Satellite TV Provider is Charging for Movies Never Ordered

September 12, 2013 18:58 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

My satellite TV provider charged me for movies that I did not order and refuses to give me proof showing that I did order them (which they claim to have).  What are my legal rights in this situation?

Consumer Ed Says:

Satellite TV is considered a type of cable television service.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and local cable franchising authorities (the city, county or other government organization responsible for regulating cable television services in your area) regulate certain aspects of the cable industry, including some rates and business practices.  However, for the most part, price and service decisions are determined by each cable company, and your right to dispute billing charges is set by your provider's complaint procedures as laid out in your service agreement.

Below are some suggestions for handling billing disputes with your satellite provider:

 

  • Contact your satellite provider first, by phone and in writing, and attempt to resolve the dispute following the company's complaint procedures.The customer service representatives at your satellite provider are your first and best line of defense, especially since rates for premium movie charges are not regulated by the government.
  • If you aren't satisfied with your satellite provider's response, or if it fails to respond, contact your local franchising authority.  The name of the franchising authority (which may be the Board of Commissioners in the county where you receive service) should be on the front or back of your TV bill.  If this information isn't on your bill, contact your satellite provider or your local town or city hall.
  • Your local franchising authority may have adopted the FCC's Customer Service Guidelines, which gives cable/satellite subscribers additional rights, such as the right to a response to a written complaint about billing matters within 30 days.  Or your franchising authority may have its own customer service or billing rules regulating local cable service providers, which may provide you with additional rights or procedures for handling billing disputes.  Some local franchising authorities have online complaint forms that you can use to complain about unresolved billing disputes and practices.
  • If you are still unable to reach an agreement with your satellite provider, you may consider contacting the Better Business Bureau to file a complaint.
  • At each step, keep clear and detailed notes about each development, including names, dates and contents of each person and communication in which you participate.

 

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Doggy Daycare Refuses to Issue Refund

August 15, 2013 18:41 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

We purchased a block of 30 visits to a doggy daycare.  Tragically, our puppy had to be put down shortly after.  The owner of the doggy daycare refused to refund the balance (several hundred dollars) citing a no refunds policy. I have no other pets, am I just out the money?

Consumer Ed Says:

Georgia law doesn't require businesses to provide a refund or accept returns or exchanges, which means they can set their own return/refund policies.  These policies may offer consumers a cash refund, store credit, or exchange, or they may prohibit returns of any kind. Except in very limited circumstances, the law generally does not guarantee you the right to a refund or a three-day cancellation.
 
Even so, there are a few circumstances under which you might be entitled to a refund. Stores must honor the terms of their return policies. So if a business has a return policy that provides for refunds, and if you abided by the terms of that policy, then the store is obligated to issue you a refund.
 
Alternatively, if the doggie daycare received the benefit of your money without having to provide the services for which you paid, you may have a claim for unjust enrichment (which is another way of saying that the daycare unfairly profited at your expense). You should seek legal advice about your individual situation; if you can't afford your own lawyer, contact your local legal aid office or consider using your local magistrate court.If you believe that the daycare didn't adequately disclose the terms and conditions of its refund policies, or that those policies were otherwise unfair or deceptive, you can file a complaint with the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection at www.consumer.georgia.gov or by calling 1-800-869-1123. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by visiting ftc.gov or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
 
The best way to protect yourself in future transactions of this kind is to inquire into a company's refund policies prior to making a purchase, and to ask for those policies in writing.

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Credit Card Surcharges

May 28, 2013 17:36 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

How much of a surcharge are merchants allowed to charge you for paying with a credit card?

ConsumerEd says:

Surcharges for credit card payments became legal in January of 2013 following a class-action settlement between merchants, Visa, MasterCard, and a number of major banks.  Now, merchants may charge from 2-4% (but not more) of the underlying credit card purchase if you make your purchase using either a Visa or MasterCard credit card.  This surcharge is meant to cover the cost that merchants pay to the credit card companies in order to have the ability to process payments made with those credit cards.

However, merchants who add this fee onto their customers’ bills must post a sign in their front window notifying them of this.  Additionally, the merchants must disclose the exact amount of the surcharge at the point of sale and on their receipts.  A caution:  For online purchases, merchants are only required to disclose this surcharge on the first page where the potential customer is prompted to enter in his/her credit card information.

These surcharges may only be imposed on Visa and MasterCard purchases; such fees may not (at least not yet) be assessed for an American Express or Discover Card purchase.  Finally, a merchant can never impose a surcharge for a purchase made on a debit card.

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