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Test Your Consumer Knowledge

quiz pictureHow savvy a consumer are you? Take this quick quiz to see if you can choose the best course of action in these common scenarios.

1. You buy a computer and a week later it malfunctions. The computer store says it only accepts returns within five days of the sale, and that you'll have to deal with the manufacturer. Is the store correct?
a. No. If an item is defective, the store must give you a replacement or refund regardless of its return policy.
b. Yes, if the store's return policy is clearly posted or printed on the sales receipt.
c. Yes, if the item is under a manufacturer's warranty.

2. Your phone bill shows a charge for a paging service. You don't have a pager. You should:
a. Call the number of the paging company printed on the bill and tell them to remove the charge.
b. Tell the phone company that you did not order the paging service.
c. Call the number of the paging company and your local phone company, and then deduct the disputed amount from your payment.

3. After you move out of your apartment, the landlord says he is keeping your security deposit. He can do this if:
a. He says the apartment needs to be painted.
b. He sends you a written list of damages to the property, with a statement of what it will actually cost to repair them.
c. You broke your lease.

4. You call a company who advertises guaranteed loans, even for people with bad credit. The representative approves you for the loan over the phone and says you need to send a processing fee by overnight courier. You should:
a. Send the money.
b. Ask if the fee will be refunded if you don't get the loan.
c. Be suspicious and end the conversation.

5. Because you have a coupon for an oil change, you take your car to a new repair shop. The mechanic says you should have your water pump replaced for $300. You should:
a. Tell him to make the repair.
b. Take the car elsewhere, to your regular mechanic if you have one, for a second opinion.
c. Ignore the advice - he's only trying to rip you off.

6. A friend asks you to sign up as a distributor for an organization that sells water filters and nutritional supplements. You should ask:
a. Will more of my commissions come from recruiting than from selling?
b. Are the organization's products competitively priced?
c. Does the company offer a full refund for my initial investment?

7. You ask your doctor for a copy of your medical record. His office says there will be a charge for photocopying. You should:
a. Tell them that is illegal - it's your medical record.
b. Pay the fee, because the record belongs to the doctor.
c. Ask if you can photocopy the record yourself.

8. A caller who says she is a representative of your bank tells you she needs some information to set up security safeguards for your account. You should:
a. Give her the information she requests, but get her full name and telephone extension.
b. Tell her you will call the bank at its listed number to check that she's on the level.
c. Agree only to verify information she already has.


Answers

1. a. If you purchase a defective item, the seller must replace it or refund your money regardless of its return policy. All purchases, except used cars that are more than six years old, have been driven more than 60,000 miles, and are sold "as is," are covered by an implied warranty that goods are in operating condition and will continue to work for a reasonable period of time. Even when an item is covered by a manufacturer's warranty, you can insist that the retailer give you a replacement or refund.

2. c. You do not have to pay for services you did not authorize. Your phone service will not be disconnected while you are disputing the charge.

3. b. and c. Landlords may withhold security deposits to pay for damages the tenant has made to the apartment, but not to pay for painting or repairs due to ordinary wear and tear. You have the right to be present when the landlord inspects your apartment for damages at the end of your lease. If you broke your lease, and the landlord is not able to find another tenant for the remainder of your lease, the landlord is allowed to keep your security deposit to make up for his loss.

4. c. Being asked to send a fee in advance, by courier, is a tip-off to a common scam. The consumer sends the fee but the loan never arrives. Legitimate lenders never "guarantee" or say you are likely to get a loan before you apply, especially if you have bad credit, and never ask you to pay a processing fee in advance.

5. b. It is always a good idea to get a second opinion for major repairs, especially if the first estimate comes from a mechanic you haven't dealt with before. Although it takes extra time, it can save you from spending a lot of money on a misdiagnosed problem--or a completely unnecessary repair.

6. a, b and c. A business in which salespeople earn their commissions primarily from recruiting other salespeople, rather than selling a product, is a pyramid scheme. Often, pyramid schemes market products or services at prices that are higher than retail. Pyramid schemes are illegal, and people lose money when the program collapses, as it inevitably will. Maryland law requires that multi-level marketing companies offers participants at least a 90 percent refund under certain circumstances for an initial 90-day period. Some legitimate companies may offer a 100 percent refund for a longer period (if so, make sure you get that refund offer in writing). If you have a question about a multi-level marketing opportunity, call the Attorney General's Securities Division at (410) 576-7042.

7. b. Although you have the right to the information contained in your medical records, the record itself belongs to the doctor and he can ask a fee to cover retrieval and photocopying.

8. b. This sounds like a scam. Never give personal or financial information to someone you don't know. If you want to check out her story, call the bank yourself at its listed number - any number the caller gives you may be a set-up.

Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division
Consumer hotline: (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free

 
 

Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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