Did you ever go shop for something at a store that guaranteed a rebate, say at a electronic or office supply store? A lot of consumers love rebates, but few know the exact meaning of rebate or how it works. “Rebate” means the return of a payment or a partial payment, which serves as a discount or reduction in price. They are also called promos, offers, deals, or rebates, calling on the customers to buy a product or service right now. Depending on the particular type of promotion, the customer receives a rebate check or a rebate card back by mail, also called MIRs or mail-in rebates. The rebate process is not a straight forward process. How it works is manufacturers, service providers, and retailers or E-tailers, who fund the rebates, hire third-party fulfillment companies; also known as fulfillment houses, fulfillment services providers, FSPs or rebated processors; to process the request for the customers who, sometimes, wait long periods for receipt of their rebates. So what motivates companies to offer rebates, anyway?
When companies offer a rebate in place of immediate discounts on a certain product, they increase the odds of that product being purchased. But often, filling out the receipts and putting together the collection of paperwork and proofs-of-purchase required to redeem them can be frustrating, especially if you are not a very organized, meticulous person who saves all your receipts. Also some buyers simply forget or can’t be bothered to go through the hassle of trying to get $10 back or follow instructions correctly. Companies seem to bank on consumers not being organized, forgetful or careless. Added to that is the fact that, sometimes, even when a consumer properly follows instructions, the rebate never arrives, leaving the consumer feeling they have been scammed. When a consumer does not receive their rebate, it can translate into millions of extra revenue for retailers and their suppliers each year. And, sometimes, when the check does arrive, it gets thrown in the trash because it looks like junk mail. Bottom line: What rebates do is get consumers to focus on the discounted price of a product, then buy it at full price.
But many consumers, including state and federal authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission, suspect that companies design the rules to keep redemption rates low. Manufacturers and retail stores make good use of this phenomenon, as they know most consumers won’t put up a fight or spend money to hire an attorney to help them get back a 50 dollar rebate that they never received– it would cost 10 times that amount to pay the bill of even the cheapest of attorneys. When a company offers a rebate and then does not follow through, that is what we call “rebate fraud“. Here at the Brod Law Firm, we are ready to help victims of fraudulent business practices recover what is owed to them. Additionally, we have listed some ways to avoid being a victim of rebate fraud:
• Follow the instructions on the rebate form religiously, enclosing all the required documentation.
• Make a copy of all paperwork to be mailed when applying for a rebate. It’s the only record you have if something goes wrong. For larger rebates, send them in by certified mail, or get a delivery confirmation so you can verify the form was sent when you say it was.
• Contact the company if the rebate doesn’t arrive within the time promised. Sometimes you can resolve a problem with one phone call.
• If the rebate never arrives or arrives late, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, your state attorney general or the local Better Business Bureau.
• If all else fails, set up your own Web site or post on someone else’s blog to draw attention to the issue. This puts pressure on the companies to follow through. No company wants bad press.
• Lastly, only buy things you can afford without the rebate.