Customer fined $250 for complaining, told "You are playing games with the wrong people"

Public Citizen is helping Cindy Cox sue Accessory Outlet for charging her $250 when she complained that an Iphone case hadn't shipped when promised; the company's rep told her that he'd fine her even more for emailing him to protest, adding an ominous "You are playing games with the wrong people and have made a very bad mistake."

Accessory Outlet claimed that a buried clause in its terms of service (which prohibited "any complaint, chargeback, claim, dispute, or mak[ing] any public forum post, review, Better Business Bureau complaint, social media post, or any public statement regarding the order, our website, or any issue regarding your order, for any reason") gave them the right to levy the charge, and told Fox that they would report her to credit bureaus if she didn't pay up, which would "put a negative mark on your credit for 7 years and will also result in calls to your home and/or work."

Every one of Accessory Outlet's badges of merit (from the BBB, Angie's List, etc) is fraudulent, and their picture of their well-lit, well-stocked store is actually a picture of a Korean Samsung store.

Cox, undeterred, told the company not to threaten her and said that she would be contacting a lawyer and the Better Business Bureau.

Accessory Outlet responded the next day, July 17: “Contact your lawyer, spend more time and money if you wish. You will be billed and the amount we will bill you for will continue to rise with every email and every second we dedicate to correspondence of any kind pertaining to your breach of the terms of sale. Thank you.”

Order on sketchy site goes awry, firm wants $250 in fees, customer sues [Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]

Notable Replies

  1. kpkpkp says:

    Reminds me of another vendor

  2. Wow, you have to really be bad to have an F rating with the BBB. I have dealt with many pure fraud businesses where BBB wouldn't allow a complaint on the basis "they are just following their policy".

  3. Scrub says:

    Where's anonymous when you need them?

  4. I would just dispute the charge with the credit card company. They hate "chargebacks" and will quickly put the screws to vendors who are causing problems. Terms like this are more than likely against the merchant agreement the vendor has to sign to accept a brand of credit card.

    In general you have to dispute the charges within 60 days (beware any offer that encourages you to try it out for more than 60 even if they promise a full refund).

    There are consumer protections and rights that can't be set aside by store policy or terms and conditions but the credit card companies are usually even more pro-consumer in this instance (might seem out of character, but the CC have a vested interest in you feeling safe to purchase cruft. Merchants are really the ones over the barrel in this relationship) than is required by the law.

    In general, their behavior is probably all bluster trying to bluff you into rolling over or getting some amount of money. It's doubtful that they even have a membership with a credit reporting agency to even make a report--that's why it's important to be preemptive with your card issuer.

  5. hallam says:

    Putting a term in a contract does not make it enforceable. I am not a lawyer but I have paid enough to tell me about this stuff...

    This looks like a contract of adhesion to me which means unenforceable. The vendor did not make the contract terms clear to the buyer. Further it looks very much like they actively attempted to conceal them from the buyer. The terms are in no way usual for the type of transaction.

    Next issue is that the courts rarely permit liquidated damages clauses in civil contracts and virtually never in a consumer situation. Attempting to fine customers is not going to be considered enforceable.

    The threat to make a report to a credit rating agency might cross the line to extortion which would be a criminal matter. Is there a threat? Yes. Is there a demand for an item of value ? yes.

    In general you can't use a threat of reporting to a credit rating agency to force someone to pay a disputed debt.

    In Europe this type of scammer gets thrown in the slammer. The US tends to be very sloppy and lax on fraud.

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