Questions Presented on the Air
I planned a trip to Spain month's ago. With the recent terror strike, my husband and I no longer want to go. What is our travel agency required to do?
Usually, when you book a trip through a travel agency, you can chose to get travelers insurance. If you bought travelers insurance, you should look through the terms of the agreement and see if you are able to cancel a trip. If you did not purchase travelers insurance, or your insurance does not cover the trip cancellation. The best thing is to start by speaking with your travel agent. Hopefully, they will be understanding of your concerns, but they may not be able to offer an alternative because they have already paid for portions of the trip. Lastly, if you have no success making alternative arrangements with the agency, you may wish to write a 30 day demand letter.
I am in need of some legal assistance. Are there any free lawyers I can speak to?
There is a free referral service to help you find the right attorney for your needs. The Lawyer Referral Service is a nonprofit public service of the Boston Bar Association. The Service will provide an impartial referral to an attorney in your city or town who handles a specific kind of legal problem. They will help you define your problem and then refer you to an attorney or other appropriate resources. The referral service is free, but your initial half hour appointment with your attorney normally will cost about $25.00. When you discuss your problem with the attorney, you also should agree on any additional fees before you proceed. The contact information for the lawyer referral service can be obtained by calling our consumer hotline.
My electricity company is threatening to shut off my service, but I believe I am only one payment late. How quickly can they do that?
Electric service cannot be terminated for non-payment before April 15th and natural gas service before May 1st. Also, electric and natural gas bills must be due 45 days after you receive the initial bill. The utility company should send you a notice before the 45 day period ends and after the original 45 days have passed, the company is then required to provide another warning before shutting off service. The company may then terminate your service between Monday through Thursday, as long as the shut-off date is not a holiday or the day before a holiday. If you have any questions concerning this matter you may wish to contact the Department of Telecommunications and Energy.
Questions Not Presented on the Air
I looked up prices on a hotel website. The site said rooms were $120 for a Saturday night stay. When I called the hotel they said it was $170 a night and that it was misprinted on the website. They refused to honor the price posted on their website. Can they do this? - Anne, Barnstable
If an advertisement contains an error, the seller may honor the terms stated in the advertisement or promptly correct the misrepresentation using the same advertising medium (940 CMR 6.13). Therefore, if the hotel corrected the misprint on their website as soon as possible, they do not have to honor the incorrect price.
I recently had to purchase some suppression stockings for a procedure I was having done on my legs. I called the store to ask how much these stockings cost and they said $82. They accept Tufts health insurance and when I wanted to use it, they price of the stocking went up to $106. How can that be? Is it legal? - Kris, North Attleboro
In Massachusetts, stores are allowed to set their products at any price. Furthermore, they are allowed to change the price at any time, providing that the item is marked with the new price.
The town-building inspector came to inspect my business and closed part of my business stating the permit did not cover that portion of my business. I feel that my permit covers everything and want to appeal the decision of this town-building inspector. How do I do that? - Judy, Yarmouth
The situation you are experiencing seems to require some legal help. You may wish to contact a lawyer at the Massachusetts Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service at 800-392-6164. You may also want to contact your local courthouse for information on how to pursue this individual through court.
I have a complaint with my credit card company, but the company does not reside in Massachusetts. The company advertises here and does business here but is not physically located here. I want to take them to small claims court. Do I need to do this in the state where they are headquartered or can I do this in Massachusetts? Please advise. - Deborah, Medford
Yes, Massachusetts' residents can pursue out-of-state companies in Massachusetts' courthouses. Although, it may be easier for you to pursue the company in Massachusetts, it might be unlikely that the out-of-state business sends representation for the hearing. Even if the court awards you a winning judgment, it may difficult to collect the judgment.
What is the statute of limitations that a bill collector has to stop calling? - Debbie, Billerica
The state Consumer Protection Act prohibits some debt collection practices. ( M.G.L. c. 93A, §2(c), 940 CMR 7.00) When dealing directly with you, creditors and collection agencies may not:
- Call you more than twice for each debt in each 7 day period at home, or call you more than twice for each debt in each 30 day period at someplace other than your home.
- Call you without identifying both the name of the creditor and the name of the person calling.
- Call you at times other than your normal waking hours. If your waking hours are unknown, then the creditor or collector may only call between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
- Visit your home at times other than those mentioned above. A collector cannot visit more than once in any 30 day period for each debt, unless you give permission for additional visits.
- Cause you to be charged for long distance calls (or other similar costs).
- Call you at work if you requested that they not call. Your oral request is valid for only 10 days, unless you confirm it in writing within 7 days of making the request. Written request are valid until you write to the collector removing the restriction.
- Contact you directly, if you have told the creditor or collection agency to only contact your attorney.
- Falsely threaten to take legal action.
- Use profane or obscene language.
Federal law provides some additional protections against debt collection agencies. (This law does not apply to creditors):
- Collectors must verify your debt. Collectors must stop calling you if, within 30 days after you are first contacted, you send the agency a letter indicating that you do not owe the debt. They can only renew their collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt.
- You may stop a debt collector from contacting you. Write a letter to the collector telling them to stop contacting you. Once the collection agency receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact. They also may contact you to inform you if they are going to take some specific action, such as suing you.
I ordered bulbs from the White Flower Farm and they charged my credit card before I received the merchandise. I ordered in March and received the products in April. They said they had to charge me early to reserve the product. Is this correct? - Barb, Halifax
The store has the right to charge you for the product before you receive the merchandise, providing that you authorized the charge to take place at that time. If you did not authorize the charge, you should contact your credit card company.
I bought the household cleaner CLR and on the back of the product it says "if this product does not perform…" you can return it for a cash refund. I took it back to Home Depot where I bought it and they said they couldn't give me cash refund because it was passed 60 days. How can I secure this cash refund? - Evie, Quincy
The manufacturer of the product is promising a cash refund, not Home Depot. Home Depot has the right to have a 60-day cash refund policy. You should contact the manufacturer of the CLR household cleaner to get your cash refund.
I saw a car advertised for a certain price. When I called up to inquire about this car the dealer said that was the price after a $2950 down payment or a trade. The dealer said that was indicated in the fine print. Is this legal? - Gloria Hudson
In most circumstances, as long as the information regarding the $2950 was included in the advertisement, it would be legal. If you still believe that the advertisement is illegal, you may want a lawyer at the Massachusetts Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service to have the advertisement assessed. The Lawyer Referral Service can be contacted at 800-392-6164.
A friend of mine received a store credit from Lechter's shortly before it closed. Within a month or two all the Lechter's closed up shop and she still has this store credit. What can she do? - Jen, Marblehead
When a store closes and is not bought by a new company, consumers may experience difficulty in getting the store credit's honored. When Lechter's closed its doors, it was due to bankruptcy. You may wish to contact the Bankruptcy court to obtain more information on how creditors are compensated. The Massachusetts' Bankruptcy Court can be contacted at 617-565-8950.
I bought a computer back in December and it had a $150 manufacturers rebate attached to it. I haven't received the rebate and went back to CompUSA, but they can't help. What can I do? - Gabriel, Waltham
Hopefully you have made copies of all your rebate information. You should send the rebate company a 30 Day Demand Letter. If your 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. To see a sample letter of a 30 Day Demand Letter please go to http://www.mass.gov/consumer/.
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 rented a storage room from UHaul in Somerville. I canceled within 72 hours of reserving it, but they said they couldn't give me my money back. Isn't there a 72-hour rule about canceling a purchase? - Connie, Boston
In general Massachusetts does not have a 3-day right to cancel policy. The state mandates a 3-day right to cancel in limited circumstances (i.e. timeshares, door-to-door sales, health clubs, and credit repair and service organizations). For more information on when Massachusetts' residents have a 3-day right to cancel, please check our consumer tip at http://www.mass.gov/consumer/Tips/tp040504.htm.