Get Back Your Rights

Is justice coming back? Maybe, just maybe ...

For years now, dishonest businesses have gradually been sneaking little clauses onto the back of consumer sales contracts and finance contracts, or in small print hidden in credit card bill inserts and other places where you'd least expect it, fine print inteded to keep you from going to court when you get ripped off.

These clauses are called "mandatory binding arbitration" and they take away your legal rights before you even know you needed them. Arbitration is a good idea gone bad, very bad.

The original intent of arbitration was to allow businesses to fight each other out in a private non-court process if they want, but arbitration was never intended to take away the rights of individual consumers. A series of court decisions have moved the law away from its original intent and has given big business the chance to use arbitration to take away the rights of ordinary citizens like you and me. Lots of people have come to realize that Big Business uses arbitration to keep you from protecting yourself.

Courts like these kinds of arbitration clauses because it means they can get rid of lawsuits the easy way, without having to really decide anything at all. It is an easy way out. While some judges take a serious and hard look at the ways arbitration clauses hurt consumers, the simple fact is that federal and state laws make it clear that a court cannot completely ignore an arbitration clause, even when it might be buried away in the fine print of what you sign.

Well now it looks like the tide might be turning.

Senator Feingold (Wisconsin) and Congressman Johnson (Georgia) introduced new legislation to Congress in an attempt to protect consumers from unfair arbitration. The Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007 would ban binding mandatory arbitration clauses from all consumer and employee contracts. It would everyday people the right to go to court when they are ripped off or taken advantage of by a dishonest business. That’s only fair.

Still, Big Business is expected to fight hard to stop the proposed law from ever taking effect. If they succeed, you will be stuck with expensive, time-consuming, difficult and (many think) unfair arbitration processes which are can intimidate and hurt you.

Think about it this way, if a business is being honest with you, then why are they worried about a jury trial? Why do they want a private, secret arbitration process where no one finds out about what they did to you? I think there's only one reason Big Business likes arbitration instead of the court system and it’s because they are afraid of the public finding out the truth about what they are doing.

I don’t think it has anything to do with “cost effectiveness” and nothing to do with “quickly resolving disputes.” It has everything to do with Big Business protecting itself at the expense of your legal rights.

For more information on why arbitration hurts you, click here.

The way to turn this around is to tell your congressperson and your senator that you want them to support the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007 that Senator Feingold and Congressman Johnson have proposed.

You can get back your legal rights. Congress will actually listen when enough people take the time to be heard.

Click here to take action. This link will take you to an easy–to–fill–in email page where you can send a message to your congressperson that tells them to support this new law.

Tell a friend by clicking here. This link will take you to a page where you can insert up to ten email addresses which tells other people about this important opportunity to protect their rights. We need all the help we can get if we're going to get back our rights.

Take action today. Click here to send an email to your congressperson.

Click here to tell a friend today how important it is that they get back their rights.

Finally, arbitration clauses in consumer contracts may be coming to an end. It’s about time we got our rights back!


Jaguar Sales Down, Happiness Up

Jaguar sales in the US are down 27% below last year, for the first 6 months. But JD Powers (the survey people) say Jaguar tops all others when it comes to Customer Service.

The sales slump might explain why Ford has Jaguar up for sale, along with its Land Rover line. Both are valued at about $1.5 Billion and that's money that Ford could use. Ford expects to be getting six or more buyers bids any day now, including at least one from a company that was interested in buying Chrysler recently and one from an India car builder. If you can't sell the cars, sell the company, that seems to be Ford's new motto.

Ailing Land Rover joined Isuzu, Suzuki, Volkswagen, and Jeep as the bottom five in Customer Service out of all vehicle manufacturers. That matches up with our clients' experience too.

What makes no sense is what happened in the recent survey report between Lexus and Buick. Lexus was at the top of the game last year and this year dropped to a tie at third place with Cadillac. Meanwhile, Buick moved up to second place, passing up both of the luxury brands.

Behind the first four in the top ten were Mercury, Saturn, Mini, Lincoln, Pontiac and Infiniti, in that order.

Whether your lemon is at the top of the heap or the bottom doesn't really matter when it's your lemon. If you want it squashed, call us. That's what we do.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemon Cars and Trucks Since 1978


GM Diesel Disaster Coming Again?

With lawmakers seriously looking at corporate fuel rankings for the first time in nearly a decade, GM has taken an old idea off the shelf and dusted it off again. Diesel engines. Wait, didn't they do that once before?

General Motors has announced that it is planning on putting diesel engines in some Cadillac and
Saturn models by 2010 for US sales and that they'll be available in Europe in 2009. Let's hope they don't repeat the disaster GM faced in the early 1980's. One blogger's remarks sum it up quite well:

Leo, posted Mar 17th 2006 1:33PM

I worked at a luxury import dealer from 1982-1986, and I can remember customers of the Cadillac dealer across the street coming over (after their 15th service visit for their POS Cadillac diesel) to look at our product.

I can still see the look of horror when we told them their one year old Caddy was now worth $1,500 in trade because the GM diesel engine was such a disaster. The product was horrible, and the company's response was even worse. They abandoned their customer base in a way that left the automotive world in disbelief.

I don't know if there's ever been a bigger customer service disaster on a vehicle in that price range in world history. And given GM's precarious financial position, I'm not sure I'd go there - even in trucks, and even 25 years later.

There's good reason to worry here, folks. I agree with Leo. That diesel Caddy in the 80's was a disaster for everyone. I had a case with one back then and when I showed up in court for the first hearing with the Judge, he turned to the GM attorney and told him that "I'm going to take judicial notice that this car is a lemon."

That means everyone knew it and the Judge wasn't going to hear any arguing about it. That pretty much sums it up.
Here's a page on the 1984 Cadillac on the web and you can see they actually charged extra for that optional diesel engine. Whether your lemon is a diesel or not, we can help.

Smashing lemons into lemonade is what we've been doing for almost 30 years for thousands of clients and millions of dollars in refunds. Car manufacturers don't like us but that's okay. We kind of prefer it that way.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons (Diesel included) Since 1978


Block Your Credit Records

Did you know that a guy working for a mortgage company thousands of miles from you can open your wallet or purse and look at everything? They can get your credit card names and balances, even your mortgage info. It's a little known loophole in the law that can result in identity theft. Here's how.

The outside of the envelope in your mail says "important notice about your bill" and the return address is some nondescript business name and a local address that you don't recognize. It's enough to make you wonder so you, quite naturally, open the envelope.

The letter tells you that they know "that you have a 1st mortgage balance of approximately" and the exact amount is printed there. They also know that you have a "revolving credit card balances of" and that exact amount is printed there too. Then they hit you with a sales pitch to let them refinance all your debt with a new mortgage with, of course, one lower payment "to protect your credit". Yeah, right.

If you're like me, you wonder how in the world did they know my mortgage balance and my credit card balances since you never applied for credit with them. Because they're blue-suited thieves, that's why. Sure they call themselves a legitimate business, but in my book anyone who I don't have an account with and who gets a copy of my credit record, is just a thief.

You may think they have no right and no way to get your credit record, but think again.

The law actually lets someone pull your credit record as long as they say they intend to make you an offer of credit, even if you didn't ask for it. Problem is, even when they send you that offer (like the one above) it's full of "we're gonna check your credit again if you apply" conditions that mean it really isn't a firm offer after all. That stinks!

No company should have the right to pull your credit information to "size you up" for their marketing department's loan solicitations. What, you don't get enough junk mail as it is? And who knows where your credit info will end up after that?

The credit reporting agencies have a right to sell your credit information without you knowing it, but you can stop it. You can stop it now.

You have the right to prohibit use of your credit file with any credit reporting agency in connection with any transaction that you did not initiate. All you have to do is notify the "Big 3" credit reporting agencies to stop it. But until you do, any Tom, Dick & Harry loan company (including the one those three cons in prison set up behind bars) can pull your credit file just by saying it's for a "legitimate" use, whatever that may mean to them. And who knows where your credit data goes from there.

You can stop it right now.

Write a letter to all the credit reporting agencies, telling them that you are instructing them not to allow any use of your credit file in connection with any transaction that you did not initiate yourself. Take control of your private data. It's a beginning step to stopping identity theft.

The Big 3 are:

Equifax Options, P.O. Box 740123, Atlanta, GA 30374
Trans Union, Name Removal Option, P. O. Box 97328, Jackson, MS 39288
Experian Consumer Opt-Out, P. O. Box 919, Allen, TX 75013

To learn more about your consumer credit rights, click here. If your credit info is misused or your identity stolen, we can help. Email us or call.


No 2 Alike: The Impala Corvette

Why would anyone buy a new $44k + Corvette and strip the body off and start over again with a bare chassis? Because you could end up with this, that's why.

Take a Corvette chassis, rip off the body, put on the front styled body from a 57 Chevy, make the sides like the 58 Chevy, then a rear like a 59 Chevy. And here's what you get. They call it the "789" and it's not like anything else on the road.

It truly is a georgous car. And it runs like a Vette because under the skin, it really is a Corvette. A company called n2a Motors has plans to build just a hundred of these hot looking cars at a cost of $75k or so above the base Corvette's price.

n2a Motors is the corporate child of the designers at Kanter Koncepts, whose motto is "find something interesting" (with some help from the supercar folks at Anteros) and they apparently found it here. They've gotten some serious praise from Corvette fans and for good reason. It's a classic design on a fast and proven chassis.

What makes it unique is the state of the art chassis with the the artful state of the body, taking three classic styles that are each instantly recognizable and merging them into one eyeball-appealing shape.

Throw in the ostrich leather, the 1,000 watt stereo, tons of other specialty items and any idea you want to top it off with. Then toss in $135k to make it all happen and you'll be drooling inside the car almost as much as the people standing on the street who watch you drive by. The word unique doesn't even begin to cover it. Oh, it must be nice to be rich. Oh well, the rest of us can look at the pictures, napkin in hand.

With all that high tech, proven reliable parts, and dressed to the 9's appearance, you probably won't find a lemon in the bunch. It's just too bad that it takes $135k to get it.

Japan is #1 in Germany

Japanese car companies took the top 3 spots for customer satisfaction in Germany, beating out the Germans on their own turf. In the land of Mercedes and BMW, the Top 10 customer satisfaction rankings go mostly to foreigners. Achtung! Pass the beer stein and welcome to the real world.

JD Power, the auto sales survey people, just reported that Honda topped the list and edged Toyota out by a single point in customer satisfaction among German car owners in Germany.

BMW came in at the number 4 spot and is the top-ranked German model but even they are behind Subaru, who holds the #3 ranking.

The customer satisfaction index (CSI) tracks how satisfied customers are for 27 car brands and 112 individual models in Germany. The results were published on the Web site of Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe.

German luxury brand Audi came in at #7 and Mercedes came in near the bottom at #8. So in Germany, the Germans are happier with their Honda than their Mercedes. Shucks, they are even happier with a Subaru ... and just think of the money they are saving!

The only thing Volkswagen had to show for itself was winning the "most improved" ranking for this year, jumping to #12 from #23 last year. But then again when you are #23 on a list of 27, there's a lot more room to go up than there is to go down.

And the tail end of the list? That honor goes to Chevrolet at #27 and the cute little Smart car at #26.

Not only do the Japanese manufacturers lead quality surveys and customer satisfaction surveys in the US, they do it in Europe too. That only proves that people are the same pretty much everywhere. When it comes to buying a car, they just want something that runs right and that the manufacturer will stand behind. Hey, Detroit, is that too much to ask for?


Car Sales Fraud Rising

New car sales are slowing down and that can mean an increase in fraudulent practices in the used car department, just to keep the money flowing.

For the first time ever, the US automakers are predicted to drop to less than a 50% share of the market in US new car and truck sales by the end of the year. On top of that, sales figures are dropping for virtually all makes but particularly for the Big Three. That's why the rebate and incentive game is back big time at your local dealer. It's also why you need to be more careful now than ever.

The newest ripoff is the tire care package that some dealers are packing into your monthly payment, sometimes without the buyer even knowing it. The tire care package is really not much more than just a scam for paying your dealer now for tires that you might (or might not) need in the future. Frankly, you're better off keeping that money in your own bank account!

We're getting more complaints about negative equity scams too. That's where the dealer says your trade in vehicle is not worth what you owe on it "but don't worry, we'll pay off your trade in anyway" they say. What they don't tell you is that they are jacking up the price of the car they're selling you too. Effectively, you are just transferring some of your old loan over onto the newer vehicle. Deeper in debt and away you go! Read more about it and how to avoid it by clicking here.

Another common ripoff is the Gap Insurance Game. That's where the dealer sells you a high priced guarantee that if your car is stolen or wrecked and your own insurance won't pay it off, then they'll put money toward the payoff too. Some people praise it, but some people say it's just another way car dealers try to take your money. After all, if that car was worth what they sold it to you for, then how come your own insurance company doesn't think so?

Historically, what we've seen is that car dealers are out to get your money one way or the other. If the service department is making money for repairs, then the sales department doesn't feel as much pressure to pull a fast one on customers. And if the sales department is selling lots of iron, then the service department might not tell you that you need that brake job sooner rather than later.

When the money stream goes down in both departments, look out. That's when car dealers are at their worst.

Don't waste your money. Be smart and be careful. And if you get ripped off anyway, then email or call us. Sueing dishonest car dealers is what we do for consumers every day.