BBB Hot Topics: October 2012

  
     
November 01, 2012

Pittsburgh, PA – October 31, 2012 – The Better Business Bureau of Western PA’s Hot Topics is a monthly alert regarding companies across all industries that are currently targeting Western Pennsylvania consumers. The Hot Topics list and information is also available on the BBB website under the News Center.

According to Warren King, President of the Better Business Bureau, “The BBB’s goal in creating Hot Topics is to help educate and protect the marketplace from businesses targeting local consumers.”

The following report is based on your BBB’s research as of October 31, 2012 and includes information received at our office on companies marketing to local Pennsylvanians. Click on the company name for an updated BBB report. Please take into consideration the importance of the practice and total performance of the company. To access over four million companies nationwide, visit www.bbb.org.

1. Morgan Drexen – Debt relief services

Morgan Drexen claims to provide attorney support services for the debt services industry. Having 242 complaints closed with BBB in the last 3 years, 7 unresponded complaints, 17 unresolved complaints and 33 serious complaints, complainants allege unfulfilled contracts and inability to obtain refunds when services are not performed, among other issues. The company responds to some complaints by advising that they do not provide debt settlement services to consumers or contract with consumers for such service, but that a third party attorney has authorized them to make settlement offers. In 2010, the Minnesota Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against the company and in 2011, the West Virginia Attorney General’s office filed suit to ban it from conducting business in the state.

2. National Bankcard Monitor, LLC – Debt repayment plan

Based out of Arizona, National Bankcard Monitor, LLC has closed 62 BBB complaints since August 2010. Consumers reported that NBM offers to consolidate/obtain lower interest rates on credit cards up to 50% in exchange for an upfront fee of $798 to $1,995. NBM informed BBB that it does not negotiate debts like a debt consolidator or charge for “balance transfer services,” nor does it change terms of credit card agreements; rather, it provides a "debt analysis program guide" that advises the consumer how to pay debts faster. Some consumers allege delays in receiving the guide or say they do not receive it, along with other complaints regarding difficulty obtaining refunds. NBM responded to a number of BBB complaints by issuing full refunds to consumers.

3. National Magazine Exchange – Magazine telemarketing

An F rated company with 343 BBB complaints, National Magazine Exchange mails notices inviting people to call and enter the Million Dollar “Strike It Rich” Sweepstakes to help promote magazine subscriptions. The company has received complaints alleging billing disputes, misinterpretation of the sweepstakes promotion and misunderstanding the company’s billing terms. Most complaints brought to the company’s attention by BBB are addressed by cancelling the consumer’s account or responding to questions regarding the sweepstakes promotion or its billing process. For helpful tips regarding magazine sales and sweepstakes, visit www.bbb.org.

4. Search and Social, LLC Work-at-home company

Closing 40 out of 53 BBB complaints in the last 12 months concerning sales practices, alleged misrepresentation of company products/services and refund or exchange issues, Search and Social, LLC has an F rating with BBB. Some complaints claim the work-at-home company offers a program to earn extra cash at home, posting links for businesses advertising the sale of certain products, or a program to start an online business, for additional fees. Though failing to respond to 18 complaints, some company responses reference a 30 and 60 day money back guarantee; however, BBB has been unable to view any such guarantee. BBB has also received confirmation from some consumers that promised refunds have been received.

5. West Bay Acquisitions, LLC – Collection agency

Due to 1,106 complaints, 10 unresolved complaints, length of time the business has been operating and government action taken by the Kentucky Attorney General’s office, West Bay Acquisitions, LLC has an F rating with BBB. Based on BBB files, this business has a pattern of complaints concerning billing/collection issues. Consumers state that when they look at their credit reports they have a negative hit on them from this company saying they have outstanding debt. Consumers state that West Bay Acquisitions, LLC is trying to collect on old accounts with no outstanding balances and accounts they never had opened. Check out BBB’s tips on debt collection.

6. Zaken Corporation – Work-at-home company

Involved in training courses for buying and selling closeout merchandise, many of Zaken Corporation’s 138 complaints filed with BBB allege dissatisfaction with materials received due to misrepresentation of the offer, and incomplete disclosures concerning start-up costs. The company responds to most complaints by denying refund requests and explaining that the customer did not comply with their refund policy or by delivering materials or issuing refunds. The company also claims to offer a second guarantee to refund money once a sale is made based on a lead generated by the buyer. In these cases, the company responds by explaining why particular deals could not be completed. In 2011, BBB asked the company to substantiate claims that buyers can earn $4,280 a month from their home without investing a dime; that they offer a “FREE $9.95 report;” and that buyers are not required to "sell or buy" anything to participate. To date a response has not been received.

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