National Advertising Division Recommends CreditAssociates Discontinue “America’s #1 Debt Relief Company” Claim and Certain Consumer Testimonials
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New York, NY – September 14, 2022 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs recommended that CreditAssociates, LLC discontinue:
- The claim “America’s #1 Debt Relief Company,”
- The claim “4.9 out of 5 based on 8,641 reviews – Trustpilot,” and
- Savings claims that appeared in testimonials featured on the company’s website touting savings of between $11,600 and $40,000 and customers being debt-free within two to three years.
The claims at issue were challenged by NAD as part of its independent routine monitoring of truth and transparency in U.S. national advertising.
CreditAssociates is a debt settlement company. Debt settlement companies market their services to reduce or eliminate unsecured consumer debt to heavily indebted consumers. Debt settlement companies attempt to negotiate with creditors to reduce or eliminate a consumer’s unsecured debt, such as debt given without any collateral requirements such as credit card, medical bills, or utility bills. When working with CreditAssociates, consumers are instructed to deposit money monthly into a separate escrow-like account used by the debt settlement company to pay off the negotiated debts. The programs typically last a few years, depending on how long the consumer can keep up with monthly savings and the amount of debt.
CreditAssociates based its “America’s #1 Debt Relief Company” claim on customer reviews found on Trustpilot, an online platform where consumers can submit reviews about companies and services they have used. NAD expressed concerns about the reliability of these user reviews, including the potential to mislead consumers, and recommended that the advertiser discontinue the “America’s #1 Debt Relief Company” claim.
NAD noted that several testimonials featured on the advertiser’s website described the results that CreditAssociates customers have achieved through the program. For example, an image and testimonial attributed to Leslie M. states: “Before enrolling, Leslie had over $40,000 in high-interest credit card debt spread across 15 different accounts. Through our program, we were able to save her over $400 a month, and negotiated settlements that saved her $20,138!” NAD was concerned that claims made by the advertiser’s testimonials were not representative of the typical consumer experience.
CreditAssociates did not provide any evidence as to typical savings achieved by its customers or the average period in which debts were resolved. NAD noted that the advertiser also failed to disclose the significant service fees it charges on settled debts, which range between 18 and 25 percent of the debt, and that late fees and other charges accrue during the settlement process. NAD recommended that these material terms must be disclosed clearly and conspicuously in the four corners of CreditAssociates’ advertising.
NAD recommended that CreditAssociates discontinue the testimonials. NAD noted, however, that nothing in its decision prevents CreditAssociates from including testimonials in its advertising if the advertising clearly and conspicuously discloses the generally expected performance in the depicted circumstances, the service fees charged, and that late fees and other charges accrue during the settlement process.
In its advertiser statement, CreditAssociates stated that “although we disagree with both the basis of and the motive behind the BBB’s recommendations, we agree to implement the recommendations of the National Advertising Division of BBB National Programs.”
All BBB National Programs case decision summaries can be found in the case decision library. For the full text of NAD, NARB, and CARU decisions, subscribe to the online archive.
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