For Immediate Release:
March 2, 2020
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NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S DIVISION OF CONSUMER PROTECTION ANNOUNCES TOP 10 CONSUMER ASSISTANCE COMPLAINT CATEGORIES AS PART OF NATIONAL CONSUMER PROTECTION WEEK
National Consumer Protection Week (March 1-7) Encourages People to Learn about Consumer Rights and How to Stay Safe
The New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) today unveiled the Top 10 Consumer Assistance Complaint Categories of 2019, with the top three issues related to refunds and store policies, hiring professionals to perform a service and home improvements. Last year, DCP assisted 15,000 New York State consumers and helped save them more than $830,000.
“As we observe National Consumer Protection Week, we urge New Yorkers to remain vigilant in today’s rapidly changing digital marketplace,” said Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “Today’s nefarious actors are behind a computer. They employ numerous tactics to obtain your hard-earned money and personal information. Educating New York consumers on how scams operate and how to protect their personal information is a critical mission of our Division of Consumer Protection.”
As part of National Consumer Protection Week, DCP is outlining their Top 10 Consumer Assistance Complaint Categories of 2019 and tips on how to navigate through them:
- Refund/Store Policy
It is important New Yorkers are aware of the State’s Refund law which requires all retailers to:
- Post the terms of their refund policies. If a merchant charges a “restocking fee” or any other fee as a condition for accepting the return and issuing a refund or store credit, this information needs to be included in the posting.
- Provide a written copy of the store refund policy upon request, and to disclose such availability on the refund policy signage.
- Accept any item for a full refund within 30 days of purchase, with proof of purchase, if the store does not post a return policy.
- Professionals/Quality Billing
Before hiring someone to perform service, review their work by speaking with former clients and seeing the work firsthand, where possible. Do not rely on photos alone. If the service is a State or local licensed activity, check with the licensing governmental entity to ensure the person is licensed and does not have any complaints pending against them.
- Home Improvements
Research home improvement contractors like any other professional you engage BEFORE you hire. Upon engagement, always insist on a written contract, and make sure to get a copy. Do NOT agree to an oral contract. The contract should include: the timeline of the project, a specific description of the work and materials, the total price and payment schedule.
DO NOT pay in cash, instead use checks, money orders or credit cards to create a paper trail of payments. Make payments during your project contingent upon completion of defined work performance and insist upon a final walk through with the contractor prior to making a final payment.
When purchasing an item, consumers should look for and review the warranty coverage on the specific item. Is the warranty covered by the manufacturer, the retailer or both? When does the warranty expire? Make sure to get specific return and repair information from the store or installer in writing.
- Internet/Online Services
While making an online purchase, ensure that your credit card information stays safe by checking that the website uses encryption. Look for a closed lock in the website address bar. Only make purchases from reputable and well-known companies or retailers. Read all the details of the product specifications, do not rely on pictures that can be deceptive. It’s good practice to perform an internet search if you are thinking about making a purchase with a new, unknown retailer.
If you are looking to rent a short-stay property while vacationing, do an online search and make sure the property exists before you book. Research the host and read independent reviews. Interact, communicate and pay only on the secure reservation platform. Also, read the cancellation policies for every aspect of your trip including rental cars, tour guides, hotels and flights and consider travel insurance to protect your trip should you need to cancel or reschedule.
- Cable Television
Ask to see what the itemized monthly bill would look like before you sign a contract. If you sign up with a promotional discount, know the expiration date; set a reminder in your calendar so you do not accidentally miss the day to cancel or revise your plan.
- Membership Contracts/Clubs
Determine your goals before you sign a membership contract. Tour and review the facilities before your sign. Ask for a trial membership and note the expiration date on your calendar. If you feel pressure to sign a contract right away, it’s ok to walk away.
- Used Cars
Examine the car carefully, take a test drive, get a vehicle history report at vehiclehistory.gov, and have an independent mechanic check the car. If the dealer won’t let you, walk away. Be sure to check the condition of the engine, tire wear and any sign of an accident. Compare the odometer reading to the bill of sale. Review the contract carefully to ensure all elements of the sales pitch are included. Never sign a blank, partially blank or unclear contract. Cross out any empty spaces so they cannot be billed in after you sign. Get and keep a copy of the contract.
- Telephone/Wireless Service
Before you lease your phone, enter into a service contract or accept a free phone, read and understand the terms and conditions. The terms and conditions include important information that could affect services rendered, billing charges and even personal privacy.
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower the State’s consumers. The Division provides voluntary mediation services for consumers experiencing a marketplace dispute. If you need information, please call the Consumer Assistance Helpline: 1-800-697-1220. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. For additional tips, alerts and recall notices, follow the Division on Twitter at @NYSConsumer and Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.