SITE LAST UPDATED: June 14, 2006

Questions of the Week

Each week Alice Moore, the Chief of Attorney General Reilly's Public Protection Bureau answers questions from consumers on Channel Five's Midday Call-in. Below are the questions asked in the last week, previous questions are organized by the topics on the left.

Week of February 3, 2005

1. Claire from Plymouth  

Q: When I buy a product at a store, are there restrictions on what information    the retailer can ask from me, such as my address or credit card number?

A: Claire, there are restrictions depending on the method of payment. When you purchase merchandise or services with a credit card, the seller cannot write or have you write on the credit card slip personal identification information such as your telephone number, address, or other information not required by your credit card issuer.

When you pay by check, the seller can only record your name, address, driver’s or Mass. ID number, and your choice of home or daytime telephone number.  The seller may ask you to show a credit card, but the seller cannot record the number. For more information on shopping rights, contact Attorney General Reilly’s consumer hotline.

2. Janet from Allston  

Q: I am about to purchase a travel package over the telephone, but I’m not sure about  the company’s substitution or cancellation policies. Are they required to    tell me those details?

A: Yes, they are, Janet.  Anyone who sells travel services must disclose certain information to the consumer before asking for or accepting payment. This includes the seller’s name and contact information; any information about the company actually providing the travel service if it is not the seller; and the price and payment terms, including the total amount to be paid, the date each payment is due, an itemized statement of the services purchased and balance due. Finally, the seller must tell you the complete terms of any substitution, cancellation, or refund policy and about any trip cancellation insurance policy they may offer. The seller must make these disclosures in writing, although if the purchase is made over the telephone, these disclosures should be made both orally and then in writing, either within seven days of the conversation or prior to the departure, whichever is earlier. For more information on travel protections, or to file a complaint, please contact our consumer hotline.

3. Marvin from Watertown 

Q: Every so often I receive mail or email stating that I have won a sweepstakes and promising me a big prize award. The latest one I have received is very tempting. Do you have any tips?

A: Marvin, just about every consumer in the state receives mail with claims that you are a finalist or winner of a prize. The most important fact to keep in mind is that you NEVER have to purchase anything or pay money to enter a legitimate sweepstakes. Watch out for claims of huge cash winnings, and remember that your actual odds of winning are extremely small at best.  Also, you should never provide your credit card, bank account, or social security number to anybody offering a sweepstakes. Finally, don’t be pressured by short deadlines or claims that someone else will get your money unless you act fast. Talk over any offer with someone whose opinion you value before doing anything. Remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.  If you have a question on a sweepstakes or would like to file a complaint, please contact our office.

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