New laws that add restrictions on various aspects of the debt settlement industry go into effect today. The rules are part of the recent actions taken by the Federal Trade Commission to protect consumers from predatory debt settlement practices, according to CNN.
The new rule disallows debt settlement companies from charging up-front fees for their services, and requires agencies to deliver on any debt settlement promises before they collect from their customers.
"Consumers who are very deeply in debt and don't know how to pay it down and are trying to do the right thing by singing up with these companies, and they end up paying thousands and thousands of dollars in fees and filing for bankruptcy anyway," Lauren Bowne, staff attorney at the Consumers Union, told the news source. "Now that shouldn't happen any more."
Debt settlement agencies will also now be required to tell their customers how much debt they will reduce by presenting agreements to creditors, and they must have their client's consent before moving forward with a deal.
Those who are trying to get out of debt should also consider creating a budget and eliminating credit cards from their spending practices, according to MSNBC.