My initial blog site dealt with me turning 60 and after that huge milestone happened I changed my blog to Life Lessons 102. I intend it to address the new things I learn now that are somehow different but I never thought this would be my first topic.
Long story short…we needed some work done on the ice maker in our refrigerator (I know…first world problems). I called Frigidaire (apparently owned by Electrolux) to arrange for the servicing needed. The representative offered a few private company names and also their own Electrolux service department to get this done. When I confirmed I would like to have Electrolux do the service, I also agreed to a $99.00 service call fee that would be taken off any work I needed done, if I needed additional work. I gave them my debit card number along with the code and they instantly took the $99.00 from my account even though the appointment was not for 2 more weeks. It was weird but I was okay with this!
The service technician arrived on the scheduled day in the 4 hour window they give you and after some time grunting and sighing, determined that parts he didn’t have were needed and he would have to come back. He offered me a screen shot of the estimate, including parts and labour, and asked if I wanted to book this service for that amount. I said, yes, please book the appointment for two weeks from now. Then here’s where things got weird and unexpected!
The day after the initial service call, when I checked on my bank account, I noticed a charge in the pending section for the balance of the service and parts payable to Electrolux. Keep in mind the appointment was not for another two weeks, so no parts were received and no labour had been done. At first I thought the ‘pending’ was a hold of sorts to make sure I would pay them. Not really thinking they would charge me for work that hadn’t been done. I mean never in my 60 years of life had I ever paid ANYTHING this way. A deposit maybe (the $99 was that in my mind) but not for future work.
Today (still 8 days before the scheduled appointment) when I noticed the pending amount had been taken out of my bank account, I was, to say the least, shocked…and a bit angry! I called Electrolux and after a 20 minute conversation with their phone rep trying to explain to me that is their policy, I asked to speak to her supervisor. There is NO WAY they can take this money from my account without my approval or at the very least…telling me they would be doing that.
The supervisor explained to me that when I agreed to the estimate, it essentially gave them the authority to take the money in advance of any work being performed or any parts arriving. It is, she said, their policy and even if the technician didn’t tell me, it was a human error and we all make mistakes, and that is their policy. Needless to say, I will not do business this way and cancelled the appointment and told her to refund the amount today. It turns out no matter how mad I was, or how forceful I told her, my money would take 7 to 10 business days before it would be refunded.
After hanging up angry, I decided I would call my bank and tell them this charge was not authorized and get them to charge back Electrolux. I spoke to the private client advisor who indicated that, of course that was not right, and transferred me to their fraud department. Here’s what I learned after much back and forth from the fraud agent. By agreeing to the initial service call fee and giving them my card number and special code, I had also given them permission to charge the additional funds for the next visit. By giving them the number and code, I had given them the right to charge for this service…even if it takes two separate service calls. If they do not provide the service, then I can register my complaint and it will be dealt with as a fraud. My bank will credit my account and they will deal directly with VISA to resolve the ‘fraud’.
So, here is what I learned that I did not know…
- Businesses can charge for future services with no authorization from me and they don’t have to tell me. (Apparently there has to be some fine print somewhere that says this is what they are doing, but I wasn’t provided with any paper contract because it was done over the phone)
- I have no recourse to stop additional charges to my debit account that is unauthorized if I provided the card number and code for the initial transaction.
- There are companies now that charge you before the work has been done
- My bank debit card is not managed by my bank but by VISA and all disputes will need to be made to VISA. (My bank did indicate they would handle the dispute, and if valid, provide the credit to my account while they did that)
- There are more questions that need to be asked like… is this the only charge you will be making with this authorization?
With so much shopping and services being done over the phone and on-line, we all need to take a moment to really understand who has our information and what are they going to do with it. Will they just use if for this specific transaction, or will it be used for any additional reasons? We need to ask more questions and we need to have these companies explain what they are doing and not just take it for granted they will be doing what we think.
My Life Lesson from this … even high profile companies can have questionable practices and even if its explained in the fine print, we need to ask to know more about what they are going to do with what we are giving them.
Oh…and also, I can just use the ice cube trays and my fancy refrigerator that used to dispense ice is just for show and water.