The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has fined a medical debt collector and ordered the company to provide financial relief to consumers for mishandling credit-reporting disputes.

The CFPB ordered Syndicated Office Systems to provide about $5.4 million in relief to affected consumers. The CFPB fined the company $500,000.

Syndicated Office Systems, which does business as Central Financial Control, is an indirect subsidiary of Conifer Health Solutions. Conifer's parent company is Tenet Healthcare.

The CFPB said Syndicated Office Systems prevented customers from knowing their full rights in medical debt collections. Specifically, the bureau claims Syndicated Office Systems violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by neglecting to respond to 13,000 consumer credit report disputes, and by not having a system in place to handle credit disputes.

Additionally, the bureau said that Syndicated Office Systems failed to give customers legally required information about how to request proof that a debt is owed, and information about how to dispute debt-collection attempts.

"These violations are particularly egregious given the challenges many consumers already face who are attempting to navigate the medical debt maze," CFPB director Richard Cordray said in a news release.

A Central Financial Control spokeswoman said the company will pay about $5.1 million in restitution to consumers, forgive about $320,000 in debt and pay a $500,000 civil penalty. Central Financial Control requested that credit-reporting agencies remove certain information about consumers that the company had furnished, and said that it had updated its own systems before the CFPB issued its enforcement action.

Central Financial Control said in a statement that it was "forthcoming and responsive to all CFPB requests" during the investigation, and it also noted that the CFPB found no evidence that the company engaged in unfair, deceptive or abusive practices.

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