Libre by Nexus revised and translated their contract as a result of AG Ferguson’s investigation
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced that Libre by Nexus, an immigration bond services company, will provide more than $2.7 million in debt relief and refund a total of $58,800 to Washington-based consumers. The resolution is a result of an Attorney General’s Office investigation into the company’s contract practices, which left clients confused about the monthly fees and obligations of Libre’s program.
Even though Libre advertised in Spanish and primarily communicated with its clients in Spanish, the company provided only contracts written in English, affecting more than 400 Washington consumers. Today’s resolution, filed in King County Superior Court, requires the company to transfer all Washington customers to an improved contract.
The Attorney General’s Office will distribute the refunds to eligible customers. Libre customers will receive a letter or phone call from the Attorney General’s Office if they are eligible for a refund. Washington consumers who believe they were impacted by Libre’s practices may also contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Resource Center at 1-800-551-4636. Calls will be answered Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Libre by Nexus knew they were selling to Spanish-speaking clientele,” Ferguson said. “Its ads were in Spanish, its sales employees spoke Spanish — yet important legal documents were provided only in English. It’s no wonder many of those consumers were confused about the terms of the program. Any business with similar practices should expect to hear from my office.”
People waiting in civil detention for an immigration hearing can pay a cash bond set by a judge to be released on the condition they later appear in court. If the detainee has enough cash, they can pay their bond to the court. If they attend all their court hearings, they will receive all their money back. If they do not, the court can retain the bond.
Libre by Nexus, a Virginia-based company, facilitates posting bonds for people held in civil immigration detention centers. Libre is different from criminal bail bond companies, which do not typically issue civil immigration bonds. Libre requires a friend or family member to cosign for the detainee and pay an upfront, non-refundable fee. Libre then has a third-party company make a guarantee to the court that it will pay the person’s bond if they do not show up for court, known as posting a bond.
The detainee has the option to pay off their bond by signing over collateral to Libre in the form of cash or property. If the detainee shows up for their court date, Libre returns the collateral.
Libre meets the detainee upon their release from immigration detention and requires the detainee to sign a contract requiring them to pay a monthly fee and wear a GPS tracker, until they complete their immigration proceedings or pay off their bond.
Neither the upfront fee nor the monthly fee go towards the detainee’s bond. If a detainee wants to pay off their bond, they must to so in addition to Libre’s program fees.
Until the Attorney General’s Office investigation, neither the contract for the cosigner nor the contract for the detainee was provided in Spanish, even though the vast majority of Libre’s clients primarily speak Spanish and Libre primarily communicates with them in Spanish. Instead, Libre provided one-page summaries in Spanish that failed to convey the full terms of the 15-page contract and relied on its employees to verbally interpret the complicated contract terms.
The one-page summaries did not adequately explain all the terms of the program fees. As a result, many consumers believed their monthly payments, which were set at $420 per month at the time, would go toward their bond and eventually be returned to them at the end of the immigration proceeding. In reality, the monthly fee is non-refundable.
Under the English-only contract, Libre clients were required to pay the monthly fee and wear the GPS tracker until their immigration proceedings ended or until they paid off their bond, which often exceeds $10,000. The contract contained no limit to the number of monthly payments Libre could charge, even if the client had to wait years for their hearing.
Changes as a result of AG investigation
In response to the Attorney General’s Office investigation, Libre implemented a new contract that is available entirely in Spanish, limits the term of payments, and clarifies that the monthly fee payments are not refundable collateral payments. It also changed the monthly fee from a flat rate of $420 per month to a rate that varies depending on the amount of the bond.
Today’s assurance of discontinuance requires Libre to:
- Waive all past due program fees for Washington consumers who signed Libre’s old English-only contract but failed to make monthly payments, an amount that exceeds $2.7 million
- Pay $58,800 to refund one month of payments ($420) to the 140 customers who do not have any past due program fees
- Grant the benefits of the new contract to consumers who signed the English-only contract
- Pay $100,000 for attorney’s fees
Ferguson encourages consumers affected by similar practices to file a consumer complaint. This form is also available in Spanish. Washington’s consumer protection laws protect everyone who lives in Washington state. The Attorney General’s Office helps all Washingtonians. The office is not part of the federal government and will not turn over information to immigration authorities.
Assistant Attorneys General Craig Rader and Marsha Chien led the case.
Para leer esta noticia en español, haga clic aquí.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org