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You hear about it all the time. In-store representatives for
cellphone carriers promising activation/processing fees
be waived or your first month of service will be free if you
buy at their store, then your bill comes 31 days later and
you find that they were blowing smoke up your ass.
the corporate headquarters, and they apologize profusely
but refuse to honor the word of their employee, stating
he promised something that policy prohibits them from
delivering. Because you are now outside your 30-day
buyer's remorse period, you are free to cancel service, but
there will be a $325.00 contract early termination fee.
Today, I called my electric company to check on my bill
status. I was late, as I was aware of, and wanted to make
arrangements to avoid termination of service. I was told
that my service was already scheduled for termination on
Monday, and if I made the payment Monday or put it in
mail today it would be too late to beat the system. If I
AFTER it's been terminated, there's a $250.00 deposit I
to pay up front, in addition to the bill itself, to get it
restored. They were very sorry, but there was just no way
they could make arrangements to allow me to go into the
corporate office across town and pay it on Monday.
I made the call at 4:30 PM, and the corporate office had
already closed for the day and would not be open until,
this... Monday. They told me that if I can make it into the
nearest pay station, which was still open, by 5:00 PM
tonight (and not a minute later), they will post the
immediately and cancel the termination order. I am told
specifically (because I asked) that I am not required to
a bill printout, that all I will need to provide is my
number and pay-station code.
SO, I drive across town and get to the pay station at 4:45
PM. I am told they are very sorry, but they are unable to
accept payments without a bill printout. There is nothing
they can do about it, and my attitude will not help one
SO, at 4:52 PM, I call my electric company again and
the situation. I am told they will be happy to post a note
my account extending service until Monday, when I can
a payment in person at the corporate headquarters. They
are very sorry, but I will not be compensated for my time
fuel spent following the directions provided by the
This scenario happens all the time to all sorts of people.
Frankly, it's unacceptable that businesses are allowed to
away with it, yet they do. So I propose a fine be
automatically levied against any company that refuses to
accept financial responsibility for the mistakes made by
their representatives. Either they honor the word of their
representative (in a case such as mine, that means they
would be required to accept payment at the pay-station
without the bill printout being presented, or take a
percentage off the bill to compensate me for the time
and fuel spent driving to the pay-station), or they pay a
$1,000.00 fine to the
government agency tasked with enforcing the regulation.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of such a
crime, please call 1-800-BIZ-CRIME. The issue will be
investigated thoroughly. Call recordings will be listened
Store security camera footage will be reviewed. You will
notified of the resolution within 3-5 business days.
Compensation, if the defendant agrees to pay, will be
issued to you within 5-7 business days or taken out of your
next bill statement from the defendant company.
||What's that you say? I rant hear you.
||You would have to go to law school to fully
understand oral contracts, detrimental reliance,
etc., but you can trust me that legal theories
abound to hold people civilly liable for
misrepresentations of this type. I'll look into for you
for $175 per hour from a from a $6000 drawdown
||Generous offer, [norm], but bear in mind that when the Revolution comes, you're going to go up against the wall for the firing squad, along with the journalists, politicians, and real-estate agents.
||I'm well aware that I could sue. I'm talking about a more
automatic process that doesn't require individual lawsuits to be
filed. Call centers already get fined for making calls after certain
hours without the person being called having to sue.
||Why should I have to go through the hassle and expense
taking the company to small-claims court (taking a day
off work to drive to the courthouse, jumping through
hoops to get the appropriate paperwork, serving the
papers, waiting 2 months for a court date, then taking
another day off work to attend the court appearance,
and waiting two hours because I was told I have a 2:00
PM docket but so did 20 other people) for an 18-dollar
activation fee that I was promised would be waived? I
more money taking a day off work than I would get even
won the lawsuit. Companies know this, that's why they
away with this bullshit.
|| Nevermind the cost of writing a more complete contract,
I'm talking about something that's already illegal. They
know it currently costs
customers more to sue than to just pay the bogus fees.
has got to be changed! That is why I propose a
government task force be established to levy these fines,
which would pay for the task force and ensure
appropriate punishment for the company.
|| A simple investigation need not incur too much expense...
an office with 4 employees, each paid 15 bucks an hour.
A single phone call to the company's Quality Assurance
department to obtain a recording of the call in question.
A trip downtown to visit a retail location and demand
security camera footage.
|| If a company thinks they shouldn't have to pay for the
mistakes of their employees, they can go through the
time and expense of suing the employee to get the money
||...the cost of which would ultimately be returned to
the customer in the form of higher costs.
|| EDIT: I removed the complete contracting link
because it only complicates the argument away from
the core point.
||Then that company would either lose business to lower-
priced competitors or would start policing their
better. That's how the free market works, swim. The free
market means that if I am dissatisfied with a company, I
free to take my business elsewhere. It does NOT mean I
have to pay those fees first, and just walk away from a
loss, but because of the Banks' increasing involvement in
our lives, if I walk away without paying those bullshit
fees it goes against my credit rating, which makes my life
much more difficult in a lot of ways.
||Yes, that's how a free market works. And the
business that is so annoying to you is the product
those free market forces. Customers aren't willing
pay extra so that last-minute-paying fellow
customers can get perfect service.
|| I agree with you in spirit, but the practicalities of
this are something that I equate with WIBNI
because of the cost of implementation. Everyone
would like this to exist, if it weren't so costly. But
because it is so costly, people aren't willing to pay
for it. If you could come up with a way of
implementing this without adding cost, -then- you
would have an idea.
||I think in a city with at least 5 call center companies,
around 500 employees answering phones all day every
and a $1,000.00 fine for all the bullshit those employees
spew, it would more than pay for itself.
|| Certain types of companies (the electric company, for
instance) have to request and obtain permission from the
government to increase their rates. I see it in the paper
every few months, 'Avista Utilities petitioning for 5% rate
increase'. If the government sees a request from such a
company, then sees that the same company has been
paying lots and lots of false information fines, they're
going to see a correlation and deny the company
permission to increase rates. 'Get your shit together for
the next 12 months, and we'll revisit the subject.'
||[swimswim] Agreed: this is about fixing a
perceived defect in the free market, not about
allowing the free market to operate. The funding
mechanism of //1-800-BIZ-CRIME//, and its lavish
investigative resources is left as an exercise to
the reader. Taxes, maybe, but that's the
legislative equivalent of "just add genetic" Unlike
genetic engineering, however, the Help page
makes no mention of "there oughta be a law!"
|| But this idea can be implemented within the free
market, i.e. without a tax-funded government
bureaucracy. How about a private firm, combining
legal services with insurance: you pay them
premiums, and then, if you discover you've been
misled by a vendor, you submit a claim, and, if
their adjustors think you've got a case, they sue
the vendor (or, more likely, settle out of court, in
large batches of claimants.) Call it "rip-off
insurance," or something like that. Whether
enough consumers would chose to pay what it
cost, plus profit, is an empirical question.
|| But there's a simpler free-market solution:
competing fee-charging* third-party reviewers who
provide unbiased product information. The
buyer is then responsible for doing research
before making the purchase/contract, and is
bound by the contract. This would allow
individuals to decide -- on a purchase-by-purchase
basis -- whether they were willing to pay extra for
|| *paid by the prospective consumer, so they have
profit motive to provide accurate information,
and large enough to have a brand (reputation)
||//have to request and obtain permission from the government to increase their rates// Can you explain how this is somehow part of a "free market"?
||Sure. They're free to have a monopoly on energy supply, in
exchange for playing by the rules.
||Even if we're talking about government regulated monopolies, a similar logic applies. The rules governing monopolies are an indirect result of voter opinions. A majority of voters would not want to increase the cost of operations for a utility company just so that a tiny fraction of its customers can demand perfection from their low-level customer service reps.
||Well... //sp: are an indirect result of a campaign sponsorship war.// sp: are an indirect result of a failed system of liberal arts education. And it's still a long way to the bottom...
||//I'm talking about something that's already
illegal.// You have to prove that it's illegal.
Otherwise, you are violating the company's right
to due process.
|| //A simple investigation need not incur too much
expense... 15 bucks an hour ... // so you want the
government to staff an office of fourt at a salary
of $15 an hour to do
full-on fraud investigations? Who are THEY gonna
call? Even at that, you're going to have to pay
these folks nearly $500 a day just in case someone
doesn't read their contract correctly?
|| And if the fines are paying their salaries, do you
not see the slightest conflict of interest?
|| For the record, [8th of 7], I am not, nor have I
ever been, a sleazy attorney. I represent the
elderly and people with disabilities in cases
dealing with assistive technology. I hope that the
revolution will make exceptions.
||No, I'm not talking about cases of somebody misreading
their contract. As I said in the post, I'm talking about
employees lying to customers and companies refusing to
accept responsibility for it. I've read through the terms of
service with Avista. It says some pay stations may require
a bill printout. It does NOT say which ones do and don't.
That's why I called the company and asked. They told me
that specific paystation did NOT require a bill printout,
yet it DID. What further due process do you need in this
case? This is a very cut and dry scenario. Your agent
provided false information, which inflicted direct
monetary and chronological expense on the customer.
|| What I'm talking about here is not intricate fraud schemes
and refusal to let you out of a contract because you don't
think you got the level of service you paid for. That stuff
is too complicated to handle out of court. I'm talking
about specific incidents where an agent promises one
thing (something not covered in the contract terms and
conditions) and fails to deliver.
|| For instance, the contract says that no cellphone
provider can ever guarantee 100% service all the time.
Agent in the store says 'I guarantee you will never
experience a single dropped call on our network'. Well
yes, the agent lied, but if you read the contract you
would have seen that he was blowing smoke. That isn't
something that my proposal covers.
|| On the other hand, the contract says 'activation and
service fees MAY be charged'. Agent in the store says 'we
will waive your activation fee'. Well, the contract left it
open for the agent to make that promise. He made the
promise, and your company refused to honor it. You're
getting fined. If the contract said 'Activation and service
fees WILL be charged to EVERY customer', that would be
a case for due process.
||//specific incidents where an agent promises one thing
(something not covered in the contract terms and
conditions) and fails to deliver//
|| In that case, it's really simple. You just need evidence
of what they've falsely promised you. And if the evidence
doesn't exist, it's best to enact costly systemic changes
to ensure that no action, word or assumption ever slips by
without full and thorough (and court admissable)
documentation. I'm sorry, at first I misread this and
thought it was more complicated.
||Well with call centers, that's easy. Every call is
'recorded for quality purposes'. That means you just
have to compel the company to give you access to
recording, which they are very reluctant to do. This
why it needs to be somebody from the government
with actual authority requesting access, otherwise
won't be able to obtain the evidence. Your other
option is to record every call you make to the
company yourself. Because the company has it's own
policy of recording every call for quality purposes,
they already know it's being recorded so you don't
have to remind them to make it legally admissible.
||// What further due process do you need in this case? //
This is the sort of statement that makes attorneys quietly
shake their heads, wondering if the job is actually worth
You want to give a government agency sweeping police
powers to investigate and seize private property that will
be used as incriminating evidence before a tribunal that
will then issue a ruling without trial. This may be
convenient for someone who is out 30 bucks, but it is pure
fantasy with regard to what is allowable under the COTUS,
and the constitutions of most free nations.
||Well when Judges start working weekends so I don't
have to miss out on two days' work to sue someone
30 bucks, I'll start caring a little bit more about due
|| All I'm saying is, there should be a way to sue people
for small amounts that doesn't cost the plaintiff
than he's suing for. I've taken a used car dealer to
court to get my money back for the lemon he sold
me. I got the purchase price refunded to me. I got
the filing and service fees refunded to me. I did not
get reimbursed for lost wages the day the truck
broke down on my way into work. I did not get
reimbursed for taking time off work to go to court.
||One of the first things I do is find out where the call-centre is. I seem to have much improved quality-of-assistance when I casually mention that I can be there in 20 minutes and they or their supervisor can explain it to me in person.
||That's not always easy to do. I work in a call center, and I've
been given specific instructions not to reveal our location. I can
give city and state, and that's it. Even if I did, I know a customer
calling from Florida isn't going to be here in 20 minutes. That
kind of threat only works if you happen to BE in the vicinity of
the call center.