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3 Practices that should be Illegal

January 28, 2014

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Did you ever have an experience and thought that the way you were treated should be against the law? I’m not referring to real crime, but rather common commercial activity where you felt you were taken advantage of.

For example, two months ago I decided I was paying too much for the water that is delivered to my office. I called the company and told them I wanted to cancel the delivery service. They offered me a 5% discount. I declined. They called me a few days later and offered me a 10% discount. I declined.

They weren’t done and they called me 10 days later and offered me a 50% discount. I took that.

For some reason they didn’t deliver the water that month. However, they did bill me $10 on my credit card. When I called they told me that there is a $10 fee for not getting any deliveries in a month.

I didn’t argue as I knew I’d never win, and $10 seemed ok only because I’d be saving 50% going forward.

But, this shouldn’t be legal. Charging a customer for giving them nothing just shouldn’t fly.

Why this is legal: The No Delivery fee is in the contract, I’m sure. You know the contract that they emailed me in an attachment that I might have been able to open, or tucked underneath one of the bottles so it doesn’t blow away in the wind. I agreed to that fee- so I have to pay it.

Why it should be illegal: I didn’t really agree to that fee (nor did any other customer). You know the drill- The company gives you a contract- maybe it’s on the type of paper that when you sign the top copy the other copies get signed, too. The stick these clauses it in the contract, maybe it isn’t even legible on the copy they give you. But, it’s there and you’ll never read it…until they hit you with the charge.

When these clauses are egregious someone takes the company to court. They sometimes win. It’s a tough call for a judge- the clause is there, you could have read it. Other times, the legislature will get involved in preventing these types of fees by law.

In this case, it wasn’t worth fighting about, let alone litigating. Even if you paid the fee for 5 years (not sure how that could happen), it still wouldn’t be worth litigating.

Two other cases:

1. Last Minute Airline tickets- Have you ever tried to book an airline reservation the day of the flight? Me, neither. But, I understand you could pay 5-10 times the fare you’d pay if you booked a week in advance. The airlines do this because they know you are desperate (or you just don’t care about money); You’ve got a dying relative or a super important business meeting and you’ll pay the price.

Why this is legal: Nobody is forcing you to go by plane. In general, the law allows firms to charge any fee to a willing customer.

Why it should be illegal: even though airline fares are not regulated, air lines are heavily regulated. Like many regulated industries, they make use of the public’s property e.g. the airport, publicly granted landing rights. Due to these facts, they could be regulated not to fleece the last second traveler, as well.

2. Foreign Data charges- My wife has an Ipad. She pays about $15 a month for unlimited 3g data. On a trip to a foreign country, she was charged $150 for using data services in that country. When we called our provider they told us that she use 3 Mb of data in about….5 minutes. An Ipad pulls that much data in a short time. I’ve heard of people returning home to $5000 cell phone bills.

Why this is legal: Again, it’s in the contract. Yes, the contract that they email to you. I wonder what percentage of people open that attachment. I’m guessing less than 1%.

Why it should be illegal: The cellphone industry is highly regulated- after all, they are making money off the public spectrum. I’m not opposed to extra charges in line with extra costs. But, my suspicion is that the company is sticking it to you because they can. The charges should reflect the company’s costs- and those are higher, I’m sure, but not by 1,000,000%.

Please feel free to comment and let me know of other practice that you think should be illegal.

Avrum Aaron, Esq., is the COO of Legal Outsourcing Partners, LLC. He can be reached at avrum@lop-llc.com or 201-379-9230.

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From → Contracts, Law

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