Consumer Assistance Council
Cape Cod & Islands



What kind of advocacy do you do?

We advocate for customers who have an intractable problem with a business. Our role is to be a consumer advocate or ombudsman, and we also serve as dispute mediators. Basically, we try to help consumers get fair treatment from businesses, and to help them avoid going to court. 

What kinds of cases do you consider getting involved in?

Almost any dispute between a consumer and a business.

You said “almost any” dispute. What kind of disputes do you not take?

Among other reasons, we cannot accept any case ...

... involving legal action against a company or customer.

... asking a company to honor an obvious price error.

... seeking to getting a refund for tickets purchased directly from an airline (but we can help if 

    they were purchased through a third party)

... involving certain types of housing issues. 

... initiated by a business against another business or consumer.

... where lawyers are already involved. 

... where the consumer has unreasonable demands of the business.

There are other qualifications as well, as shown elsewhere in this document.

How much do you charge for your advocacy services?

We don’t charge a penny for the consumer advocacy work we do. We are a non-profit and never charge a fee. We do, though. gratefully accept donations. 

How do I initiate a case? 

Our cases are sent to us by the Attorney General’s Office and its Consumer Advocacy and Response Division, with which we work in close cooperation. We do not accept cases directly from consumers. 

To start the ball rolling, the fastest way is to click on this link to the AGO’s office, and fill out the Complaint Form online: The slower alternative is to download the complaint form from our website here. After you download the document, complete it and mail it to the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Advocacy & Response Division, One Ashburton Place, 18th floor, Boston MA 02108.

A third way to file a complaint is to call the Attorney General’s Consumer Complaint Hotline at 617-727-8400. 

Can I send you a complaint by regular mail or email?

You should not send us complaints, since it will slow the process. If you send your complaint to us by mail or email, we will have to send it by regular mail to the Attorney General’s office in Boston. 

Sending your complaint to us can result in a delay of several weeks in the handling of your complaint. 

How do you mediate a case?

When we are given a case by the Attorney General, we’ll get in touch with the consumer to get details, and then, with their permission, we will reach out to the company on the consumer’s behalf. We may have several discussions with them and with the consumer as we seek to mediate the dispute. 

What do you say to a company when you act as an advocate?

Typically, we describe your situation, what you are looking for in terms of relief, explain why we feel you are entitled to relief, and ask the business to reconsider its position. If we have a question about the circumstances of your problem, we’ll also ask for clarification. Sometimes there will several back and forth discussions as new documents are presented. 

Why do you ask me for documents or to create a ‘paper trail’ ?
If we are going to be able to help you, we need to see the documents that prove your case. We also want to see the texts, emails or letters you sent to the business. We need to see how the business has responded to you. The more evidence we can present to the business, the more effective we can be as your advocate. Without evidence, it is your word against theirs, and we don’t have anything to work with. 

Is there a time limit on cases you will accept?
We will seriously consider taking any cases the Attorney General’s Office sends to us, within the limits described above. However, if too much time has gone by since the problem first started before you contacted the merchant, it may be very difficult to produce a successful outcome for you. Also, many companies do not keep customer records for longer than a year or so. 

What are your criteria for taking a case?

We typically look for cases where:

- A company hasn’t fulfilled its contractual obligation to provide a product or service.

- A company’s advertising claims prove to be untrue or misleading.

- The sales “pitch” from the business is misleading. 

- The business is failing to live up to a warranty, expressed or implied.

- Efforts to go through normal resolution channels have not been successful.

How do we determine if you have a case?

We review your side of the story along with the “paper trail” of supporting documentation you provide to us. We also look at the terms and conditions of the company that relate to your purchase. It may be that the business is well within its rights, and you don’t have a legitimate grievance. For example, if you purchase an item at a store where the signage says, “All Sales Final,” or if you purchase tickets to a concert where it is clearly stated that the tickets are “not refundable,” you don’t have much of a case. Sometimes we will ask the business to make an exception, but they are under no obligation to do so.  

When do we reject or resign a case?

We may turn down, resign or close cases containing the one or more of the following elements:

- Rudeness or sarcasm from the consumer in communications with members of our team or representatives of the company

- Asking us to do things that you can do for yourself, like asking the business to send you documents. 

- Asking us to continue to work on your behalf when we have received a reasonable settlement offer from the business, but you want much more. 

- The business refuses to make a settlement offer of any kind.

- The business does not respond to our calls or letters after 45 days. 

- Requests from consumers to investigate a company’s business practices. 

- Requests to “make things right.” You must ask for something specific.

- Expectations that we will argue with the business. We do not argue. We advocate. There is a difference! 

I didn’t read the fine print before I purchased a product. Now I’m stuck with something I can’t use. Will you still advocate for me?

Maybe. We’re on your side, even when we can’t successfully advocate your case. In cases where a company’s denial of a refund is within the letter of its terms and conditions, we may try to get them to bend the rules a little and provide what you are seeking. It helps, though, to have a compelling reason why the company should break its own rules! 

When is a case closed?

There are many reasons to close a case. The chief reason is that the company has issued the refund, made the repair, delivered the product, or otherwise did what it was supposed to do in the first place. 

We will also close a case if the company has made its best and final offer, but the consumer still isn’t satisfied. If we have done all that we can do, and the business has done all that it is willing to do, then we have to move on to other cases. Similarly, we will close a case if the business refuses to make any offer at all. Sometimes, in either of these circumstances, we will advise a consumer to consider taking legal action. In situations where the consumer has hired an attorney, we are required to close the case immediately. 

Cases will be closed if we can’t find the business or if it does not respond to at least three attempts by us to reach them. The same holds for consumers; if the consumer doesn’t provide is with the documents we need, or if they don’t respond to us after we make three attempts to reach them, we will close the case. 

Can you appeal a closed case?

Yes. Cases can be re-opened if the documents we need are finally provided, or if we are able to make contact with the consumer or business. 

Will you publicize or write about my case?

We do write about our cases, but we never use consumer names without their permission. We also do not name specific businesses unless the case is already on the public record. 

What’s your angle when you are handling a case? Do you take sides?

We are pro-consumer, but we are not anti-business.   

We are consumer advocates, so we are naturally biased toward the consumer. But we are not blindly aligned with the customer. In many of our cases, consumers are legitimately wronged and the businesses that do it deserve to be called out — which is something we do exceptionally well.

However, in some cases, consumers omit facts, lie, try to manipulate the system in an unethical way, don’t bother to read the fine print, or don’t take the time to understand the product they’re using. In those cases, our Consumer Advocates won’t hesitate to tell the consumer that they are wrong. 

We do this not to chastise a consumer — although we readily concede some get very upset when they are told they are wrong -- but to educate the consumer who may be tempted to make the same mistake again in the future. In the end, we want all of our Cape Cod consumers to be smart about the products and services they purchase.

Do You Mediate Business-to-Business Disputes? 

No, we do not. We are only chartered to accept cases involving consumer to business issues. Similarly, we cannot accept consumer-to-consumer cases unless they involve landlord/tenant matters, and even then, only in certain circumstances. Landlord/tenant cases are often referred to the appropriate government or NGO agency.

I wrote to you weeks ago asking for help. Why haven’t you responded?

There can be several reasons. We cannot take cases directly from a consumer – we can only accept cases given to us by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). If complaints are sent to us by the consumer, we must mail the complaint to the AGO in Boston by regular mail. The AGO gets thousands of cases to process. It may be a week or two, sometimes more, before the AGO enters the complaint in its system and sends it to us. In some cases, the AGO may not forward the matter to us because it is not within the parameters they have established.

For yet another reason, we are a volunteer organization. Cases are handled by part-time volunteer Case Managers. If your call to the Volunteer Case Manager comes on a day when he or she is not working, they will not be able to get back to you until they are back on duty. Similarly, if the Case Manager is very busy, they may not be able to get back to you as quickly as you would like. 


I tried to call you, but I keep getting voicemail. 

The telephone is NOT the best way to reach us. Our Volunteer Case Managers are part-time and can only check their voicemails when they are in the office. However, each Case Manager has a  CAC email address and, while they are not required to do so, many will check their CAC emails even on days when they are not working.  

I am not sure if what the business is doing is legal. Can you give me legal advice?

No, we cannot give you legal advice. Many of our volunteers are not attorneys. Even the volunteer attorneys on our team are forbidden to give legal advice. The Attorney General specifically prohibits us from giving legal opinions. Consider, too, that even for our lawyer volunteers, the legal question may be out of their practice area. They +may not be licensed in Massachusetts, or they may have resigned from the Bar Association when they retired. All we can do is suggest that you consider contacting a lawyer or the Barnstable County Law Library to get information about the law. 

We cannot recommend specific lawyers or law firms, but we do have a list of Legal Referral Services that we can discuss with you.

Can you recommend specific businesses, like plumbers, auto repair shops, and so on?

We cannot recommend specific vendors, as it wouldn’t be fair to the many good businesses that are out there.  However, the Links section of our website has a link to the Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division. There’s an icon you can click that provides a list of complaints received by the AG’s Office. Please remember that just because a complaint has been filed against a business, it does not mean the business did something wrong or improper. Not all consumer complaints about business are valid. 

Consumer Assistance Council

Main Office

444 Waquoit Highway, Suite 5

East Falmouth, MA 02536 

Phone: 508-771-0700

Monday - Friday: 9am-3pm

Consumer Assistance Council

Mid/Lower Cape Office:

411 Route 6A

Yarmouth Port, MA 02675


Monday - Friday: 9am-3pm