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Bentley Student-Run Consumer Action Line Receives $30,000 from Mass. Attorney General's Office

June 26, 2006

A $30,000 grant from Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Riley's office will allow Bentley College students to continue to advocate better business practices and come to the aid of Massachusetts consumers.

Now in its 13th year, the Bentley College Consumer Action Line (BCAL) mediates complaints between consumers and businesses. It is the only consumer protection office in the state staffed by undergraduate college students.

"The program is important because it not only gives students hands-on experience with real world problems, but it is also a source of relief for consumers who in most cases do not have any alternatives," says BCAL founder and Professor of Law Stephen Lichtenstein.

BCAL is one of the state's 20 local consumer offices and serves almost a dozen communities in southeastern Massachusetts. It is run by a staff of 22 students who volunteer their time and have a 75 percent success rate. BCAL, which has handled more than 1,800 cases, is a service consumers can turn to when they can't afford an attorney or their case isn't considered significant enough for legal representation. BCAL students handle calls from consumers with complaints against a variety of businesses, including used car, home improvement and travel companies.

In one case, a young couple paid $5,000 to join a travel club which claimed members would save money on vacations. When the savings did not materialize, the couple was unable to withdraw membership or receive a refund. BCAL project manager Gregory Cardarelli '09 researched the business and found that one of the travel club owners was part-owner of another travel company that had been fined $64 million by the Attorney General of Texas in June, 2006. The company was also banned from doing business in Indiana, and was forced to refund money to consumers in that state. While the couple's credit card company refunded the money after looking into the travel club, Cardarelli has also notified the Federal Trade Commission for a potential investigation.

 

Lichtenstein attributes the success of the program to students who "undertake cases with serious intent." BCAL volunteers follow guidelines established by the attorney general's office and Bentley. They receive training from experienced BCAL volunteers and have an academic advisor they can turn to when they need help with a case.

BCAL is part of Bentley's well established Service-Learning Center (BSLC). Created in 1990, BSLC helps students discover that community service and learning outside the classroom are vital to their professional and personal development.

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit www.bentley.edu

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