Action: DirecTV service was suspended but billing continued

Q: In August 2006, we prepared to move from Des Moines, Iowa,

to Land O'Lakes.

We called to stop our DirecTV service on Sept. 4, 2006, but the representative suggested we suspend it so that we could restart it when we got to Florida.

We explained that money

would be tight and we had no

idea when we'd be ready to resume service, if ever. We were told that wouldn't be a problem, that our service could be suspended indefinitely.

In spring 2007, we received a zero balance notice.

In June, we received a past

due notice from DirecTV demanding $98.06, even though we had never resumed service.

How can it try to collect for a service we never used?

We've tried to resolve this, but we feel like we've been tricked.

Can you help?

Paul and Jane Short

A: A letter from DirecTV on Sept. 20, 2007, explained that your service had not been suspended indefinitely. Rather, it stated a reactivation date had been prearranged. That date is what was reflected in your past due notice.

Your repeated attempts to plead your case fell on deaf ears. The only response you received was another copy of the first explanation letter.

Action contacted DirecTV in December 2007. Public relations coordinator Vaughn Carter touched base to let us know the company was investigating.

We heard nothing more until you e-mailed in March that you were being contacted by another collection agency, so I went back to Carter for clarification.

"Hooray!" you wrote on April 5. "We were just contacted by the office of the president at DirecTV."

Apparently you were given bad information about the company's policy. It does not allow an account to be suspended indefinitely.

You received an apology for the delay in resolving your complaint and a promise that your outstanding balance will be removed within six weeks.

Hooray, indeed.

Read all of the type

Q: I keep hearing that there is nothing free in this world. The Internet is convincing me that this is true.

I have been offered free samples of products with just the postage and handling to pay. But in order to do so, I have to provide my credit card information.

Upon receiving my credit card statement, I find that these companies have charged me a monthly fee in addition to the postage.

When I question the companies, I'm told I didn't cancel my order or membership or whatever applies, in the time allotted. Sometimes I receive products I didn't order and have to send them back at my expense

When I go back and read the offers, I find the conditions outlined in small print or buried in pages of legalese. They're too time-consuming to read.

I stay away from "free" offers now, but is there any recourse?

Morris Grossman

A: Not once you've accepted the offer without reading its terms and conditions.

These kinds of businesses rely on the fact that most folks won't take the time to do so. Then when the additional charges start, the law is on their side.

Most will refund the first couple of charges, but if you're not careful about keeping up with your credit or bank statements, you might be on the hook for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars.

Mobile home sales

Q: I'm writing in hopes that Action can help the senior citizens in our 55-and-older mobile home park.

Each of us owns his own

unit or recreational vehicle

and pays a monthly lot rent. The park owner demands 5 percent commission on sales even though he is not involved in the sale.

This is a financial hardship for many residents. Most of us are on fixed incomes and may have to sell because we can no longer afford to live here part of the year.

About five years ago, a state official visited the park and informed the owner at that time that his practice was illegal. He was forced to return the commissions he'd collected.

Now the park has changed hands and the new owner says he has a dealer's license that allows him to charge a commission, whether he's hired by the seller or not.

Tell us how we can legally stop it.

L.C.

A: Florida Statute 723.058(2) bans a park owner from charging a fee or commission to the seller of a unit unless the seller has agreed to the park being its sales agent.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation's press secretary Alexis Antonacci, said the agency's Division of Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes has investigated your park in the past.

Only mobile home units fall under the jurisdiction of the mobile home law," Antonacci said.

Call DBPR at (850) 487-1395 to file a new complaint.

Recreational vehicle sales are regulated by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Its press office confirmed it is illegal for the owner to charge a commission on an RV sale he was not involved in. Report this abuse by calling the agency's licensing division at (850) 617-3003.

Correction

Jenny Pham, co-owner of Omega Granite and Marble, is not a defendant in the charges against her husband, Quoc Hung Nguyen, for unlicensed contracting. Last Monday's Action column was incorrect.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. Write Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call, (727) 893-8171, or,

outside of Pinellas, toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request. Complaints can only be accepted by mail. Send only photocopies of personal documents. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Action: DirecTV service was suspended but billing continued 04/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 28, 2008 2:49pm]

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