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Copyright 2007 San Jose Mercury News

Action Line: $5,000 loss recovered after complaint to DA

I signed a contract before researching a company's claims made during its sales presentation, television ad, Web site and Mercury News full-page ads. During the sales presentation, visitors were shown examples of products and member prices. The sales people repeatedly touted that members would benefit from "substantial savings" on a wide range of items, including furniture, electronics, home-remodeling items, appliances, etc.

Before signing the contract, I spoke to the franchise company president, who specifically indicated I would get the membership prices from a window company I already had planned to use.

After joining, I was upset to find that most of the items I wanted only offered marginal savings. The window-replacement company said the price was the same whether or not I had a membership.

At this point, I guessed I had made a huge mistake and did a web search on the company. Although our local Better Business Bureau did not have any complaints on file, the BBB from another state did. I also found numerous complaints against the company for franchises in other states.

My two letters to the president requesting that my unused membership be canceled were ignored. Shortly afterward, an Action Line column included details of the California Business and Professional Code (on false advertising) and advised a reader to contact the district attorney's Consumer Protection Unit.

Since I had been misled and deceived by the company, I filed a complaint with the DA's office. I wanted them to be aware of this company's tactics. Today, I received a check in the mail for the full amount of the membership!


The name of the buying club is not mentioned in the Action Line column. But which buying clubs charge a membership fee of several thousand dollars, have a franchisee in the San Francisco Bay Area, have been running numerous TV commercials recently as well as print ads in Bay Area newspapers?

There is only one. That's DirectBuy.

It sounds like an inquiry from the District Attorney's office will help in obtaining a refund. It should not be assumed that this is always going to work, becaues your situation may not be the same as this person's. It's possible that DirectBuy issued a refund in this case only because of the specific representation about getting a discount on the price of the windows.

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Revision r1.1 - 13 Jul 2007 - 02:46 by EliMantel web search for EliMantel
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