Questions Answered On the Air:
I am behind on one of my bills and the debt collector has been calling me at work. Can they do that?
In Massachusetts, a debt collector can only call you at a place outside your residence two times in any 30 day period for each debt. Also, if you request orally that a debt collector not telephone you at work, then they may not make those calls for 10 days. If you follow this request within 7 days with a written request to the debt collector, then the collector should not contact you again at work, unless you rescind your request in writing.
When my young son surfs the Internet, how can I be sure that he is not giving out personal information?
The federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires commercial sites aimed at kids under 13 to take certain precautions, such as obtaining parental consent before collecting information from children. But this Act only covers the collection of information, and it only applies to sites that are clearly aimed at children. There are lots of sites out there that are perfectly legitimate that may have content that is just not appropriate for 10- and 12-year-olds. The best ways to protect your child from material that you do not think is appropriate is to talk to them about their online travels, make sure they know they can go to you if they have questions about what they encounter online, and even surf with them. As a parent, it is your job to monitor your child's internet travels as closely as possible.
I read about a great deal on air conditioners in my local paper. When I went to the store, they only had more expensive air conditioners, and it was the same day that the sale started.
This may be bait and switch. A merchant must have enough of the advertised merchandise available for sale to meet reasonably expected demand. Since the summer is approaching, it may be foreseeable for air conditioners to sell more rapidly, especially at a good price. If a store is out of stock of a product, then it generally has to provide you with a "raincheck." This will allow you to buy the product for the advertised price when it is in stock again. The store can also offer a comparable substitute for the out of stock item. However, the store does not have to provide rainchecks if the ad states that the available quantities are limited or unavailable in certain geographic areas, or if the demand was more than could reasonably have been anticipated.
Questions Not Answered On the Air:
My son was insured on his car at a certain step. Two years later the insurance company said they charged him at the wrong step and are now back-charging him. Are they allowed to do this? - Jackie, Easton
You may wish to contact the Division of Insurance to find out what his rights are in this circumstance. The Division of Insurance can be reached at (617) 521-7794.
When returning merchandise, is it legal for a store to refuse to refund state taxes without a receipt? - Virginia, Scituate
The Department of Revenue handles all tax issues for the state. The Department of Revenue may be contacted at 800-392-6089.
I purchased a hot water heater with a lifetime warranty. A piece of the water heater broke and a leak sprung. The company repaired the water heater and charged me $491. The warranty company says that they only cover leaks that sprung as a result of the heater. In this case, the coil broke off, which caused the leak. This is not covered in the warranty. - Barbara, Norfolk
Extended warranties may only cover specific parts and circumstances. You should look at your paperwork regarding future repairs and coverage.
If you are unable to resolve a complaint with a merchant informally, then you may decide to take legal action. 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.
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. For more information on the 30 Day Demand Letter, please go to http://www.mass.gov/consumer/Pubs/demand.htm.