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July 23, 2018

Even Our Readers Get Tripped Up by the Fine Print

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

Mouse Print* readers are a savvy bunch, but even the best of them may get caught by surprise by the fine print they find after making a purchase.

Tom B., who is a professional landscape contractor, recently was looking for a good quality garden hose nozzle for a commercial customer. He thought he found the perfect product — a Gilmour professional nozzle, with a lifetime warranty and tested to a pressure of 250 pounds per square inch:

Gilmour nozzle

Our landscaper became disenchanted after trying it, and discovering the fine print on the back of the package.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Gilmour nozzle warning

Although the nozzle is tested to withstand pressures of up to 250 PSI, the company warns users not to subject it to pressures over 60 PSI.



About six months ago, Tony P. bought a MacBook Air from Micro Center and was convinced to buy an extended warranty for $79, being told it would “cover everything” for a year.

Sure enough, a couple of keys came loose from the keyboard last month and he couldn’t re-attach them. So, Tony went back to the store, expecting a quick fix. Instead he was told that Apple requires them to replace the entire keyboard. What really upset him was that the cost of the repair — $280 — would be deducted from the total dollar amount of repairs he is entitled to under his contract. Huh? This is the first time Tony is told there is limit on repairs, and he was never given a copy of the actual extended warranty when he bought the laptop.

Sure enough, in the terms and conditions statement of his service contract, there is language to limit the issuer’s liability to the price of the computer purchased:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Administrator may elect, at Administrator option, to buyout the Service Contract during the coverage term for the lesser of (I) current market value of a Covered Product with equivalent specifications or (II) purchase price of Your Covered Product minus sales tax and claims paid.

Who would ever suspect there was a clause allowing the provider to get out of all future liability when they have paid for repairs equal to the purchase price? (If this were challenged in court, it is unclear if a judge would even enforce this clause.)

Our consumer was advised to buy the missing two keys online for about $15 and save the benefits of his plan for a more serious repair.


If you come across a nasty bit of fine print in an advertisement, product label, or contract, please let us know.




  ADV


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January 8, 2018

Did Toys”R”Us Really Make a Mistake in its Posted Return Policy?

Filed under: Computers,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:29 am

Every December, Consumer World releases its annual survey of retailers’ return policies and this time around it found that three stores had tightened their policies since the year before. One of them was Toys”R”Us.

In 2016, the toy chain had a two-tier return policy: 90 days for most items, but only 30 days for various electronic goods like cameras, video game hard, computer hardware, etc.

*MOUSE PRINT:

2016 TRU 30 day items

In November 2017 when Consumer World visited websites to find the current return policies, the Toys”R”Us policy had changed. “Computer hardware” which had been in the 30-day category the year before now was in a new separate section of its own indicating only a 15-day return period.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Toys R Us exceptions 2017

So Consumer World reported that Toys”R”Us had shortened the return period from 30 days to 15 days for computer hardware in its December 18, 2017 report. (Keep this date in mind.) On that same day or the day after, in planning for a TV segment on return policies to air just after Christmas, staff from the Today Show contacted retailers to confirm the changes that Consumer World found. Toys”R”Us reportedly told Today that it had not in fact changed its policy to 15 days for computer hardware, and that it was still 30 days.

Taken aback by the possible error, MrConsumer doubled-checked his verbatim copy of the Toys”R”Us policy captured in late November and sure enough it said “15 days” for computer hardware. Surprisingly, however, a visit to the ToysRUs.com website on December 19 — a day after the report was issued and just after the Today Show contacted Toys”R”Us — revealed that the policy now said “30 days” for computer hardware.

*MOUSE PRINT:

TRU policy dec 19thDecember 19, 2017

What MrConsumer said upon seeing that Toys”R”Us apparently had changed its website after hearing from the Today Show can’t be printed on a family website. He did some sleuthing however, and discovered through the miracle of Google cache, what the website said the very day before the company heard from the Today Show, December 18.

*MOUSE PRINT:

TRU Dec. 18December 18, 2017

Consumer World asked the company why the policy had been changed back to 30 days and whether it was the result of the Today Show contacting them. MrConsumer was told in a phone call that the 15-day policy was listed in error and that the company changed it as soon as it learned of the mistake.

A review of archived copies of their returns page reveals that that whole separate section singling out computer hardware for a special shorter return period was added and has existed online at least since August 2017. The return policy signs in a T-R-U store checked by Consumer World on December 20, however, said “30 days” for computer hardware.

So what do you think? Did Toys”R”Us make an innocent mistake in their posted return policy online or did they backtrack when they found out that the change was going to be part of a news story on national TV?




  ADV


• • •

November 6, 2017

Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts:
Free Quicken 2018 CDs Come with Costly Catch

Filed under: Computers,Finance,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 4:50 am

Quicken 2018 Upgrade CDOver a million Quicken software users are in for a costly surprise if they install the free upgrade CD that many received in the mail last week. Consumer World is warning them that the 2018 upgrade could triple their cost of the popular personal money management program.

Starting with the 2018 edition, the new owner of Quicken (H.I.G. Capital) is converting the software to a subscription service and charging a regular annual fee of $49.99 for Quicken Deluxe. If not renewed, the user faces the loss of online functionality to update account transactions and pay bills.

Quicken $49.99

The previous owner, Intuit, required purchasers to upgrade only every three years or lose online access. The list price for the three year program then was $74.99, but was often on sale for $50 or less, and even lower when bundled with TurboTax.

“This is a pure money grab by Quicken’s new owners,” commented Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky. “The original intentional crippling of the software after three years was bad enough, but now reducing it to just one year in essence triples the cost for many, and will drive away thousands of users.”

How did the new management disclose their major change in terms for 2018 in the fancy three-fold mailer that accompanied the upgrade CD? It was only in a hard-to-read fine print footnote.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Quicken 2018 fine print Click to enlarge

For those who cannot read that, it says that a purchase would entitle users to [only] one year of Quicken, that data downloads stop at the end of the term, and that users’ memberships would be automatically renewed each year and users charged the then current renewal rate.

When Quicken introduced annual subscriptions in Canada earlier this year, it utilized an additional ploy to encourage annual renewals. It disabled the ability to even add transactions manually if the software was not renewed after a year. Following public criticism alleging that the company was holding users’ data hostage, they relented and lifted that restriction.

Echoing the company CEO’s open letter to customers about the changes, a spokesperson for Quicken explained that the primary reason for instituting annual renewals was so that their technical team can concentrate on continually improving a single version of the software. Currently the company has to separately update the 2015, 2016, and 2017 editions. He did acknowledge, however, that they are getting “negative feedback” about the pricing change.

Dworsky challenged the company’s justification suggesting that they could have just as easily introduced a single version of the software good for three years from the date of installation rather than just one year.

Quicken was spun off from a company that also engaged in tactics to “encourage” customers to upgrade. Two years ago, Intuit created a self-inflicted public relations nightmare when it changed the functionality of its most popular version of TurboTax tax preparation software to force users to upgrade to a more expensive version. After a public outcry, the company restored the software to its original form.

Consumer World recommends that current users of Quicken 2016 and 2017 continue using those versions since they are still fully functional until April 2019 and April 2020, respectively. But, they should lodge a complaint with the company now (here and here) if they are upset by the pricing changes.




  ADV


• • •

July 24, 2017

Free Wi-Fi Users Ignore Terms and Conditions and Get Pranked

Filed under: Business,Computers,Humor,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:36 am

An Internet company in Manchester, England called Purple decided recently to prove that consumers access free wi-fi services carelessly by not spending the time to click and read the terms and conditions of its use.

Purple terms

The company pranked users for a period of two weeks by tucking a “Community Service Clause” into their public wi-fi terms.

*MOUSE PRINT:

The user may be be required, at Purple’s discretion, to carry out 1,000 hours of community service. This may include the following:

• Cleansing local parks of animal waste
• Providing hugs to stray cats and dogs
• Manually relieving sewer blockages
• Cleaning portable lavatories at local festivals and events
• Painting snail shells to brighten up their existence
• Scraping chewing gum off the streets

So how many consumers using their free wi-fi services clicked the “accept” button despite being potentially being required shovel poop out of blocked pipes? A staggering 22,000 people! And how many people caught the catch? Exactly one!




  ADV


• • •

May 7, 2017

Staples.com Keeps Warranties Secret and That Could be Costly to You

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:32 am

Two years ago, Consumer World conducted a spot-check of 20 major Internet retailers to see if they were properly disclosing the manufacturer’s warranty on their websites for the products they sell.

Two-thirds of the sellers surveyed posted no warranties whatsoever for any of the items checked. Federal Trade Commission rules require online sellers, on or near the product description of items over $15, to either post the actual warranty or tell customers how to obtain a free copy from the seller.

At the time, for the five items checked at Staples.com, none had the actual warranty language disclosed nor a statement of how to obtain it, and the length of the warranty was only sometimes disclosed.

From a practical standpoint, how might this affect a shopper? Case in point: Last year, MrConsumer assisted two friends who were in need of a new desktop computer. He wound up recommending a Dell that was on sale at the time at Staples for between $400 and $500. Current version of product listing:

Dell 3650 Dell specs

Fast forward 10 months later, and one of the computers needed to be repaired. Upon calling Dell, my friend was informed there would be a charge equivalent to approximately half the cost of the computer because in-home service was not covered in the warranty. What? A desktop computer weighing nearly 20 pounds has to be disconnected and mailed to Dell to be repaired? You bet.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dell Mail-in

Sure enough, on the Dell website, the warranty that came with this desktop computer was mail-in only. Who would ever expect anything but in-home service for a desktop computer under warranty?

So we asked several Staples’ PR folks to explain why they were not complying with federal law and disclosing product warranties right on their website, and why they were not at a minimum even clearly disclosing that in the case of this computer that the warranty was mail-in. We also asked now that Staples was sensitized to this issue, what steps they would take to comply with federal law and be more explicit about the type of warranty that comes with their products.

Their response: [this space intentionally blank since Staples did not reply to three requests for this information.]

The lesson, of course, is to never assume anything about a product’s warranty and to demand to see it before you make a significant purchase.




  ADV


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