Tuesday, July 18, 2006

HHGregg, GE Money Bank & Consumer Fraud

After buying my refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer, dryer, telephone and flat-screen TV all from HH Gregg, I've decided I won't be doing anymore business with this Indiana-based company. The purchase of my flat-screen TV a little more than a year and a half ago for $2,500 on an 18-month/no interest deal on my HH Gregg credit card has left a sour taste in my mouth towards both HH Gregg and GE Money Bank. To put it bluntly, the deal wasn't as advertised.

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?

13 comments:

Doug said...

Hell, ask creditor's attorneys too. I think it's just as well that all the major credit card collections go through Indy attorneys. I handled one or two accounts in the past and blushed a bit at the crap they were having me collect on.

Frontline did a good episode on the credit card industry about 6 months ago or so.

Jay said...

After watching HHGregg give my parents fits about appliances and warranties while I was a kid, I've vowed never to shop there. They talk a good talk, but they most certainly do not deliver when it comes to customer complaints.

kay said...

AI asked, “Is there anyone left in politics that is willing to stand up for the little guy against these predators?”

Absolutely, the majority of politicians within the Democratic Party stand up for the little guy.

Fact: Congressional Republicans were the overwhelming majority voting in favor of the new 2005 bankruptcy laws benefiting big business (in this case, the credit lending industry) to the detriment of unaware consumers AS WELL all who fall victim to job loss, major illness or accident.

Advance Indiana said...

Kay--you need to take a closer look at the voting records of Democratic legislators on a variety of these credit-related issues. The bankrupcy issue is just one. By and large, most of them vote down the line with the credit industry as well. Why else would they be making so many contributions to Democrats as well as Republicans. Democrats in the Indiana legislature have, in particular, cast many anti-consumer votes in favor of the industry. A former Democratic senator, Louis Mahern, lobbies the General Assembly, on many of these issues.

kay said...

AI- Exactly what credit-related legislation would you like me to take a closer look at?

Advance Indiana said...

Kay--you're going to have to do your own research on this one--I don't have time to do it for you. Maybe Doug will be kind enough to share some of those laws with you since he does creditor work.

kay said...

That’s okay, Gary, I’m quite sure that kind of wild goose chase would indeed be too time consuming.

Laurie said...

I just opened an HHGregg account but I didn't get any kind of agreement as to their terms...nothing. They just took my driver's license and told me I'd get a card in the mail (Ohio) .. no bill rec'd yet. I am disgruntled with the company for rude and confrontative delivery men and am planning on writing a letter to the owners. I realize they probably will not respond but I believe that behavior is totally unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have had a NIGHTMARE with both hhgregg and GE Money Bank! It is so complicated and I have definitely been 'dumped on'. I am paying them off early, because what they said I would get (same as cash deal) is an out-and-out LIE. Awful, dishonest people!

Anonymous said...

Charge Gard is a function that the person entering the deal must enter in manually.

Kay, STFU.

Anonymous said...

I must be pretty stupid to get slammed by the 12 month same as cash deal. It cost me an additional $1200 over my $6500 purchase! When my payments were being made every month in the amounts of $1K to $1/2K. With the knowledge I had 12 months to pay, I was working 80 hours a week and traveling 10 additional hours. When I received my bills I only looked at the "Balance Summary" on the statement. Paying online made things even more unclear. Well my 12th month payment of a balance of $360 turned into a balance of $1300. The "Balance Summary" and the "Account Information" do not jive with the "Transaction Summary" at the bottom of the statement. "Payment Due Dates" and "Promotional Purchase Due Date" are not related in any way. The "Promotional Purchase Summary" at the bottom of the statement should be at the top where (I believe) most people look to see what they owe and when! Needless to say I got slammed for the almost $1200 in finance charges. Tried to negotiate with GE and they turned it over to local attorneys that filed to sue me. End of story...I paid them off but will still file a complaint with Indiana's Attorney General. Don't expect anything positive but I usually go down trying!

Mary Popins said...

Hi. I have found a lot of interest on your blog. Recently I have redecorated my kitchen and decided to buy new appliances. I considered a lot of options and I stopped on HH Gregg. I think that the company offers the best choice of appliances at moderate prices. I bought several items with the warranty for more than a year. If you want to know more about customers’ experience, then go to www.pissedconsumer.com.

S said...

I have been waiting over 3 weeks to have my TV repaired. I purchased a 72" Samsung TV from HHGregg. I also paid almost 500.00 for a n extended warranty.The TV stopped working over 3 weeks ago. The repair company came to my home on June 1st. I was informed that I needed a new bulb. The repairman said he would order the bulb and it would take 5-7 business days to come in. He also said that in an effort to save money, the company would try to order a generic bulb, which won't work on this TV. He said he would then have to reorder the correct bulb. I have spent the last 3 weeks making phone calls to the repair company, the local store and HHGreg corporate office. Every person that I have spoken to gives me a different time frame as to the resolution of this problem. The repair company finally came back on June 18th to replace the bulb. Well, he showed up with a generic bulb and it didn't work. We still have no TV and no idea when the set will be fixed. I continued to call the store and corporate office but nobody has returned my calls.