BURLINGTON, March 31, 2012 – Hundreds of Bay State residents received free advice and assistance with personal finance issues ranging from credit card charges to health club scams during Consumer Day at the Burlington Mall.
The Patrick-Murray Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation – and its five affiliated agencies, Division of Insurance, Division of Banks, Division of Professional Licensure, Division of Standards and the Department of Telecommunications and Cable – spent five hours at the Burlington Mall working with residents.
Consumer Day is a new initiative by the Office of Consumer Affairs to bring vital information to the public where they live, work and play. Last fall, the office held two Consumer Days in Worcester and Springfield, assisting hundreds of local residents.
“Being a consumer is harder and more complicated than ever. Between new products and offers coming out all the time, and the sophisticated scams that come in right behind them, being a consumer is hard work,” said Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. “But we are here to help. We want to hear from consumers who have questions before they go ahead with something, and we want to help those who find themselves in a problem situation.”
During the Burlington Consumer Day, staff members assisted a consumer who had purchased legitimate anti-virus software and installed it on his computer. He noticed a pop-up opened on his computer while he was surfing the internet that appeared to be from his anti-virus software company. The pop-up stated that the anti-virus software could no longer protect his computer and that it was time to renew the subscription and update the software.
The consumer gave his credit card information for the $137.10 charge to renew and receive the upgrade, but the company never updated anything nor did it protect his computer. His computer was then attacked by a virus, either from the pop-up or something else shortly thereafter. Luckily, he had paid with a credit card and called his credit card company to dispute the charge. He was able to stop the payment, saving himself the money.
Another consumer signed up for a health club membership, but specifically stated to the employee at the counter that she did not want to sign up for an extended contract term. He assured the consumer that she would not be signing up for an extended period of time.
The employee had the consumer sign what she thought was a one-page contract, but she actually signed the second page of a two-page contract. She noticed when the health club sent her a fax of the contract that the first page stated that her contract was for a two year term, what she specifically did not want.
Consumers in Massachusetts have a three-day period in which to cancel a health club contract, but the health club sent her the fax of her contract after this three-day “cooling off” period. Consumer Affairs staff then walked her through the next steps to recover her money. She plans to file a formal complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General and send a 30-day demand letter in accordance with the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law.
“Consumer Days like this one enable us to help people when it’s convenient for them,” Undersecretary Anthony said. “We want to offer as much help to consumers as possible and spending a full day at places like the Burlington Mall is another way of fulfilling that mission.”
The Patrick-Murray Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow the Office at its blog, Consumer Connections and on Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.