By Carlotta Mohamed
City Councilman Rory Lancman’s (D-Hillcrest) legislation requiring bail bond businesses to provide customers with a bill of rights and to disclose information about financial charges was signed into law last week by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The Bail Bond Consumer Bill of Rights requires bail bond businesses to post the rules they are required to follow so that vulnerable New Yorkers are informed about the laws that protect them, Lancman said.
“Today New York City takes a meaningful step forward towards treating bail bonds as the dangerous consumer financial products they have always been,” said Lancman. “The city must do everything in its power to ensure that bail bond businesses follow the rules the state has already laid out.”
According to Lancman, people desperate to get their loved ones out of Rikers Island will sign contracts, pay premiums and put down collateral, often without realizing what laws regulate those companies or are supposed to protect them as consumers.
Under the Bail Bonds Consumer Bill of Rights, Int. 510-B requires bail bond agents to post a sign prepared by the Department of Consumer Affairs containing information about maximum premiums or compensation under state law as well as how to file a complaint with DCA.
Int. 724-A requires DCA to produce a consumer bill of rights for those seeking bail bond services and bail bond agents to post a sign containing the information about the business, as well as additional protections for consumers seeking bail bond services.
The bill, sponsored by Lancman, was introduced in the Council in August 2017 and was passed in July 2018.
Lancman said the post signage designed by the DCA will disclose: (1) The maximum premium or compensation that can be charged for giving bail bond or depositing money or property as bail; (2) that such premium or compensation represents the maximum amounts, excluding collateral, that a bail bond agent can charge for services; and (3) that a consumer may make a complaint to DCA or the relevant state agencies if such premium or compensation charged is in conflict with the state’s insurance law.
Lorelei Salas, Consumer Affairs commissioner, said New Yorkers have been taken advantage of by the bail bond industry, which has a history of exploiting those who are economically disadvantaged and seeking them during a time of need.
“Earlier this year, we took action against bail bond agent Marvin Morgan for engaging in deceptive and unlawful trade practices. These two new bills will allow us to continue to protect the economic lives of New Yorkers by requiring bail bonds businesses to provide customers with a bill of rights and to disclose information regarding charges, which will further hold bail bonds businesses accountable.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha