A WIDE ARRAY of issues can arise after making a large product purchase or repair.
Let’s say you can’t start your lawn mower and it’s just the second time you used it, or the car is still making that funny noise the mechanic assured you was fixed. If this sounds familiar, you might be confronting a consumer issue.
The Consumer Federation of America has indicated that most grievances that consumers have surround the purchase of used cars, home improvements, vehicle repairs, mail orders, telemarketing, and credit and collection issues. Here is a quick look at some of these and how you can deal with them.
The first tip is to try to avoid issues from the start. This is the time to decide what you want and do some homework. Maybe ask friends for their experiences with the product you wish to buy. Shop around. Are some brands and manufacturers more highly regarded than others? You might also want to check out the Consumer Reports magazine, which is produced by an organization that tests and recommends products.
Finding a good service provider is another research challenge. Again, review the company’s reputation and check with your friends to see if they have used the company’s services. The local Better Business Bureau might provide you with information. Your area might have a chamber of commerce that could help you out as well. Trust your instincts.
Once you decide to buy the product or engage a service provider, make sure to read the contract before signing. It’s also important to understand the terms, which could include information like repayment terms, interest rates if the product is purchased on credit, and your rights as a consumer.
The product might come with a warranty. Extended warranties can be costly. Is the cost worth the benefit you might get from the warranty? Are you going to receive good service, if needed, under the warranty?
Service contracts are another area that need careful consideration. Before you decide to purchase one along with the product, ask yourself: Is the item likely to need service? Will the contract cover the period in which you are likely to use it?
Instead of purchasing a service contract, you might want to check out the company’s written refund policy in case the product fails right after you bring it home. Using your credit card might protect you against product failures as well.
Speaking of credit cards, the Fair Credit Billing Act might allow the use of your card to obtain a warranty in case something is wrong with your purchase. For example, let’s say the new stove you just purchased has a dent and the store you bought it from refuses to do anything. If this is the case, write to your credit card company and identify the charged item and state the complaint you have. You might be able to withhold payment until the complaint is cleared.
The Consumer Credit Protection Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act are other laws designed to help consumers. These, coupled with your state’s lemon laws, are there to help. It pays to know your rights under these laws.
Keep in mind the key to resolving an issue is perseverance. First, see if you are using the product properly. Next, register your complaint. This should be made in writing. Do this as soon as you discover the product is defective. Keep copies of all your correspondence. Write the names, phone numbers, dates and times of all communications pertaining to the issue. Pursue your problem within the company as far up the management chain as you can reach.
Next, call government consumer agencies. There are trade groups that might be able to help. Consumer action lines can assist or give advice as to how you should proceed. The last thing to consider is taking action in small-claims court.