One of the many roles of the Federal Trade Commission investigating and, in a number of cases, suing companies that try to pull a quick one on U.S. consumers. Sometimes, these lawsuits can result in refunds. But, what do you do if you think you’re entitled to a refund?
Since January there have been 18 cases filed by the FTC against corporations that have resulted in refunds for consumers. So far, the largest refund to be awarded this year involves a company called QT Inc., which was recently forced to return more than $11.8 million to consumers for misrepresenting its product—a bracelet the company said could bring immediate relief for pain from afflictions like arthritis. More than 250,000 checks will now be mailed out to customers who bought the product, called the “Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet” between January 1, 2000 and June 20, 2003, with the average check amount resting at $47.
You know that you’re entitled to some sort of cash reward for your purchases, so how exactly do you go about getting it? Here’s what you should know about how the FTC doles out refunds.
Don’t Contact Them, They’ll Contact You:
When a company is discovered to have engaged in activities that warrant a cash reward for consumers, claim forms are sent out to affected consumers in addition to information about the lawsuit in question. The letters, however, won’t be sent out directly by the FTC, but by one of four claims processing agencies it outsources: Rust Consulting, Inc; Epiq Systems; Analytics, Inc; and Gilardi & Co. LLC.
If you receive a claim form from one of these four agencies then don’t just sit on it—you’ll have no more than 30 days to return it. If the individual is dead then a claim form can also be filled out on their behalf as long as it includes the individual’s death certificate, as well as proof that you represent the deceased estate.
Be on the lookout for phony correspondence requesting information like your social security number, bank account information and other sensitive information, since the FTC never requests this information. The FTC will also never charge you an upfront fee or request money from you if you’re owed a refund, so be on the lookout for fake letters from individuals posing as federal employees.
Once you’ve mailed in your claim form, all you’ll need to do is wait.
Don’t Rely on Miracle Products to Solve Your Health Problems:
The real takeaway from this case really is that consumers should exercise a bit of caution when confronted with advertisements for products that promise miracles—especially if those products aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Fortunately for the victims of QT Inc.’s deceptive marketing practices, the FTC did it’s job, but consumers continue to spend more than $2 billion a year on unproven arthritis remedies like the Q-Ray bracelet. Make sure to do your job as a consumer and avoid products that promise overnight miracles.
Check out: Identity Theft Tops FTC List of Consumer Complaints in 2010