Wednesday

Gift Cards and the Law


The Holiday that millions of people got this year? Gift cards. About 80% of all consumers bought a gift card for Holiday giving. It's are a billion dollar business.  And there's a law for that in most states, Ohio included.
 There's an Ohio Gift Card law and a Federal Gift Card law to protect you if something goes wrong. Here's some important tips on Gift Cards and the Law.

Q.:       Why are there two laws that cover gift cards?
A.:       The state law was enacted several years before the federal law and each law covers different gift cards in different circumstances, with some overlapping coverage too. Because gift cards may sometimes be used in different states, a federal law was also needed to protect consumers who purchase and receive gift cards.
 
Q.:       What do the gift card laws do?
A.:       Under Ohio’s law, a gift card must maintain its full value for at least two full years from the date it was issued. The Ohio law also prohibits retailers from charging service or other fees for two years from the date it was issued. The Federal Gift Card Law only covers store issued gift cards and bank issued gift cards, but it requires those cards to have full value for at least 5 years. But when you buy a store gift card at a third party location (called “card malls”) the federal law does not cover the gift card – only the Ohio law.
 
Q.:       Do these laws apply to all gift cards?
A.:       No.  The Ohio law does not apply to cards given as part of a customer loyalty program, cards sold by non-profit organizations, cards given to employees by their employers or gift cards that are usable at any unaffiliated sellers of goods or services, such as Visa or Mastercard, etc., or to prepaid telephone calling cards. The Federal law only applies to store issued and bank issued cards and to gift cards that are freely given away as a promotion.
 
Q.:       Can I be charged a fee if I don’t use my gift card for a while?
A.:       If your card is covered by the Ohio law only, then you do not have to pay any fees for at least two years. If the gift card is covered by the Federal law, then any fees have to be clearly disclosed on the card itself or with its packaging and no fee can be imposed unless the card has not been used for at least a year.
           
Q.:       What if an Ohio store breaks the law and does not honor the full value of the card?
A.:       You can go to small claims court to ask for compensation of no more than the original value of the card, plus court costs and attorney fees.  In addition, if the judge rules the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act has been violated too, then you may even recover up to three times the full amount of the card plus costs and attorney fees.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumers Protect Themselves Since 1978

Tuesday

Car Dealers Hit Bottom in Honesty Poll

Gallup has finished its latest survey poll of the perceived honesty and ethical standards of professions and, surprise, surprise, car salespeople are back at the very bottom of the list again.

The survey was completed last money and rated almost two dozen professions on a five pooint honesty and ethics scale. And at the top? Nurses.


The Honesty Poll
Gallup started this "honesty poll" almost 40 years ago and car salespeople have always been at the bottom.

Last year, though, members of Congress tied with them at the bottom of the list, as being among the most dishonest. This year they managed to climb one notch out of the pit, leaving car dealers behind all by themselves.

Car Dealers at bottom of "Honest and Ethical" Gallup Survey
While lawyers have always taken a beating too, this year they sit on the scale at about one third the way up the list, just behind state governors. But not all lawyers are thought of in a lowly way.

At a recent consumer rights conference, one lawyer stepped into an elevator with a vacationing family and when they saw his nametag ("NACA") they asked what the group was and when he told them it was the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the daughter said "Oh, you're one of the good guys."

NACA members do more good for consumers than any other professional group, advocating the protection of consumer rights before state and federal officials and regulators every day. And appearing in Courts all across the country, standing up for consumers who have been victimized by predatory mortgage lenders and dishonest merchants.

Not all car dealers are dishonest and not all lawyers are either. And NACA members are always on your side.

Burdge Law Office
NACA Members for Over 15 years

Friday

FTC again waters down your used car buyer rights

The FTC Buyers Guide can be misleading
The Federal Trade Commission is at it again. They still won't tell car dealers to speak the truth about the used cars they are selling to the public. But they could - if they wanted to. Here's your chance to make them to do it.

The FTC created the administrative law that requires car dealers to post a Buyers Guide form on the window of every used car that is for sale. The idea was great when it first came up back in the 1970's. They argued about it until the law finally was approved and went into effect in 1985.

Why does it matter to you? Because what is on that sticker becomes part of your sales contract when you buy a used car anywhere in the US.

Now the FTC is considering the first major changes to be made to the Buyers Guide form. As it is now, the car dealer has to disclose if you are buying the vehicle with a warranty or "as is" plus, if you get a warranty, what it will cover, how long it will last, and what (if anything) you have to pay to get warranty work done. That's fair. Every buyer should know if the dealer is going to stand behind the car they are selling, right?

Well, do you think every buyer should also know about the car's defects and malfunctions in the car that the dealer already knows about? Or should the car dealer be allowed to hide that from the buyer?

For example, if the car dealer knows the used car has an engine that is failing and probably won't last another 5,000 miles, shouldn't the car dealer have to disclose that? After all, it could easily cost $8,000 or more to replace the engine in many cars. Well, the FTC argued about that and decided, "no - car dealers don't have to disclose known defects in the cars they sell." Sort of like, take the money and run.

That's just not right.

You can stop the FTC from letting car dealers hide the truth by telling them so and it's easy. You can do it online by filling out the "public comment" form online at https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/usedcarrulenprm - Don't let car dealers hide the truth from you.


The proposed law has other problems too and you can read about more of them at the Americans for Financial Reform website.
You can learn more about your used car lemon law rights at http://usedlemoncars.com/

Protecting Consumers
Since 1978

Monday

Where the Best New Car and Truck Deals Are Right Now

Economy Getting Good - New Car Sales Up Again
You can tell the national economy is getting better, car dealers across the country are saying, because people are buying more cars than at any time in the last two years plus - in fact for 27 months in a row the sales numbers have done nothing but increase. And sales are headed for an annual number that hadn't been hit in four and a half years.

In fact, the numbers are so good that on average one new car is sold in the US once every 30 seconds. And that is in spite of Hurricane Sandy's wide impact on East Coast sales numbers.

What that means for you is that dealers who have a hot model line in stock are not going to be very negotiable on prices because they know the demand is up.

Honda sales were up 38.9% over the numbers for a year ago, so don't look for any bargain price deals at your local Honda dealer.

Toyota is still doing less on its numbers, though, and so is Ford. GM is just lukeware with a decrease in market share but with a slight rise in sales numbers. You should be able to get a decent discount at those three brand stores.

Chrysler though? Their sales numbers wen tup for the 32nd month in a row with a hefty 14.4% jump in the last month alone - probably no great deals to be had for you at your local Chrysler dealership.

Nissan? Their market share was modest in the first place and dropped by another 5% from the number a year ago. Maybe they are getting desperate for sales?

But VW and Audi - forget it. They had a huge gain in market share - highest in over 30 years. But VW still struggles for decent numbers.

Bottom line? If you are looking for a good new car dealer this Holiday Season, shop carefully. Deals still exist, especially in the light truck market. So don't waste your money.

And if you get a lemon? Just call us on our toll free lemon law line at 1.888.331.6422. We squash those regularly.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers get rid of lemons everyday.
It's what we do.