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Fine Print Is Not Just in Print Anymore

We’re celebrating April Fool’s Day a week early with a little bit of consumer humor.

Remember those old Federal Express commercials with actor John Moschitta rapid-talking his spiel?

Well, almost two decades later, he is not alone any longer. This time, however, even faster speed-talking is used to make important disclosures and disclaimers in a radio commercial for a Boston-based financial advisory service.

*MOUSE PRINT:

That was perfectly understandable, right?

We asked the company, Hackmann Wealth Partners, if those disclosures were required by certain regulations and whether they would make future ads more understandable. They did not respond.

Presumably the disclosures said something like what is stated in a footnote on their website:

Investment advisory services offered through Brookstone Wealth Advisors, LLC (BWA), a registered investment advisor. BWA and HWP Inc, DBA Hackmann Wealth Partners, are independent of each other. Insurance products and services are not offered through BWA but are offered and sold through individually licensed and appointed agents.

Radio listeners deserve to be able to hear and understand what these folks glossed over in their commercial.

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Wendy’s UN-Announces “Surge” Pricing

Last week’s biggest consumer story was Wendy’s plan to introduce electronic menuboards in their restaurants that would allow them to implement “surge” pricing. In other words, to charge more during peak times.

Best we can tell this story was based on a financial presentation made to investors in early February during which the company’s CEO announced a $30-mil investment to deliver “significant restaurant margin expansion” by installing digital menuboards with “dynamic pricing & menu offerings:”

Wendy's menuboards

After a flood of news stories and negative consumer reaction to the prospect of having to pay more for the same food that was cheaper earlier in the day, Wendy’s issued a statement in its blog denying the plan.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Wendy's statement

To MrConsumer, the idea of a restaurant jacking-up its prices during peak times is just plain nasty. Will the items that are being surcharged be noted on the menuboard so customers know which ones they are?

And what about prices during off peak times? Will they be discounted below the current regular price? In other words, if a “Dave’s Single” burger is currently $4.99, will the peak price be, say, $5.99, but the off-peak price will be $3.99?

What do you think of the idea of a restaurant charging more during peak times?

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Can a Bank Confiscate Your Credit Card Rewards?

BofA rewards cardA lawsuit was recently filed against Bank of America by a California consumer who claims the bank confiscated the cash rewards earned by her with her BofA credit card when the bank chose to close her account.

The consumer, Christy Ngo, says in the lawsuit that last September her debit card stopped working because the bank told her they had frozen her account and would close her checking and savings account by the end of the month. Preemptively, she withdrew all the money. How these account closings are related to her losing her accumulated credit card rewards is not explained in the lawsuit. We questioned her lawyers directly about that too, but they did not respond. And BofA declined to comment about the case to another media outlet.

For simplicity sake, let’s assume that the bank closed her credit card as well. Certainly the bank has a right to do that. But why didn’t they give her whatever amount of cash back she had already earned on her cards (assuming she had paid off her balance)?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Bank of America terms

The terms and conditions statement of BofA’s current “cash rewards” credit cards says that any unredeemed cash rewards at the time of closure, whether the closing was voluntary or not, would be forfeited.

Bank of America is not alone including fine print in their credit card agreements like this. Recently, after a TV reporter’s 98-year-old mother passed away, a California bank did the same thing. See story.

Most people don’t read the fine print of credit card agreements, and if they did, would any accountholder even remember this restriction perhaps years later? And is it fair for banks, even with proper disclosure, to confiscate already earned cash back that had not been redeemed rather than to automatically refund it?