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Consumer Alerts

Research Return Policies

Research Return Policies

Wed, Dec 21, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – We all know that our friends and family put a lot of thought into gifts this holiday season, but not every gift is a homerun. Sometimes clothes may be the wrong size, or we may already have that game, which leads us to exchanging or returning that new gift. But Arkansans need to research company return policies.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help gift recipients, should gift returns or exchanges be necessary this holiday season.

“Some return and exchange policies are simple and can be taken care of quickly,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But consumers should check with the company to find out the specifics of their policies beforehand. Some retailers allow shoppers to make returns regardless of the reason, which leads consumers to wrongly believe they are entitled by law to a full refund or credit at all retail outlets.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips gift recipients need to make a return or exchange:

  • Ask the gift giver about the store’s return or exchange policy.
  • Keep all gift receipts.
  • Do not open the box or remove the tags if you may return it.
  • Some online retailers allow purchases to be returned in store, while others require the item be shipped back. Check with the company ahead of time.

Most companies offer in-store exchanges if the customer has the receipt and the item is promptly returned. However, others have an “all sales are final” policy for deeply discounted or clearance items and do not allow returns or exchanges. Return policies not only differ from store to store but can also differ for items purchased in-store and items bought online or by mail-order.

Some retailers that allow returns may charge restocking fees for certain products. Consumers can sometimes pay a fee of 10 to 25 percent of the price of the item if the package is not in the condition in which it was purchased. Meanwhile, items like computer software, CDs, DVDs and Blue-Ray discs are not generally returnable after the seal has been broken.

Retailers are not required to accept at-will returns, and even in the case of a defective product, consumers may be required to contact the manufacturer. Sometimes retailers will require consumers to deal with the product manufacturer directly, rather than simply returning the item to the place of purchase.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Financial Planning for Military Service Members and Families

Financial Planning for Military Service Members and Families

Wed, Dec 14, 2016

Military servicemen and women are tasked daily with protecting our freedoms, and the holiday season is no different. While these brave men and women face many of the same financial hardships as other families do, they also are confronted with unique challenges because of circumstances, like frequent relocations and deployments.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently unveiled a new website to help service members and their families manage their personal finances.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate military families as we enter a new year and plan a new budget.

“Financial planning can be difficult and overwhelming,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But it can be even more cumbersome when military service members are receiving change of station or deployment orders. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects these men and women from being taken advantage of. This new website provides a financial readiness toolkit and resources for best fiscal practices.”

Military.Consumer.gov, which is designed for mobile devices, provides information on the following topics to help military families manage their finances:

  • How to control spending
  • How to use military experience and benefits to increase earning potential
  • How to borrow, use credit and manage debt
  • How to save and invest to make today’s paychecks last into the future
  • How to protect money and financial and account information.

The FTC created Military.Consumer.gov by teaming up with the Department of Defense, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Military Saves and other agencies.

The website also provides tips for personal financial managers helping military servicemen and women prepare for the future.

Arkansas military service members, veterans and families can file consumer complaints with the Attorney General’s office on ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Gift Cards – What You Should Know

Gift Cards – What You Should Know

Wed, Dec 7, 2016

It is exciting to purchase that new toy a child in your life wants or give that perfect gift a relative needs, but sometimes it can be difficult to settle on the right gift. Many Arkansans turn to gift cards as the perfect item for the Christmas season, and it is important to know that gift card recipients have certain protections that have been put in place by both the federal government and the State of Arkansas.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to ensure gift card recipients know the protections that are currently in place to guard them from being taken advantage of and to ensure they are able to use the gift card for its intended purpose.

“Gift cards are popular because they allow recipients to get exactly what they want from a retailer or restaurant,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It is important for all Arkansans to know and understand the protections they are granted when they receive a gift card this holiday season.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following list of State and federal protections under State law and federal rules.

  • A gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the date the card was purchased or from the last date any additional money was loaded onto the card. If the expiration dates listed on the card is earlier than these dates, the money can be transferred to a replacement card at no cost.
  • Inactivity fees can be charged only when a card has not been used for at least one year.
  • The expiration date must be clearly disclosed on the card.
  • Fees must be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging.

The Arkansas Fair Gift Card Act applies not only to gift cards but also gift certificates and prepaid cards but does not apply to loyalty reward program gift cards. The federal rules only apply to the plastic swipe cards, which usually contain a magnetic strip and look similar to a credit or debit card.

If there is a problem with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card. If the problem cannot be resolved at that level, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office or the Federal Trade Commission.

For more information about consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Deck the Halls — with Caution

Deck the Halls — with Caution

Wed, Nov 30, 2016

The holiday season is upon us, and families across Arkansas are taking steps to make their homes more festive with decorations. Many times this involves stringing lights on rooftops and lighting festive candles to bring more holiday cheer, but the joyfulness can come to a screeching halt if a mishap occurs.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s alert to help homeowners avoid some common mistakes that could cause injury or destruction.

“We all get caught up in the holiday season,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But with the excitement and activities, sometimes we can get careless. It is important to make safety a priority for yourself as well as your family because most incidents are avoidable.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans planning to hang lights this holiday season:

  • Select lights with labels indicating they have been safety tested by independent laboratories.
  • Check each set of lights. Look for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard or repair, if necessary, before use.
  • When using lights outdoors, make sure they are certified for outdoor use and are securely fastened to protect against damaging winds.
  • Only use insulated staples or hoods to affix lights. Never use nails or tacks.
  • Do not use more than three standard-size sets of lights per extension cord, and ensure that each extension cord is rated for the intended use.
  • Always turn off or unplug when you go to bed or leave your home.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates about 12,000 emergency room visits for falls, lacerations and back strains while decorating for the holidays. Meanwhile, fires are also a concern with burning candles and fresh Christmas trees that are not properly watered.

Use caution when climbing ladders and make sure all locks are properly engaged, keep your body near the middle of the step and face the ladder while climbing. Avoid using the top step of the ladder unless it was designed of that purpose.

And to avoid fires caused by candles, never leave a candle unattended and keep them on a stable surface and away from items that can burn easily, like trees decorations, curtains and furniture.

For more information about consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Falling Temperatures. Climbing Heating Costs.

Falling Temperatures. Climbing Heating Costs.

Wed, Nov 23, 2016

Air conditioners across Arkansas are finally getting a break with temperatures now dipping into the 30s overnight, but the lower the temperature falls, the more work our furnaces and heating units do, which can lead to increased energy costs.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help Arkansans save some money while heating their home this winter.

“High heating costs can have a big impact on family budgets,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But there are a few steps to take that can help keep your home warm while saving money.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to keep energy costs lower throughout the colder months.

  • Keep curtains open during the day for natural heat, and close them at night to retain the heat.
  • Use a programmable thermostat to automatically lower the temperature when no one is home.
  • Seal cracks or holes around the home by weather-stripping doors and windows and adding insulation to walls, the attic and crawlspace to prevent it from losing heat.
  • Set ceiling fans to spin clockwise to recirculate rising hot air.
  • Make sure baseboard heaters, air vents and radiators are not obstructed.
  • Service the heating system at least once a year to ensure it is operating properly.
  • Consider wrapping the water heater in a water heater jacket or blanket and turning down the temperature to the warm setting to save money.
  • Close the vents and doors to rooms that are not being used.
  • Keep air filters clean and replace regularly.

Use caution while using space heaters. Keep them away from flammable materials and consider the impact it could have on the energy bill. The Department of Energy reports that space heaters account for about 45 percent of energy bills in average U.S. homes.

Also, be cautious of products claiming to drastically lower heating costs and avoid unsolicited high-pressure sales calls for visits from contractors offering furnaces, windows, roofing and other home-improvement projects. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Arkansans having trouble paying heating or electricity bills this winter should contact their region’s Arkansas Community Action Agency to learn more about the Weatherization Assistance Program.

For more information about consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Shop Safely Online

Shop Safely Online

Wed, Nov 16, 2016

As temperatures cool down, Arkansans are beginning to think about the holidays and shopping for family and friends, with many planning to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that consumers plan to split much of their shopping between online, department stores and discount stores.

Holiday sales reportedly increased more than 3 percent in 2015, to $626.1 billion. And a recent NRF survey reports that consumers plan to spend nearly $600 on gifts and more than $200 on food, decorations, flowers and greeting cards this year.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage caution while shopping online.

“Many Arkansans plan and save all year for the holiday season,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But a simple mistake while shopping online could cause a lot of unnecessary heartache. There are ways to protect your money and identity, while still taking advantage of great deals online.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help keep consumers safe while shopping online:

  • Look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar, and the phrase “https” in the URL to be sure information is secure to help guard the security of your information as it is transmitted to a website. Be sure your browser has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available from the manufacturer.
  • Check the online merchant’s privacy policy before providing any personal financial information and determine how the information will be used or shared with others. Some websites’ disclosures are easier to find than others — look at the bottom of the home page, on order forms or in the “About” or “FAQs” sections of a site.
  • Read and understand refund and shipping policies before you make your purchase.
  • Pay by credit card, which is the most secure payment method. Under federal law, charges can be disputed and consumer liability for theft is limited so long as consumers promptly notify the bank or credit card issuer. Additionally, many credit card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the purchaser pays nothing if their credit card is stolen and used to make unauthorized purchases.
  • Keep personal information private. Do not disclose personal information – address, telephone number, Social Security number, bank account number or email address – unless you know who is collecting the information, why they are collecting it and how they will use it.
  • Be cautious when buying gifts from an online auction. Understand how the auction works and check out the seller’s reputation before bidding. Always ask about terms of delivery and return options. Never wire money for the purchase; use some other form of payment.
  • Keep records of online transactions and check for emails from merchants while doing business. Merchants may email important information about purchases.
  • Promptly and thoroughly review monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases. Notify the credit or debit card issuer immediately if a card or checkbook is lost or stolen or if you suspect someone is using your accounts without your permission.

Also, research companies before finalizing the online purchase to ensure it is a credible merchant, and check the anticipated delivery date to make sure it will be delivered before in time for the holidays.

For more information about consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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