What recourse does a person have for dealing with Premiere Radio networks?
August 30, 2005 8:04 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend tried to subscribe to a Premiere Radio networks feed today and it would not accept his credit card/debit card or the address on his credit card. He has no access to the show he wants, or any show. He checked his bank account to make sure they didn't charge him and lo and behold - they did - 14 times.

He spoke to a manager at the company and they said that their policy was to charge him and to refund the money.

The money totals $700. He does not have that much in his bank account - and he has to pay rent within the next few days.

He also spoke with the folks at Wachovia and they said all they could do was wait; they would not cancel the charges.

What can he do to fix this? If anything?
posted by tozturk to Shopping (15 answers total)
I am confused what you mean by their "policy is to charge him and to refund the money". Does this mean "no"?
posted by rolypolyman at 8:07 AM on August 30, 2005

Response by poster: Essentially, yes. They said they will charge him 14 times and then refund him the money.
posted by tozturk at 8:10 AM on August 30, 2005

Wachovia should be able to stop payment. If they don't, tell him to tell them that he plans to cancel the account and take his business elsewhere. (My credit card tried to force me to American Express from Visa. I refused, and they said it was standard policy -- everyone was being switched over. I said to cancel the account, and lo and behold -- they magically found a way to keep my Visa card). Also -- and this is a sad state of customer service -- but I find, if I call and don't get the desired response from the customer service rep, I just call right back and get another rep that is usually more helpful. Tell him to try calling the bank back again to see if he gets someone a bit more helpful before he tries threatening them.
I have never heard of ANY reputable business charging someone more than twice (and the twice is often a web error or human mistake of some kind).
posted by j at 8:17 AM on August 30, 2005

He should call Wachovia again and demand to speak to someone higher up. I'm not a lawyer, but I can't believe he's going to responsible for $700 in plainly fradulent charges. He should also call back Premiere and explain (very calmly) to them that if the money isn't returned to him immediately he'll have no choice but to pursue other avenues of restitution.

What a terrible company.
posted by BackwardsCity at 8:21 AM on August 30, 2005

I actually find the actions of his bank more outrageous than the actions of Premiere Radio.

Unfortunately, his experience with his bank is par for course: debit cards may work like credit cards, but they do not offer the same kind of protection that you'd get from a regular credit agency. Under normal circumstances, you'd call up VISA/MC/Amex, describe the situation, and they'd immediately cancel the charges. Banks, on the other hand, are far more paranoid/pussy-footed about this sort of thing, which is why you should always charge items on real credit cards, not debit cards.

I would call the bank back again, explain the situation one more time, and tell them you're outraged at their treatment. Threaten to cancel the account entirely and make a formal complaint to whatever Better Business Bureau you have up there. Naturally, do the same for the Radio network.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:22 AM on August 30, 2005

In my experience, If it's a debit card, standard procedure is to wait for the company that made the charges to reverse them. If they don't after a certain time (a week or so), only then will your bank reverse the charges for you. Your boyfriend should persist with the radio people to reverse the charges on the card, instantly crediting your account. They're certainly way in the wrong. $700 is a non-trivial amount of money to a person, and a trivial amount for a company.
posted by zsazsa at 8:23 AM on August 30, 2005

Seconding j's advice not to go off half-cocked and threaten anyone. Calm is key. Also seconding the advice to keep calling Wachovia until you get someone competent and helpful. It never hurts to speak to a manager.

Sending emails to Wachovia customer service will also create a paper trail that could help you later.
posted by BackwardsCity at 8:23 AM on August 30, 2005

Best answer: Most banks will not do anything to resolve an account issue like this unless they are contacted by the merchant. Therefore, it's Premiere your boyfriend should be leaning on the most heavily. (Also keep in mind: most banks won't cover overdraft fees that result from error other than their own.)

You might want to make sure this isn't just a funds hold issue, which would be easier to resolve. (i.e., Premiere requests a release on those holds, rather than having to issue a credit.)

Assuming it's not...find out how quickly Premiere turns around credits. They should at least have a ballpark estimate. I also wouldn't be wildly optimistic about it being soon, but it can't hurt to ask. If they're vague and unpromising and (most important) unwilling to contact the bank, it's time to bust out the let-me-speak-to-your-supervisor boots.

All of that said: If your boyfriend hasn't been to Wachovia in person and literally sat down with someone to discuss the problem, I suggest he try that. They might have suggestions in the neighborhood of charge dispute and/or payment stoppage. I wouldn't suggest making the effort for other banks, but I've heard that face-to-face does sometimes go a long way for Wachovia customers when phone/email does not.

And finally: This sort of thing happens staggeringly often. Your boyfriend might want to consider having a credit card independent of his bank account for online purchases. I recommend this to pretty much everyone I know, so please don't take it personally at all.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:30 AM on August 30, 2005

A check card carrying the Visa logo is subject to Visa's Zero Liability Guarantee. Read the page -- it says credit OR debit activity. That's your check card.

Secondly, whomever you spoke with at Wachovia needed to have told you about filing a Reg E dispute. Sometimes it's called an EFT Dispute (Electronic Funds Transaction). If they've just prenoted your account, then those might drop off and they'll never collect on the prenotes. If they have actually charged your account and they are posted and paid, then you have grounds for a Regulation E Dispute. I hate to say this, but raise hell if you have to in order to speak with someone who will be able to assist you with this.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:35 AM on August 30, 2005

Best answer: I second gnomeloaf's recommendation to go to a branch and sit down with someone. I can't tell you how many times (ok, it's six) I've had to go to an actual branch to get something resolved that customer "service" couldn't do on the phone. The normal reaction I get from the in-person encounter is a rolled eye or raised eyebrow and something like "well, they don't know what they're doing". The person then presses like four keys on their keyboard and poof! it's resolved.
posted by MeetMegan at 8:45 AM on August 30, 2005

Any chance your boyfriend has (or could get) overdraft protection on this account? I've got a wells fargo checking account that has overdraft protection tied to a wells fargo visa card. Whenever I'm over on my checking account, all of the charges on a particular day are added up and taken out of my visa card (+ a $10 fee for the day, no matter how many different transactions happened).

If he had overdraft protection, all this would really cost would be the $10 for the overdraft fee and it would probably be much easier to ignore the whole situation and eat the fee rather than all of the running around you'll have to do otherwise.

Still sucks, but it's an alternative thing to look into in case the other ideas above don't work or are too painful.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 9:51 AM on August 30, 2005

Medieval Maven's got your lingo for you. Call and politely escalate immediately to a manager.
posted by desuetude at 10:23 AM on August 30, 2005

At a guess, it sounds like what happened on a technical level is that the credit card processor for the merchant charged the card, but then reported that the charge didn't go through. This could be a problem on the merchant's end (poor / wrong error handling in their software), but I've seen it be the fault of the credit card processor more than a few times too (from several different major processors). Repeat 14 times, and you have a $700 mess (or assuming it was happening to other customers at the same time, maybe a much larger one, from the merchant's standpoint).

The worse news is that in my experience, the credit card processor often may not let the merchant issue credits (for any reason) for a given transaction until a set period (say 24 - 72 hours) has elapsed.

All of which is not to defend the merchant or to say that they don't have a responsibility to fix things ASAP, but just to illuminate a bit what the merchant side of this kind of thing often looks like.

That being said, this kind of thing deserves some code (on the merchant's side) to insure that this kind of thing can't get out of hand (maybe make a max of three attempts from the same IP in X number of minutes).

It's in the merchant's direct financial interest to make such a fix, since they'll usually get hit with a percentage fee for the credits, in addition to having unhappy customers.

We had a client once who had a system that sold a $200 item; a customer mis-read and typed in 200 as the quantity to purchase and actually had a credit card (AMEX) that had a high enough limit for it to go through. There were some seriously paniced people while they waited to be able to issue a credit on that one. In the meantime, we helped them add some reasonable limits to the amount that could be purchased at one time in the future -- it ended up costing the merchant several thousand dollars to issue the credit.
posted by nonliteral at 10:27 AM on August 30, 2005

MeetMegan: Thank you for that information! If you don't get best post for that, you've been wronged.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:57 PM on August 30, 2005

I work at a big bank call center. What looks like has happened is that there are 14 credit card holds or pledges on the account. It's BS that the merchant has to let the charges go through. All that needs to happen is company rep verifies that yes, there are 14 charges on their end and yes, bank monkey can remove those holds. I've had to do this many times.

MM is correct that charges have to clear for Reg E disputes to be filed, but it shouldn't even get to this point. Scream bloody murder to this company. If they don't do anything, file your Reg E dispute when the charges clear. Any bank fees should be waived as a result of these charges.
posted by calistasm at 3:05 PM on August 31, 2005

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