Q: Reader's Digest has been sending me harassing bills for months. Now, I'm being threatened that my account will go to collections.
My subscription was canceled in November 2007, when I received a notice to renew early. I sent the bill back marked "cancel" and have done the same with every bill I've received since. I called Reader's Digest customer service in March and put my account number into its automated response system. A recorded voice tells me the account was canceled and I owe nothing.
I'm 76 years old and my eyesight is failing, making it difficult to read. I'm canceling all my subscriptions. Can you help?
A: Cindy Vedovato, senior customer care associate for Reader's Digest, apologized for any concern or inconvenience you went through. However, the publisher didn't act without cause. Vedovato said records showed you had responded to an offer to renew your subscription under its Continuous Renewal Service program.
The offer "clearly explained that the subscription was on an automatic renewal basis and would continue to renew each year at the subscription price, then in effect, unless you cancelled," Vedovato said. It provided instructions for how to do so.
Vedovato said that 30 to 60 days before the automatic renewal kicks in, customers receive a reminder notice that restates the cancellation instructions. Since you didn't cancel according to policy, your subscription was renewed.
Your account has been closed and your name removed from Reader's Digest's mailing list according to your wishes. Vedovato said it may take a couple of months before the mailings stop since their promotions are done so far in advance.
A $3,370 lesson
Q: A few months ago, you published a complaint against a local flooring business. My husband and I had a very difficult time over the past year with this same business.
When I signed the contract for flooring, I asked about the cancellation policy. I was told there was a 25 percent restocking fee. The next day I decided to cancel the order and at that time I was told the store has no cancellation policy.
I wrote several letters to the owner and my husband made several phone calls. We even had our attorney write on our behalf, all to no avail. I was under the impression that consumers had 72 hours to cancel a sales contract in Florida. I know that many people believe that to be true. Apparently not.
We had to pay the entire amount of $3,370, which turned out to be a costly lesson. Please inform the public.
A: Consider them informed.
There are really two issues involved in your situation. The first has to do with a store's cancellation policy. Florida Statute 501.42 requires a business to post its refund policy at the point of sale. This could mean the printed receipt or contract, or a sign sitting on the checkout desk.
You didn't send us a copy of your contract, but your attorney noted its terms and conditions included "a restocking fee of 50 percent minimum plus freight may be imposed on undelivered, uninstalled or returned goods." These terms illustrate potential penalties for cancellations the company later told you weren't accepted. In addition to these written terms, there was the verbal communication you received from your salesperson, who indicated there was a 25 percent restocking fee on canceled orders.
The previous Action complaint you referred to included a contract from the same business. That version said, "This order is not subject to cancellation." Clearly, there are discrepancies in the company's policies.
I'm sure your attorney has advised you of your options.
The second issue you asked about is the Cooling-Off Rule (sometimes called the Three-Day Rule.) It allows consumers to cancel a contract within three business days, but only if you buy goods or services during the course of a home solicitation sale.
No other types of sales can be canceled with this protection.
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.