid Society

Projects, Units & Initiatives

Consumer Law Project

The Consumer Law Project (CLP) provides legal advice and representation to low-income New Yorkers in all five boroughs of New York City in a range of consumer matters, including those related to credit card debt, rent arrears, student loans, auto loans, medical and nursing home debt, other debt collection cases, as well as identity theft, and access to financial services issues. Our services include representation and assistance with bankruptcy relief in Chapter 7 and certain Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings. In addition to direct representation, the Project provides outreach, trainings and know-your-rights presentations on consumer protection matters. We engage in legislative and systemic advocacy to protect and define the rights of low-income New Yorkers in matters of consumer law and provide education to clients about their legal rights and remedies against the abusive practices of unscrupulous lenders and creditors.

Our Impact

Recently, the CLP co-lead efforts to successfully pass the Fair Consumer Judgment Interest Act, which reduced the statutory judgment interest rate on consumer debt judgments to 2%. The prior interest rate of 9% created harmful incentives for debt collectors to delay enforcement of judgments to maximize profits and provided a windfall grossly disproportionate to market rates.

Ms. Q is a low-income single mother. In October 2020, her employer informed her they had been served with an Information Subpoena indicating a default judgment had been entered against her in Kings County Civil Court in 2010 for $14,945.05 for an alleged credit card debt. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Q’s wages were garnished pursuant to this default judgment. This was Ms. Q’s first notice of this lawsuit or any judgment entered against her. With her wages being garnished, Ms. Q worried about how she would be able to support her children, her elderly parents who live with her, and pay her mortgage. She worried about what effect this judgment would have on her current and future employment, what her employer would think about a court judgment being entered against her and feared this could mean she would be fired. But she was adamant that she did not owe the underlying debt in this lawsuit, that she was never served with notice of this lawsuit, and that a judgment entered against her without her knowledge or an opportunity to defend herself. She contacted The Legal Aid Society for assistance in this matter. In December 2020, we filed an emergency Order to Show Cause challenging service as improper and seeking to dismiss the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. We obtained vacatur of the default judgment and dismissal of the case after traverse hearing.

Partnerships

CLP co-hosts the New York City Consumer Advocates Taskforce, Broken Lease Taskforce, and the New York City Small Claims Court Work Group. We are active members of the New York City Bar Association Civil Courts Committee, and the New York State Supreme (Civil), Legal Services, and New York City Civil Court Advisory Committees on E-Filing. CLP is also an active member of New Yorkers for Responsible Lending (NYRL) and the New York State Community Equity Coalition.

Additional Resources

Pro Se Court Forms