HOLIDAY RETURNS MADE SIMPLE

November 12, 2010

The ritual of frantically returning purchases and exchanging unwanted gifts is part and parcel of the post-season shopping rush.  Return treks back to the malls or via the Internet are not always hassle-free endeavors.  However, with a dash of moxie and knowledge of return rules, you can make for a New Year of many Happy Returns.

RETURN TO THE RULES

In most instances, you do not have an automatic right of return, exchange, refund, or store credit for merchandise that you do not want.  As a rule, stores are not legally required to accept an item for return unless the item is defective or was misrepresented.  Some stores even have “no return” and “final sale” policies.  Get in the habit of always saving your receipts, tags, and original packaging to ease and expedite the return process.  If you do not have your original receipt, some stores will accept a credit or debit card statement as proof of purchase.  If you receive or purchase an item that you are sure you will return, do not get curious and greedy by breaking the manufacturing seal, or by opening the packaging.  If you do return an item, do so as soon as possible since many stores impose stringent time limits on making returns.  Many electronic stores charge a “restocking fee” on electronics, computers, stereos, and on accessories, and they may impose a limited return time on these items.  Additionally, video games that have been opened usually cannot be returned unless the item is defective.  Identify whether the store issues “Gift Receipts” for purchases.  This allows the person who receives a gift to make an exchange.  If the store does have a written return policy, scrupulously read all of the fine print.  Key questions to ask include: Can you receive a cash refund, or are you limited to a merchandise credit?  If you do receive a credit from the store, can you use the credit towards sale items?  Are there time limits on returning merchandise and on using store credit?  Does the item have to be returned in its original packaging with the tags left on the product?  Do you need a receipt?  The adage you get more with sugar than with vinegar holds true when making returns, so keep your calm and remain courteous.

EXCHANGE KNOWLEDGE OF ON-LINE RETURNS

If you received or purchased a gift from an on-line merchant, the return process often differs from that of your brick and mortar store.  You should check to see if you will have to pay a shipping charge to return the product, and whether the merchant has special shipping instructions.  Inquire whether the on-line store operates a retail store in your area where you can make the return yourself to avoid shipping fees.  Find out whether you need to obtain advance permission from the store before you make the return, and whether you need to obtain a Return Merchandise Authorization Number (“RMA”).  You also want to see whether you are responsible to pay a restocking fee, or an “open box fee.”  Do not delay, since many websites have strict time limits on returns.   On the website of the e-tailer, look for the address for where you will send the return, and locate where you can reach customer service if you have a problem.

Consumer Gift Certificate Alert:  If you snooze you may lose when it comes to gift certificates.  When you receive a gift certificate or a gift card, check to see when it expires, and if service fees are applied if you do not use it before the expiration date.  If you have lost or did not redeem a gift certificate before it expired, contact the Pennsylvania Treasury Bureau of Unclaimed Property to see if the Treasury is holding gift certificate funds or other property belonging to you.  You can access the online database at: http://www.patreasury.org, or call: 1-800-222-2046.

Effective August 22, 2010, The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (also known as “The Card Act”) regulates gift cards. The Act requires that gift cards do not expire for five years after issuance, and the expiration date must be disclosed upfront.  The Card Act also bans dormancy or inactivity fees on gift cards unless there has been no activity in a 12-month period.

Please send your legal and consumer questions to elisha.abrams@gmail.com, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: http://www.legallyinformed.com.

Twitter: legallyinformed@twitter.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Information on this blog should not be relied on as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.  An attorney-client relationship is not created until a retainer agreement is signed.


ZERO PERCENT FINANCING

July 30, 2010

ZERO PERCENT FINANCING

The economic picture this summer is filled with a plethora of inducements that proclaim zero percent loans and postponed payments for cars, computers, electronics, etc.  Before you lunge for that no-interest deal, or for that no payments until 2012 offer, bear in mind that these financing deals can be misleading and deceptive, and can end up costing you.

SCOPE OUT THE DEALS

Always compare and contrast offers, since you may discover that there is a cheaper price being offered from a retailer that does not offer a convoluted financing deal.  In addition to price, you also want to deal with a reputable store that sells quality products, and provides consistent customer care.  If you find a better price, take the financing ad with you.  Sometimes, the other dealer will match, or even beat the competitor’s price.  Negotiate your price.  You will not know if you can get a better price if you do not ask.  Remember, asking costs you nothing.  If you are looking to compare financing deals, incentives, and rebates for automobile purchases, access: www.autobytel.com and www.edmunds.com.

LOOK WITH SCRUTINY

A zero percent loan often is not as good as it appears, and can end up taking a bigger bite out of your wallet than would have been the case if you purchased the same item without the free financing deal.  Often, you have to forgo a “cash back” deal, or other discount to take advantage of these no-interest loans.  Some stores offer no interest financing, but inflate the selling price to make up the difference.  Also, some zero-interest offers impose restrictions that are only applicable to certain brands, or only apply to purchases over a minimum dollar amount.  Always be alert to any hidden costs or conditions surrounding the financing deal that may nullify any of the cost saving benefits that are being advertised.  Many zero-interest offers provide that you do not have to pay interest on an item as long as you pay for the purchase in full by a specified date.  However, the catch is that if you do not pay in full by that specified date, you will be charged exorbitant interest on the entire amount of the item, dating back to the original purchase date, even if you have paid off most of the balance.  If you do take advantage of a deal that touts no payments for a specified period of time, e.g. no payments for six months, confirm that when you do start making payments, that you are not obligated to pay interest that accrued from the original date of purchase.  Always get in writing the date when you start owing and start paying interest, and the amount of interest that will be applied.

MAGNIFY THE FINE PRINT

Do not get seduced by provocative advertisements that scream “No Interest,” or “No Payments Required until 2012.”  The truth is in the details of the contract, and it is essential that you get everything in writing.  Before you agree to any offer, temper your enthusiasm, take your time, and understand all of the restrictions, payment terms, interest rates, and payment deadlines.  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  If the salesperson is using a lot of fancy financial jargon that you cannot understand, let them know.  You may also want to shop with a trusted and knowledgeable friend, co-worker or family member.

Consumer Savvy Shopping Tip: When you are shopping online, go to www.retailmenot.com,. This website will alert you to any promotional codes, special offers, and coupons that you can access to save money on your online purchases.

Please send your legal and consumer questions to elisha.abrams@gmail.com, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46 Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: http://www.legallyinformed.com

Twitter: legallyinformed@twitter.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Information on this blog should not be relied on as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.  An attorney-client relationship is not created until a retainer agreement is signed.


Tis The Season For Charity Scams

December 6, 2009

TIS THE SEASON FOR CHARITY SCAMS
The holiday season is at our doorstep, and appeals from charities will be plentiful.  This should be a time of festivity, and for giving thanks.  Yet, unfortunately, with good deeds come scams, which are being perpetrated by organizations and individuals, who claim to be legitimate charities.  Before you reach into your pocket to lend a helping hand, you should take precautions to prevent becoming a victim of charity fraud.

CONTRIBUTE CAUTIOUSLY AND ASK QUESTIONS – Resist the temptation to give just because an organization claims to be affiliated with the police or firefighters, since this purported affiliation does not guarantee the charity’s legitimacy.  Be sure to call the local police or fire department to verify the fund-raiser’s claim.  Before you agree to give, request that the charity provide you with written information describing the charity and the programs that your donation will support.  Do not assume that a claimed celebrity endorsement is real, or that the celebrity has carefully researched the charity.  Steer clear of high-pressure campaigns that pull on your heartstrings, but offer little information on how your support will be used to help.

IDENTIFY HOW YOUR DOLLARS ARE SPENT – Inquire how your contribution will be used.  It is important to know how much of your donation goes towards helping people versus what goes towards fundraising and administrative expenses.  Request a printed annual report, and make sure that the charity has complied with required federal, state, and local registration laws.  Helpful websites to check-up on a charity include: The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance www.give.org, The American Institute of Philanthropy www.charitywatch.org, and Guidestar www.guidestar.org.  For security and tax record purposes, you should pay by check, and write the official name of the charity on the check.  You should also confirm that your contribution is tax-deductible.  Just because an organization is tax exempt, does not mean that your contribution is tax-deductible.  You can check for approved charities on the Internal Revenue Service Web site at: www.irs.gov, or by calling 1-877-829-5500.

AVOID SCAMS AND REPORT FRAUD – Beware of unknown telephone solicitations, door to door solicitors, and spam e-mails.  Do not divulge your social security number, credit card, bank account, or other personal information. You should also watch out for similar sounding names for charities.  There are many bogus charities using names that sound respectable and familiar as a means of deception.  Avoid charities that promote sweepstakes and guarantee prizes.  You have no obligation to pay for unsolicited merchandise that is sent to you as an inducement to contribute.  Be skeptical of invoices and solicitations thanking you for a pledge that you do not remember making.  Chances are you never made the pledge.  Be leery of chain e-mail charity solicitations.  Many of these chain letters are scams.  Stay away from charities offering to send a courier to collect your donation.  Take time to contemplate your giving objectives before you give.  The need for help will be there tomorrow, and for years to come.  To obtain additional information about a particular charity, or to report abuses, you should contact your local Better Business Bureau and State Attorney General’s Office.

Please send your legal and consumer questions to elisha.abrams@gmail.com, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: http://www.legallyinformed.com

Twitter: legallyinformed@twitter.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Information on this blog should not be relied on as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.  An attorney-client relationship is not created until a retainer agreement is signed.


Gift Cards

December 5, 2009

Effective August 22, 2010, The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (also known as “The Card Act”) will regulate gift cards, The Act will require that cards do not expire for five years after issuance, and the expiration date must be disclosed upfront.  That Card Act also bans dormancy or inactivity fees on gift cards unless there has been no activity in a 12-month period.

Please send your legal and consumer questions to elisha.abrams@gmail.com, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: http://www.legallyinformed.com

Twitter: legallyinformed@twitter.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Information on this blog should not be relied on as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.  An attorney-client relationship is not created until a retainer agreement is signed.


SWINE FLU ALERT

October 28, 2009

H1N1 ALERT: Beware of bogus claims promising magic elixirs to fight H1N1.  The FDA has issued an alert to tread with extreme caution when purchasing any products that claim to “diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure” H1N1.  Many of the items being peddled are not only ineffective, but they could be dangerous.  If you have health concerns, you should contact your health care provider.  For up to date information about H1N1 go to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention www.cdc.gov and the Food And Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov.

Please send your legal and consumer questions to elisha.abrams@gmail.com, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: http://www.legallyinformed.com

Twitter: legallyinformed@twitter.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


FIVE TIPS TO DRESS UP HALLOWEEN SAVINGS

October 28, 2009

FIVE TIPS TO DRESS UP HALLOWEEN SAVINGS

The bewitching hour of Halloween is fast approaching, scaring many of us to scamper out to purchase last minute costumes, decorations, and candy.  If you are not careful, and if you do not practice frugality, this annual ritual can become frightfully costly and not so sweet.

Treat Yourself To Sweet Savings – Get into the knack of treating yourself frugally.  Buy candy in bulk, and venture out to discount, warehouse, and dollar stores.  If 500 candy bars seem like a lot of sweets to distribute in one evening, you may want to split costs with a friend or neighbor.  To cut down on costs for next year, scavenger the stores for costumes and decorations right after Halloween.  This is also a good time to satisfy a sweet tooth since Halloween candy is usually discounted to make room for Christmas.

Use Sleight Of Hand – Personally hand out candy to the trick or treaters.  If you allow hungry hands to dig into an unattended candy dish, you are destined to go through mounds of candy.  Unless you are prepared to eat the costs twice, you do not want to purchase your candy too early.  Explore giving out safe candy alternatives such as inexpensive trinkets and stickers.

Costume Yourself Wisely Make believe can get costly.  Consider making your own costumes.  Often your costume needs can be found by rummaging through your closets.  Costumes should be short enough to prevent tripping.  Do not let your child carry knives, swords, or other props unless they are soft and flexible.  To stay visible during the evening hours, trim your costumes, shoes, and treat bags with strips of reflector tape.  Instead of a mask that can impede vision and breathing, consider using nontoxic makeup.

Stay Away From Fire –  If you buy costumes, masks, beards, and wigs, look for flame-resistant labels.  You also want to avoid dressing your child in any costume with billowing material such as big baggy sleeves and flowing skirts that are more apt to come into contact with exposed flames and candles.   The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) enforces the Flammable Fabrics Act, and recalls products at Halloween and throughout the year that can cause injury.  To report a dangerous product or a product related injury call the CPSC Hotline at: 1-800-638-2772.

Keep An Eye Out For Safety – Halloween inspires a surge of interest in the purchase of zany Halloween festooned contact lenses.  BEWARE The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on decorative contacts that are sold without a prescription.  The FDA warns that these lenses could cause serious eye injury or even blindness, and consumers should not wear them unless they are properly prescribed and fitted by an eye-care professional.  If you have had problems with decorative contact lenses, contact the FDA’s MedWatch at: 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088). GO DOOR TO DOOR SAFELY, AND HAVE A HAPPY HALLOWEEN.

Please send your legal and consumer questions to elisha.abrams@gmail.com, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: http://www.legallyinformed.com

Twitter: legallyinformed@twitter.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Get A Medical Privacy Check-UP

July 17, 2009

GET A MEDICAL PRIVACY CHECK-UP

How private is your medical information, and is it insulated from nefarious prying eyes?  Whenever you go to the doctor, dentist, hospital, pharmacy, or contact your health insurer, you are divulging confidential health information that should be protected from getting in the wrong hands.  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that requires health care providers to take measures to protect your medical privacy.  If your medical history is an open book for all to see, now is the time to start a new chapter, and take steps to ensure your privacy rights under HIPAA.

Assert Your Prescribed Rights

Next time you go to the hospital, see your doctor or pharmacist, or speak with your health plan, you will be given a privacy notice.  This notice will explain their privacy practices, and how your health care provider will use, share, and disclose your personal medical information.  You will also be asked to complete authorization forms that will give you the right to consent to, or opt out of having your health information disclosed or shared with family members, friends, employers, life insurers, marketing firms, or other third parties.  These privacy notices and authorization forms can be lengthy, convoluted, and confusing. Read and understand the fine print, and if you have questions, do not hesitate to speak with your health care provider before you agree to sign them.  If you are admitted into the hospital, you can choose to not be listed in the hospital’s directory.  This directory usually has the patient’s name, condition, and room number.  Caveat, if you opt to not be listed, this will mean that friends, family members, or well-wishers will be unable to find out anything about you.  Also, do not count on having any cards, balloons, or flowers delivered to your hospital room.  If you want your health care provider to be able to discuss your medical information with your spouse, friend, or family member, be sure to sign a consent form that authorizes your doctor, pharmacist, or health plan to share and discuss your information with them.  You also want to make sure that your medical power of attorney provides that your medical information that is protected by HIPAA may be disclosed to your designated agent in your power of attorney.   You can also request that your provider send your health information to a particular address, or that they contact you at a particular number.

Check Up On Your Privacy

Under HIPAA, you have the right to see and obtain copies of your medical records.  It is good medicine to exercise this right to insure that your records are accurate.  If you do discover inaccuracies in your records, you can ask to have them corrected.  You should be provided access to your records within thirty days, and you may be charged for the cost of copying and delivery.  If you believe that your privacy rights have been violated under HIPAA, you should contact your health care provider, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights at: 1-800-368-1019. For more detailed information about HIPAA access: www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa, or call the HIPAA Hotline at: 1-866-627-7748.

Consumer Alert: Be extra vigilant if you opt to divulge your personal information on surveys, health screenings, sweepstakes, or on health web sites.  Always, look at the privacy policy, and ask how your information will be used and accessed.

Please send your legal and consumer questions to elisha.abrams@gmail.com, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: http://www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.