Although I am an attorney, I must admit that I did not closely read all the fine print when I purchased my TV, but I thought I knew enough about an offer to purchase something at no interest for 18 months that it wasn't necessary. I thought as long as I made my monthly payments that at the end of the 18 months the TV would be paid off without any interest. Well, I'm sure that's how HH Gregg still sees the deal. The deal carries a disclaimer that reads like this:
With your hhgregg credit card this is a same-as-cash offer. Monthly payments required and based upon 3% of the monthly unpaid balance. Interest accrues from date of purchase if not paid in full by the end of the 24 months. The annual percentage rate varies based on 14.73% plus prime rate. Credit approval required. Minimum finance charge = $1. A credit service of GE Capital Consumer Card Co., Mason, Ohio.
What HH Gregg doesn't tell you is that GE Money Bank will be charging you a monthly fee they call "Charge Gard Insurance." In my case, this amounted to an additional $18 a month, or a total of $324. That amounts to 13% of the purchase price of my TV. When I got my first bill, which arrived in my mail box less than a week before the payment was due, I discovered the additional charge and complained to HH Gregg. I was told by HH Gregg to contact GE Money Bank because that was their charge and not HH Gregg's. The person I spoke to at GE Money Bank never really explained to my satisfaction what the charge was for, although he insisted it was disclosed in the credit agreement I signed and it was for my personal benefit.
When I received my second bill, in addition to the $18 fee, GE Money Bank tacked on a late fee charge of $25. After I called GE Money Bank and screamed about the late charge, pointing out the fact that GE hadn't bother to send it to me until it was almost due, the person on the telephone agreed to waive the late charge. I typically mail my checks about 5 days before the payment is due. According to GE Money Bank, it takes longer than that for my check to arrive when I mail it from Indianapolis to Orlando. Needless to say, I had to argue on 2 or 3 additional occasions about an extra $25 fee being tacked on to my bill supposedly because it was paid late. What I believe is happening is that their mail center deliberately holds the mail for a few days in hopes of racking up late charges to encourage consumers to make their payments online. I've experienced this same issue with one of my other credit card accounts with MBNA.
I finally made my last payment in May. My statement stated the "payoff" amount, which I promptly paid to GE Money Bank. End of matter? Not quite. I received another bill last month for an unpaid balance of $2.13. My initial reaction was to say screw them--I'm not paying it. Knowing that GE Money Bank would ding me on my credit report if I didn't pay it, I mailed a check to them. This month I received another bill from GE Money Bank saying that I still owed $15 for a late fee on the $2.13 balance, a $1 minimum finance charge and $0.17 for that damn Charge Gard Insurance. I immediately called GE Money Bank and after screaming for about five minutes at the poor guy on the end of the line, he agreed to graciously waive the fees and consider my account paid in full. For his kindness, I told him to cancel my credit card, and that I would not be doing business with either HH Gregg or GE Money Bank again.
I'm sorry, but what these companies are engaging in is consumer fraud by any other name. To make matters worse, the consumer finance industry has pretty much bought off Congress and most of the state legislatures so that our laws are written in such a way to permit these companies to engage in these deceitful practices. If you don't believe me, just ask any bankruptcy attorney about the new bankruptcy law written for the benefit of the credit card industry to the detriment of the nation's consumers. Is there anyone left in politics who is willing to stand up for the little guy against these predators?