Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom periodically participates in WCVB Channel 5's Midday Call In show and takes questions from consumers. Following are questions and responses received on January 20, 2004. We have included both questions that were answered during the broadcast and questions that were not answered on the air due to lack of time. Feel free to contact the Office of Consumer Affairs at 888-283-3757 if you have any questions related to these issues.
I signed up for membership at Gold's Gym in Downtown Crossing. The gym has still not opened yet, and they have already begun to deduct money from my account. I want to cancel my membership. What can I do?
Under Chapter 93A (Consumer Protection Act), a consumer may cancel their health club contract if the facilities fail to open as planned. You may also with to know that the law prohibits health clubs from making citizens pay by electronic fund transfer and credit cards. You should contact our office to find out about the appropriate methods to cancel the contract.
Note: Health club contracts can also be canceled if you move your residence of place of employment more than 25 miles from the gym, you get a doctor's note saying you can no longer work-out, sever physical or mental state, and death.
I am in the process of buying a used card and the dealership wants to charge me $25 for a certificate of title. This seems awfully high.
$25 is high , and it is also illegal. A dealership may only charge up to $5 for a certificate of title. This may not be the only fee however. For example, there is no limit on what a dealership may charge for a documentation fee. Most fees, whether in a car sale or otherwise, are negotiable, so feel free to haggle with the dealership.
I am so excited about the Patriot's getting in the Super Bowl. I have been looking into ticket agencies, but the prices seem to be outrageous. What are they allowed to charge?
Ticket resellers are allowed to charge a fee of $2.00 plus a reasonable service charge. If you feel that a certain reseller is severely taking advantage of the situation than you may wish to contact the Dept. of Public Safety. The Dept. will take into account the demand for the event, and has the authority to determine if it is fair.
Do stores that sell recyclable bottles, need to allow consumers to be able to bring their bottles back for deposit?
- Bill, Beacon Hill
You may wish to contact the Department of Environmental Protection's Recycling Information Division at 617-556-1021. The Recycling Division should be able to answer all questions concerning the "Bottle Law".
I recently got a bill from a creditor I never heard of. They were asking for a lot of personal information. What should I do?
Whenever someone contacts you that you do not know, you should research the company fully before giving them any personal information. To find out if there is a complaint history on the company, you may wish to contact the Attorney General's Office at 617-727-8400 and the Better Business Bureau at 508-652-4800. If you still cannot get any information on the company, we would caution you to highly consider not giving out your personal information to anyone you do not know.
This Christmas I was a frequent shopper at Sears and Target. Often there was no signage or tags on the items. What are the item pricing laws?
- Eileen, South Boston
Merchants must mark all non-grocery store merchandise with the actual selling price. They also must disclose to you the cost of services prior to an agreement. Merchants cannot misrepresent the price or claim that it is reduced or offered for a limited time only, when this is untrue. This pricing law is enforced by the Attorney General. (940 CMR 3.13(l)).
I received a call from the Federal Consumer Protection Agency in Washington D.C., claiming that I will get thousands of dollars if I send them a check for $1500. Is this legitimate?
- Cheryl, Chelsea
There are many scams out there, and we are unaware if this is a scam. To find out if there is a complaint history on the company you may wish to contact the Attorney General's Office at 617-727-8400 and the Better Business Bureau at 508-652-4800. We advise extreme caution when sending any money to something that sounds "too good to be true".
I paid off by credit card debt, but now one of my creditors is saying that I still owe money on a finance charge. What can I do?
- Linda, Wilmington
Unfortunately, we do not know what kind of arrangement you entered into when settling with the credit card company. I would ask to speak with a manager, and explain the situation to them. You may wish to tell them, that you believed that your debt was completely paid. You should also look at any fine print or contract that you may have entered into with the company.I am getting very high bills from Chase. Is this regulated?
- Helima, Dorchester
Unfortunately many credit card fees are not regulated. A credit card company can charge whatever amount they like when it comes to late fees and over the limit fees. You may want to look over your contract agreement with the credit card company, and see the amount of the fees they can charge you. You may wish to contact the creditor and try to renegotiate the fees if it is a first offense.Do all gift certificates have to have an expiration date?
- Lisa, Lexington
No, not all gift certificates must have an expiration date. Under the new state gift certificate law, all gift certificates issued without an expiration date are good forever. All those issued with an expiration date are good for seven years.
I had a piece of jewelry repaired. They did not give me back the old piece of gold. Is that allowed?
- Dotty, South Weymouth
Just because you are having something repaired, does not give the store the right to hold on to the broken material. Since it is your property, you should be able to get the item back. You may want to discuss this with the store before giving them your business, to ensure that they do not throw away the broken item.Can a merchant put a one-year time limit on a gift certificate?
- Marie, Dracut
No, under the new state gift certificate law, all gift certificates are good for seven years from the date of issuance. Also, all gift certificates issued without an expiration date are good forever. Even if the gift certificate said that it was valid for seven years, the merchant would still have to abide by the law.