Pittsburgh, PA – May 11, 2011 –The Better Business Bureau has established a program called “Hot Topics.” Each month we will be sending out information on problematic companies that are targeting Western Pennsylvania consumers and posting the list on the BBB Web site under our “News Center.”
“The BBB feels that this proactive approach will help educate and protect the marketplace from questionable businesses targeting local consumers,” states Warren King, president of the BBB.
Below is information on companies marketing to local Pennsylvanians received at your BBB. Information is based on our research as of May 11, 2011. Click on their name for an updated BBB report. Please take into consideration the importance of the practice and the total performance of the company.
1. United State Document Preparation – loan modification offers
Most complaints are alleging consumers pay in advance, but receive none of the services paid for. The California company record shows 19 of 20 complaints have gone unanswered. Be careful in dealing with businesses that have company names that sound as if they are part of the US government.
2. First Federal Financial Group, LLC – auto and home loan modifications
Since March of 2008, this company has received 93 complaints, failed to respond to 70, and 8 were not resolved. Complaints allege after seeing a television commercial and phoning the company, consumers agreed to the service but received non-delivery of services once paid for, had difficulty in contacting a company representative, and had difficulty in obtaining refunds.
3. FTC Bans Advance Fees on Mortgage Relief Firms
As of January 31, 2011, loan modification or mortgage assistance relief services are no longer allowed to charge up-front fees. Under the rule, they may not collect a fee until the consumer has signed a written agreement with the lender that includes the relief obtained by the company. When the company presents the consumer with that relief, it must inform the consumer, in writing, that the consumer can reject the offer without obligation and, if the consumer accepts, the total fee due. Before the consumer agrees to accept the mortgage relief, the company must also provide a written notice from the lender or servicer showing how the relief will change the terms of the consumer’s loan (including any limitations on a trial loan modification).
Attorneys are generally exempt from the rule if they provide mortgage assistance relief services as part of the practice of law, are licensed in the state where the consumer or dwelling is located, and comply with state laws and regulations governing attorney conduct related to the rule. To be exempt from the advance fee ban, attorneys must also place any advance fees they collect in a client trust account and abide by state laws and regulations covering such accounts.
4. Dating Services – online and in person
If your search for a mate includes contacting a dating service, know there are no specific Pennsylvania laws regulating them. It's important to exercise good judgment and common sense when dealing with them. Take your time. Get to know the company before you sign a contract. Gather information about the company's history and reputation. How many introductions are promised? The BBB has heard from consumers who were told they'd be easy to match, later to hear that the company really didn't have any clients with the "unreasonable" profile they had specified. Look for cancellation rights printed in the contract. Check if they are time specific. Know how long the contract is valid. Most times if you sign a contract in a place of business, you have no right of rescission.
5. Storm Chasers offering to fix hail, wind, or storm damage
It is not uncommon for out-of-town storm chasers to solicit business after storms in an area of town. Storm chasers may not have proper licensure for your area and may offer quick fixes or make big promises to which they won’t deliver.
Contractors must be registered with the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office. Call 888-520-6680 or by go online to the List of Registered Contractors to check whether a contractor is registered. If the company uses subcontractors they must also be registered and the law requires that the consumer be told the names of the subcontractors in the contract.
Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door. Verify that they have to have a permit by contacting your local Township or Municipality. BBB suggests consumers be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches.
We also recommend checking online with the Pennsylvania Div. of Corporations or call (717) 787-1057 to verify that the company is registered to do business in Pennsylvania.
6. BlueGreen Corporation – timeshare marketing
With 465 complaints closed within the last 36 months, this F rated company has complaints about alleged use of deceptive 'contests’, misleading sales presentations and improper contracts in the marketing and sale of timeshare vacation packages in Pennsylvania. The PA Attorney General and BlueGreen reached a settlement to cancel contracts and pay refunds to consumers who filed valid complaints about their timeshare purchases. The complaints include consumers who were unable to use their timeshare, false promises about when or where consumers could travel and situations where timeshare purchasers did not receive extra services or discounts that were promised during the sales presentation.
To check out a company contact the Better Business Bureau at 412.456.2700 or log on to www.bbb.org.
About the BBB System
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 128 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System.