So you ordered something you saw online or on TV and it either never came or was a piece of crap. But when you tried to get your money back, you it a brick wall. Don’t fret, we’ve outlined several important steps you can take to right this wrong.
#1 – Contact Your Credit Card Company
Regulation Z of the Fair Credit Billing Act is a federal regulation designed to help consumers combat billing errors, which include: charges for something you did not agree to buy, multiple charges for one product or different from the posted price, or that never arrives in the mail. While you should first call the 800 number listed on your credit card to alert them of potential fraud, you most likely have to follow it up with a letter.
Send a letter to the “billing inquires” address (not where you send your monthly credit card payments), which looks something like this:
I am writing this to dispute a billing in the amount of [$]. This amount is incorrect because [state the reason]. I am requesting this error be corrected and my account credited for any charges relating to this billing error.
Include with your letter a copy of the disputed bill with the questioned amount highlighted. Send this letter within 60 days of the event. By law, you may be responsible for up to $50, but most credit card companies (Visa, Mastercard, Discover) will not charge you anything.
The company has 90 days to investigate and issue you a credit. In the meantime, continue to pay your bill, except the disputed amount.
More information: Disputing Credit Card Charges (FTC)
#2 – File Complaints
In addition to cheating you out of money, the company may be in violation of state and federal laws. It will be up to you, however, to alert various agencies. First, you can use the Complaint Assistant form from the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC won’t help your individual case but this information may be used by different agencies to detect fraud and punish shady companies.
On the state level and local levels, you should contact your local consumer agency and your attorney general. For example, California has Department of Consumer Affairs and the county of Los Angeles has their own consumer and business department. Look up your agency here – start with the office in the city you live in, as they might give you more specific/personal information then move up to the state.
The job of the state attorney general is to enforce the law and they often bring about lawsuits on behalf of consumers. In August 2014, the New York State Attorney General filed an action against Telebrands for violating the state’s Consumer Fraud Act. (This litigation is still pending.)
Again, while this may not help you get your money back right away, it can lead to larger settlements and/or putting the company out of business.
If it’s a supplement and you suspect criminal activity, you should fill out this form on the FDA website.
If it’s an unsafe toy or hazardous household product, you can file a report with the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission.
#3 – See if there’s a Pending Class Action
If you’ve been scammed by a company, you most likely are not the first. There could already be a class action (a group of angry consumers filing one giant lawsuit) that you could join. You could type the company’s name along with “lawsuit” “class action” or “scam” in a search engine and see if anything comes up, but that in and of itself might lead to a shady scam. Instead, look up on Consumer Action.org, which keeps a database of current lawsuits. There may be info on your state’s attorney general page as well.
You may think you’d “Better Call Saul,” meaning hire an attorney on your own. If you do so, try and get a referral and find one that will take their fee from the awarded damages and not charge you if you if you lose.
#4 – Get Social!
If you’ve been burned, don’t fume quietly at home – let others know so they don’t make the same mistake. You could alert a consumer fraud reporter who might do a story on it. For example, the New York Times has The Haggler who often contacts companies on behalf of complaints he receives. You can send him your story at email@example.com. You can also check your local paper or news station and see if they have a similar department.
Last, but certainly not least – you should post something here on Brightreviews.com! Look up the product and see if we’ve already got a page for it or write your own article. It’s our mission to protect people from scams and by letting us know, we can help spread the word as well.
- Don’t feel helpless. There are a lot of things you can do to get your money back and fight fraud.
- However, it will be up to you to take action.
- Start local and work your way up to state and federal resources.
We hope this helps. Let us know below!