Consumer Law Associates (CLA) is a national law firm dedicated to consumer debt reduction. They provide debt settlement services nationwide as well as bankruptcy and work closely with many of the nation’s top debt settlement companies to handle their clients in states in which an attorney is required for debt settlement. At first glance at their BBB record, one might think that Consumer Law Associates is a company to steer clear of, however, we dig a lot deeper than most to uncover the real story behind every company in our focus industry…
The BBB currently reports an F rating with 16 complaints, but the important thing to note here is that Consumer Law Associates is not a paying member of the BBB. As we have noted in many of our reviews, there is obvious preferential treatment for BBB members (see review on Care Once Credit where they have over 170 complaints with an A rating). What most people are unaware of is that the BBB has a policy in most states to rate all “non-member” debt settlement companies with a “D-” rating right out of the gate. From there, they subtract more points for complaints. Since the BBB has no way to know how many clients a particular company has, they make a company look bad with even as little as a few complaints.
Now ask yourself this question, “Which of the below companies would you rather work with?”:
- A company that has over 2,000 active clients and 16 complaints
- A company with 300 active clients and 7 complaints
According to the BBB the company with 16 complaints has an F rating, and the one with 7 complaints is rated B. The company with 16 complaints is Consumer Law Associates and the real story is that the BBB ratings are not worth anything and can easily steer a consumer away from a good company. 16 complaints out of 2,000 clients is less than a 1% complaint ratio and is a great record by any standard. Especially given that the debt settlement industry tends to have a lot of complaints since it deals directly with consumers in high-stress situations. The real value of seeing complaint listed with the BBB is to see how the company is handling them. If you see a large number of unhandled complaints, or complaints that were not responded to for a long period of time, that would be of concern. As you can see on CLA’s BBB report, they make a practice of promptly dealing with all complaints.
Furthermore, in reading through not only the complaints on the BBB, but also the ones listed on the Internet and with ripoffreport.com, the majority of the complaints are due to the clients not understanding the program in which they were enrolled. This means that they most likely were not listening, did not read the contract, or were misled by a debt consultant. If they were misled by a debt consultant this is to no fault of CLA since most of their clients are sent to them from other provider companies. In addition, many of the complaints aimed at CLA were actually complaints against a few of the larger debt settlement companies that refer clients to CLA and have nothing to do with the CLA law firm.
In contacting some of our contacts with TASC and USOBA (two industry organizations that lobby for the debt settlement industry), the reputation of CLA is quite remarkable and they are quickly becoming one of the pillars in the industry. Also because they are a law firm, consumers have some additional protections in place since attorneys and law firms are heavily governed by the BAR Associations.
Our conclusion is quite simply that Consumer Law Associates (CLA) offers a very solid debt settlement program and we have seen no evidence that justifies the poor rating assigned by the Better Business Bureau. I would feel badly for a consumer who decides against working with CLA based solely on their unfair BBB rating and a handful of misdirected complaints. They are certainly among the Top 10 debt settlement companies.