UH Law Students Form Consumer Complaint Center

Law students at the University of Houston are forming a consumer complaint center to help arbitrate disputes between consumers and businesses.

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The University of Houston Law Center received more than $360,000 from the Texas Attorney General's office to expand the school's consumer law services. Attorney General Greg Abbott says the money comes from a settlement the state received from a company convicted of deceptive marketing.

"The money came from a lawsuit that I filed against a San Antonio-based company called Mark Nutritionals. What they did was they sold a bogus weight-loss formula called 'Body Solutions' to millions of Americans. And the company later filed for bankruptcy, and as part of the bankruptcy settlement, we urged that some of the money should go to help consumers across the state of Texas."

Abbott says this is the first time Texas has used funds of this kind to start an educational program. Usually settlement money would be split up into legal fees and small payouts to millions of consumers. University of Houston Law Professor Richard Alderman heads up the Center for Consumer Law and the People's Law School. He says they plan to expand to the entire state, through web-based education and services.

"We're gonna call it the Texas Consumer Complaint Center, the CCC, and what we hope is when people have concerns relating to consumer issues that's where they go. And we will have numerous websites that will be informative, that will be educational and that will help people."

Alderman says it's also an opportunity for law students to gain valuable experience in arbitration. UH Law Student Robert Johnson has worked with the Consumer Law Center in the past and says he's looking forward to having the ability to provide even more assistance to consumers.

"It will allow the Center for Consumer Law to expand to this new CCC and go beyond merely educating the public and actually be able to help provide some sort of advocacy; to be able to help these people resolve their disputes, to not only educate them on the law but to follow up, to be able to call the other side and bring the two parties together."

An additional $360,000 will go to Southern Methodist University School of Law, where the money will fund their Consumer Advocacy Project which assists low-income clients in the Dallas area.

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