Recently, Eric & Marci Rose purchased three brand new cell phones and a home phone system from a Verizon Wireless store in Moorpark, CA. The helpful sales assistant verbally disclosed the fact that a 2-year sales extension was required in order to get lower prices on new phone equipment, but failed to orally disclose the $35 fee for returning any of the devices unopened and unused. In the case of the Roses, Verizon Wireless slammed them with a $35 charge for the return of one item, an item that they can put back on the shelves for immediate resale.
“The restocking fee terms were not adequately disclosed to me and therefore I was not able to make an informed purchasing decision,” said Rose. When Rose complained that the fee was not verbally disclosed, the Manager of the Moorpark store responded with “you signed the paperwork and we assume you read the contract and there is nothing anyone at Verizon can do”. Only after Rose complained to Verizon media relations group did the company agree to waive the charge.
In California, like several other states, consumers must be made aware of restocking fees prior to making their purchase. However, the law does not mandate how customers are informed of the fee before being forced to sign an array of documents in order to complete the purchase.
Because restocking fees are imposed at a fixed prices and without regard to the actual costs of actually “restocking” the merchandise, Rose believes that the practice of imposing restocking fees without full disclosure by companies like Verizon Wireless is only intended to create an additional source of revenue for the company.
“Americans will be doing a significant amount of holiday shopping in the nine days, and it is important they be made fully aware of hidden fees and charges, such as the one that Verizon Wireless imposes for restocking. If it is important enough for Verizon salespeople to be trained to orally tell customers that a lower price requires a contract extension, they should also be trained to tell customers that the moment they walk out the store they are stuck with the device they purchased even if it is unused or unopened — unless they want to give Verizon $35 for the “privilege” of returning the device,” said Rose.
“Verizon Wireless should want to have an informed customer base, and there is no good business reason for their salespeople not to fully disclose all fees. Having that knowledge up front will allow customers to decide whether they want to do business with that mandate restocking fees and then hide behind paperwork to make millions of dollars from unsuspecting consumers. Lawmakers should pass legislation that requires proof that consumers are informed verbally about restocking fees and the fees should be based on real costs. Putting something unopened back on the shelf should not cost $35. Let’s hope that Verizon Wireless and other companies will come to their senses and stop gouging consumers who are trying to make a simple return,” concluded Rose.
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