Monday, March 28, 2011
Help Me Howard: Yellow Local Directory
If you don't agree to buy something, it seems simple: You don't have to pay. But what if the company records their conversation with you and then tries to use that as proof you agreed to the deal? Do you have to pay? "Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser" listened to the recording, and here is the answer.
WSVN -- When Diego Perez isn't training 600 students at his Better Families Tae Kwon Do studio, he might be working at his business that manages 17 charter schools, or he might be busy at his South Dade farm, raising show horses, or he might be shooting a scene as a stunt double in a Hollywood thriller.
Diego Perez, Busy Guy: "I am in movies as well."
Patrick Fraser: "Is there anything you don't do?"
Diego Perez: "Drugs. Alcohol."
Clearly, Diego is a busy man, patient enough to help turn 2-year-olds into champions.
But he has no patience for a company trying to take his money.
Diego Perez: "They just keep bothering me, and I don't know what to do."
Last September, Diego got a phone call from a company calling themselves "The Yellow Local Directory."
Diego Perez: "They wanted to verify my phone number, my address, the name of the business, the owner."
Diego gave it to them and hung up.
Then, five months later, the company called him and said, "You owe us money for the ad you bought."
Diego Perez: "$499.99."
When Diego said he never agreed to buy an ad, the company played a recording of the September conversation.
Diego Perez: "My name is Diego, my last name is Perez."
In the recording, Diego does not agree to buy the ad but does say he is a person at the business who is authorized to buy products.
Patrick Fraser: "You thought you were authorizing..."
Diego Perez: "The right information. I wasn't giving them any moment to say I authorize to advertise, charge me for this, or anything like that."
Diego told them he was not going to pay for an ad he did not buy. He says they then started calling him three or four times a week.
Diego Perez: "Harassing, saying they are going to sue me, that they going to damage my credit, they are going to damage the credit of the business."
Diego checked the Better Business Bureau and discovered 190 people had complained about the Local Yellow Directory. The Better Business Bureau gives them an F rating. But Diego is more concerned about their vow to damage his credit rating.
Diego Perez: "I really don't want to pay. Definitely, I am not going to pay. I am refusing to pay."
Well Howard, I listened to the recording. Wanna listen and see if legally Diego bought an internet ad?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "I listened, and no, he did not buy an ad. Now understand, an oral contract over the phone is just as valid as a signed, written contract, but the person selling the product has to prove there was an agreement, and this tape legally does not prove that."
The Yellow Local Directory is located in Las Vegas, Nevada. I called them five times. Five times, they said someone would call me back. I am waiting.
I sent an e-mail. No response.
Over the Internet, I did find many websites warning people to be careful of the Internet company.
Howard says it's a good warning, no matter what type of company you are dealing with.
Howard Finkelstein: "Whether you are dealing with someone in person, over the phone or online, make sure you get the agreement in writing. It doesn't have to be formal. It can be as simple as an e-mail. As long as it lays out what both sides agree to."
Diego hopes the company doesn't take a shot at his credit rating and really hopes if they call you, you'll have no patience and hang up on them.
Diego Perez: "And what I really want is to make sure the public is able to see and to be alert on this kind of a strategy so they don't get taken."
Patrick Fraser: "The Federal Trade Commission has shut down many Internet companies that the government concludes are using unfair and deceptive trade practices. If you aren't happy with the way a company has treated you, file a complaint with the feds or the state."
A problem kicked you to the side? Unable to defend yourself? Don't let your fingers do the walking. Let them dial us. We don't have a black belt, but we can provide a little legal punch.
To file a complaint with the federal government, visit:
Federal Trade Commission
To file a complaint with the state of Florida, visit:
Florida Division of Consumer Services