April 24, 2003
Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH H&R BLOCK
Tax Preparation Firm Agrees to Reimburse Consumers
for "Peace of Mind" Guarantee
General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that in an Assurance
with his Consumer Protection Division and the offices of 41 other
jurisdictions, H&R Block Services, Inc., has agreed to ensure
that consumers are not charged for the tax-preparation company's
"Peace of Mind" guarantee without their express authorization.
H&R Block also agreed to establish a fund to reimburse clients
who paid for the guarantee but may not have wanted to purchase the
agreement, reached by H&R Block and the attorneys general of
41 states and the District of Columbia, concerns the company's sale
of its "Peace of Mind" guarantee, under which it will
pay up to $5,000 of any additional income tax owed due to a preparer's
settlement will provide restitution to customers who were charged
for the Peace of Mind guarantee but who do not believe they were
adequately informed of their choice," Attorney General Curran
said. "The agreement will also prevent this problem from arising
in the future."
attorneys general alleged that in the 2001 tax season Block added
a fee of $22 for the guarantee to all consumer tax return preparation
invoices without first obtaining the consumer's affirmative acceptance.
Once their investigation began, the attorneys general said, Block
changed its practices for the 2002 tax season. Block denies that
it violated any consumer protection statute and maintains that it
did not deprive its customers of the choice.
agreement calls on H&R Block to establish a fund of $1 million
to be used to pay refunds to eligible consumers who had a tax return
prepared at an H&R Block office in tax season 2001.
the terms of the settlement, H&R Block will seek a consumer's
affirmative agreement before charging for the guarantee in the future.
The company many not make a representation that it "recommends"
purchasing the guarantee until the customer has been provided the
material terms and conditions of the guarantee.
H&R Block also agreed to reimburse the states for the cost of
are eligible for restitution if they had a tax return prepared in
the 2001 tax season, were charged for the guarantee as an additional
component, never used the guarantee and believe they were never
informed that the guarantee was added for a fee to their tax preparation
service, Curran said.
consumers must make a refund request by calling toll-free 866-522-7083
or visiting the website H&R Block has created for customer refund
(English) or www.hrblock.com/customer_support/pom_es.jsp
(Spanish). They must make their application for refund within 120
days of the date of the agreement between the states and H&R