Attorney General Alerts
Resolving to Get Fit in 2016?Wed, Dec 30, 2015
The holiday season is in the rearview mirror, and now it is time to put our sights on 2016 and New Year’s resolutions. Holiday meals, parties and sweets often disrupt healthy eating and fitness routines, but now is the time many individuals resolve to get back on track to a healthy lifestyle. StateOfObesity.org recently announced Arkansas has the highest adult obesity rate, at almost 36 percent, followed closely by Mississippi and West Virginia.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released today’s consumer alert to help Arkansans if they choose a gym to start or enhance a fitness regimen in 2016.
“The new year always seems like the perfect time to start a new hobby or kick a bad habit,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Many Arkansans will vow to get healthy in January and exercise is one of the best steps to living a healthier lifestyle, but I encourage you to research your options to make sure your choice meets your needs without breaking the bank.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans to consider if you think a gym is the best choice for you:
- Visit the gym during the hours you would normally use it to see if it is overcrowded. Notice whether the facilities and equipment are clean and well-maintained.
- Consider the hours of operation when deciding on a gym membership.
- Ask if the facility provides instructors or trainers. Many gyms will provide trainers for an additional cost.
- Find out if the membership includes fitness classes and childcare and if they are included or require additional costs.
- Inquire about the fees and schedule and if the facility requires a contract and auto-draft payments.
- Ask about trial periods. Is there a time to sample the services and equipment for free and without any obligation to join?
Many gyms offer incentives to join during this time of year, but be cautious of high pressure sales tactics or opportunities that seem too good to be true. Do the math to ensure the monthly and annual costs are affordable. And make sure everything discussed with the sales representative is stated in the written contract before signing on the dotted line.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion encourages adults to do aerobic physical activity about 30 minutes, five times per week, and muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week.
For more information about consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Don’t Let Returns Make For a Blue ChristmasWed, Dec 23, 2015
Finding the perfect gifts for family and friends can be an overwhelming task, and sometimes no matter how much thought is put into gifts, the recipient needs to return or exchange it. When this happens, consumers need to know the company return policies.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released today’s consumer alert to help both gift givers and recipients this Christmas season, should gift returns or exchanges be necessary.
“Gift giving and receiving can be fun,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But a problematic return policy can spoil the moment. 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.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for gift recipients needing 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.
As a gesture of goodwill, 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.
The National Retail Federation estimates consumers will spend an average of $463 on family members this holiday season, up about $5 from last year, and holiday spending is expected to increase 3.7 percent to $630.5 billion.
For other consumer related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Are You Giving Gift Cards This Year?Wed, Dec 16, 2015
Gift cards can make great gifts for friends and family. Gift cards allow the recipient to go to favorite restaurants or stores and purchase an item or items at no charge to them.
Arkansas’s Fair Gift Card Act, along with federal regulations, provides protections for recipients of gift cards. These protections state that the expiration date must be clearly disclosed on the card and must be at least five years from the date the card was purchased. Fees must also be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging, and inactivity fees can be charged only after a card has not been used for two years.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released today’s consumer alert to help Arkansans who are considering purchasing gift cards this Christmas season to give to friends and loved ones.
“The holiday season is upon us, and we are all searching for the perfect gifts for family members and friends,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “One option is to purchase a gift card that allows the recipient to pick out their own gift or go out to eat. If you decide to give a gift card, make sure the recipient is aware of the protections.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers considering adding gift cards to their shopping list:
- Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites, as the cards may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.
- Read the fine print. Is there a fee to buy the card? Consider buying elsewhere if the terms and conditions do not seem reasonable.
- Keep the original receipt so the recipient can verify the card’s purchase if it is lost, stolen or does not work. Be sure to provide the recipient with the terms and conditions and the ID number.
- Consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant. Cards purchased from companies that later file for bankruptcy or go out of business may lose their worth.
- Encourage the recipient to use the card as soon as possible to avoid misplacing or forgetting about it.
Contact the card issuer if the card is lost or stolen or problems arise with the gift card. Some retailers may replace lost or stolen cards for a fee if the user has the ID number on the card. If the company does not resolve the issue, contact the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division to file a consumer complaint.
Car Financing Tips for Service MembersWed, Dec 9, 2015
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reports that military service members often become targets of scammers when purchasing or financing a vehicle, including paying money to a scammer posing as a lender who takes their money and disappears.
Meanwhile, overseas deployments or a change-of-duty station can create financial stress and unique financial difficulties. And some unscrupulous lenders target service members by exaggerating their ties to the military to pull at the heartstrings of potential consumers when taking out a car loan.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released today’s consumer alert to encourage military service members to be educated buyers and borrowers.
“All Arkansans considering a vehicle purchase should shop around for the best vehicle and financing options for them,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But the brave men and women who serve our country need to make special considerations when buying a vehicle. All too often military service members become prime targets for scammers who pose as lenders, taking the service member’s money without providing promised financial services.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for members of the military who are considering buying a new or used vehicle:
- Work out a budget before talking with a dealership. Know how much money you have to devote to a down payment, as well as monthly payments.
- Only shop for financing with a car dealer after you have explored other financing options such as local or national banks and credit unions. If you finance with a dealer, request information about the “buy rate” in order to avoid hidden markups.
- Beware of extra products like gap insurance or extended warranties.
- Get a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com and know your creditworthiness.
- Research vehicles, know their approximate cost and read reviews to find out what other consumers are saying about a particular vehicle.
- Shop around for the best dealers, lending rates and insurance providers to avoid businesses with bad reputations.
Military personnel are provided some additional protections when looking for a new vehicle. Make sure the lender is aware of a deployment so they can honor the interest rate cap of 6 percent specified in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). A vehicle lease can also be broken without penalty if the service member is deployed, according to the SCRA. Some insurance companies offer discounts to service members. And some lenders provide military car loans that offer lower interest rates and down payments, but use caution because this also means it will take longer to pay down the loan
For more car-buying tips, credit reporting information and other consumer-related questions, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Securely Surf and Shop OnlineWed, Dec 2, 2015
The holiday shopping season is underway, with retailers competing to provide the best deals and lowest prices to Arkansans. Many consumers are taking advantage of deals that an increasing number of retailers are offering online.
According to research by Wipro Digital, 61 percent of people in the U.S. reported doing more than half their 2014 holiday shopping online. This is a significant increase from 2013, when only 36 percent of consumers reported doing the majority of their shopping online. The trend is set to continue with the 2015 holiday season.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released today’s consumer alert to encourage caution while shopping online.
“With Christmas just a few weeks away, our schedules continue to fill up, and Arkansans are going online to finish their lists,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But shoppers must be cautious when making these purchases to protect financial information. Hackers are always looking for new ways to gain access to credit card numbers and online user information.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help keep consumers safe while shopping online:
- Use a secure browser — software that encrypts or scrambles the purchase information you send over the Internet — 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.
- Read and understand the 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. 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 send important information about purchases.
- Review monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases promptly and thoroughly. 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.
During the holiday season, there are many great deals; however, do thorough research on companies and products before finalizing each online purchase. And check the anticipated delivery date to make sure it will be delivered before the holidays.
For more information on identity theft, ways to protect your money and tips to avoid scams and other consumer related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Monitor and Secure Prescriptions During the HolidaysWed, Nov 25, 2015
Families across Arkansas are gathering for Thanksgiving to give thanks for the blessings that have been bestowed upon us this year. But as we all give thanks, many conversations turn to family news, which often includes our recent ailments or upcoming doctor appointments. Unfortunately, many children and teens listen closely to these conversations and they hear an opportunity to get their hands on “safe” medications prescribed by doctors.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released today’s consumer alert to remind Arkansas families of the prescription drug abuse epidemic in our State and to offer ways they can protect their loves ones by properly storing and disposing of prescription medication.
“Many teens have easy access to prescriptions from the family medicine cabinet and believe these pills are safe because they are prescribed by a doctor,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But the prescriptions are written for a different family member, and it is dangerous to take them for non-medical use. These drugs are very addictive and can be a gateway to even more dangerous drugs, such as heroin.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for parents and family members to protect access to prescription medications:
- Get educated on the signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse at MayoClinic.org.
- Talk to your children about the dangers of taking medication that is prescribed to someone else.
- Maintain a pill count as a monitoring method to know if any pills have been taken.
- Keep medications in a secure, out-of-reach location that limits accessibility.
- Clean out expired medications from cabinets and drawers and make plans to visit a local drug drop-off location.
- Do not flush medication down the toilet or pour down the drain because it can pollute water supplies.
- Research prescription drug drop-off locations at ARTakeBack.org.
Nearly 44,000 people die from drug overdoses each year, with more than half of those because of abuse of prescription drugs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports 5.5 percent of Arkansans over age 12 have used prescription drugs for non-medical use, with the most often abused drug being painkillers. Meanwhile, a study from the University of Texas reports 62 percent of teens who use prescription drugs use because they are easy to obtain from family medicine cabinets.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Arkansas Office of the Drug Director have drop-off locations for Arkansans to drop off any unused prescription medications with no questions asked. The medications will then be disposed of in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.
Earlier this month Attorney General Rutledge partnered with the Arkansas Office of the Drug Director, Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy and the Criminal Justice Institute to host the annual Prescription Drug Abuse Summit in which participants learned about more research and strategies to fight prescription drug misuse and abuse.