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 March 24, 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.
Questions Presented on the Air
I lost one of my credit cards. What should I do? - Mary, Brockton
You should immediately contact the issuer of the card. All credit card companies are required to have an 800 number that should be in the papers that came with the card or on a current bill. It is extremely important to act quickly, because once you have reported the card lost or stolen, you will not be liable for any further charges to the account. Another good idea, is to place a fraud alert with all three of the major credit reporting agencies, which are Equifax, Transunion and Experian.
I bought my child a video game in K.B. Toys. He has not opened the toy yet and has decided he does not want it. KB will not refund my money. This doesn't seem fair. - Ginger, Dunstable
Right now, KB Toys has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Chapter 11 is a rehabilitation period. KB is closing some of its stores, but many of them are going to remain open through this period. If the merchandise is defective you are entitled to a refund or an exchange. If it is not defective, you would be bound to the store's return policy, which should be clearly and conspicuously stated in the store. Often in circumstances when a company has filed for bankruptcy their return policies become stricter. Consumers should be cautious when buying items in a store that has filed for bankruptcy.
My vehicle was repossessed. What are my rights to get the car back? - Mark, North Attleboro
Your rights will depend on if you financed or leased the vehicle. If your vehicle was financed, then you can get it back. Once a creditor has repossessed your vehicle, it must send you a notice that you have 20 days to regain possession of the vehicle before the company can sell it. At this point, however the creditor may require you to pay off the entire balance of the loan plus reasonable repossession costs in order to regain possession. For a leased vehicle, any rights you may have would appear in your lease contract.
Questions Not Presented on the Air
I am on the Do Not Call list. A non-profit organization continuously calls my home. Is this legal? - Nancy, Woburn
Non-profit organizations are exempt from the Do Not Call program. You should definitely ask the organization to remove you from the list, if it continues to be bothersome. If you are unsure if the company is exempt from the program, you may want to contact the Attorney General's Office. For more information on the Do Not Call program please go to https://www.madonotcall.govconnect.com/Welcome.asp
Why are some large insurance companies prevented from doing business in Massachusetts? - Mike, Raynham
You may wish to contact the Division of Insurance. The Division of Insurance provides consumers with general insurance information, and advises consumers of their options under their policies, state laws and regulations. They may be contacted at (617) 521-7794.
I had my car repaired, and we agreed that the repairs would cost $800. The repairperson charged my credit card $2000 without my authorization. What recourse do I have? - Jim, Peabody
If it becomes apparent that your car needs repairs other than those that you have authorized, or if the price for performing the authorized repairs will exceed the original estimate by more than $10, a repair shop must notify you and obtain your permission before continuing the work 940 CMR 5.05 (7). Therefore, if the repair shop needed to make additional repairs, they should have asked your permission first. A helpful option might be to contact your credit card company and dispute the charge with them.
I called my cable television provider to have them block the ability for my children to order pay-per-view movies. My child ordered 4 movies the other day. I thought that my provider blocked this ability, but I was informed that it was done incorrectly. Am I responsible to pay for the movies? - Sue, Quincy
You can certainly argue that since your request was done incorrectly, you should not have to pay for the movies. You should ask to speak with a manager. If you are unable to resolve a complaint with your provider informally, then you may decide to take legal action. If think you problem involves an unfair or deceptive practice, which is a violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, the law requires you to send the merchant a letter 30 days before filing a claim in court. ( M.G.L. c. 93A). The letter must outline your complaint, the harm you suffered, and how you want the problem resolved. This is called a 30 Day Demand Letter.
The merchant must make a good faith response within 30 days, or it could subject him/her to triple damages and attorney's fees. The 30 Day Demand Letter serves to encourage the merchant to negotiate and settle the claims out of court. It also establishes the amount of monetary damages you can recover if the charges are proven in court.
I left my bag at my health club the other day. I was told that they found the bag and would hold it for me until I could get it. When I went to pick it up, the bag was gone. Are they liable? - Bob, Boston
Unfortunately, this is a legal matter. You should consult an attorney regarding this issue. You may contact the Lawyer Referral Service at 800-392-6164. You should consider speaking to a manager, to see if the club will accommodate you in any way.