I Fought With The Law?
August 13, 2007 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Is California Small Claims Court an appropriate venue to force a computer manufacturer to honor a refund?

I bought a laptop from a well-known computer company. 1st laptop breaks and they try fixing it before replacing it. 2nd laptop breaks and they try fixing it before replacing it. 3rd laptop arrives and breaks. I call the computer company, ask for a refund, they deny it citing that refunds are at their discretion. Escalation to higher-ups in the company result in the same 'discretion' answer.

So, with this in mind can I take the company to California Small Claims Court and demand my money back? I've read the CSCC's documents on what's appropriate for the court, but I'm still unsure and don't want to waste taxpayer money and court time by accident.
posted by Vaska to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about an executive carpet bomb a la Consumerist? They've got tips and success stories, and they may have a list of executive email addresses in a previous post. If not, shoot them an email and see if they can get a list for you!
posted by odi.et.amo at 10:15 AM on August 13, 2007

Best answer: Yes. Small claims court is probably an appropriate venue. Call the clerk's office at the local courthouse and ask whether you can sue a corporation in that court. Usually you can. The clerks are extraordinarily helpful if you are kind to them. Ask anything you need to know, except for legal advise of course.

I have used the technique you ask about several times. Once, to secure a refund from an online auctioner of hotels and air travel when they gave me a hotel outside of my district. Another time, to secure a refund from a nationwide phone carrier than overcharged me for certain calls to the tune of $200.

It takes remarkably less time than you'd think, and its worth it to stand up for your rights.
posted by letahl at 11:14 AM on August 13, 2007

I had a completely different experience with California Small Claims Court, although I was seeking compensation from an individual. First off they stalled at every opportunity, then they refused to pay, then we went to arbitration and agreed payments, then the payments dried up....

Hopefully you'll have a positive experience like letahl, but be mindful that it can go the other way, and even winning your case is no guarantee of payment.
posted by forallmankind at 11:48 AM on August 13, 2007

Best answer: Almost certain that the computer company won't show and you'll win by default. Usually, once you file suit, you'll get their attention, then they will settle.

Ask to speak to their legal department, not some dipshit customer service bot. Do this after you research how to file a small claims action. (It is usually very simple, though it might cost you a few bux to file.) You usually don't need a lawyer.

Their is no 'taxpayer' money involved in this process. Don't worry about wasting the court's time. Small claims court is for this exact type of thing. Limits of claims vary from state to state, so there may be some hiccups in your particular case, but it is certainly a tool that should be explored. If nothing else, it is a great learning experience and worth doing for that reason alone.

Once you get a judgment in your favor, the next problem is collecting, which is a different issue. (In one case I pursued, the sheriff went to the opposing party's bank with the judgment and withdrew the money directly from their account. This was in Tennessee, back in the early 90's.)

Good luck. IANAL, but I have pursued 5 or 6 successful small claims actions.
posted by FauxScot at 12:25 PM on August 13, 2007

You can also try the California Attorney General. That office has authority to act on behalf of Californians in consumer protection matters.
posted by 26.2 at 5:02 PM on August 13, 2007

This guy did it.
posted by banshee at 8:14 AM on August 14, 2007

Yes, small claims against an individual is definitely different than a corporation.

My victories were, as FauxScot suggested, by way of settlement (at their suggestion).
posted by letahl at 8:23 AM on August 15, 2007

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