Information on Ohio's Consumer Laws from Attorney Daniel Myers, Myers Law, LLC, not legal advice
If you’ve been following this blog, you have heard about the rules and forms that auto repair mechanics need to follow and use in Ohio. If not, check out these posts (1) – (2) – (3). What you may not have realized are that many of these same rules apply to all kinds of service providers–computer repair providers, home inspectors, jewelers–just to name a few. I want to share a couple of stories from my own life in order to teach both consumers and businesses some valuable lessons. Ladies and Gentlemen, the stories you are about to hear are true, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
My first lawsuit was against a now defunct Northeast Ohio jewelry company that refused to follow Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act. It was my first time representing someone: myself. I attempted to obtain a refund for a service plan I purchased with my wife’s engagement and wedding rings. Life was stressful enough: my wife was finishing her undergraduate engineering degree, I had begun law school, and we were planning the wedding. I had heard this company was going out of business, just months after purchasing a ring from them. The service plan stated that a refund could be obtained at any time after it was purchased. Melvin’s Jewelers’ managers refused to honor this written refund policy and ignored my continued requests. I filed a lawsuit against the company in municipal court, and after some negotiations, settled the case for around 400% more than the cost of the court fees and original refund amount.
Jewelry companies are required to follow the same law other Ohio businesses must follow. If your jeweler is not honoring your service plan, didn’t perform services properly, misrepresented the quality or characteristics of the jewelery you bought, or fails to provide you with the necessary forms required under Ohio law, contact an attorney–it can be the difference of thousands of dollars.
My wife had to have some repairs made to her laptop, so she took her computer to Macro Right. They informed her that they would need to charge her a $75 diagnostic fee (even though everyone knew what the problem was) and then tell her how much the repairs would cost later. They did not provide a completion date, they did not have her sign a Notice of Estimate form, and they did not give her an actual written estimate for the work to be performed. They also promised to order required parts overnight, which they either did not do or were not able to do. They, of course, never told my wife this. They never called to inform her of any problems, delays, or provide her any other information. Instead, she had to wait three weeks for her computer to be returned. Macro Right gave us a bill including a labor cost of $30 for a 10-minute repair (for those of you keeping score, that’s $180/hour), and marked up the part by 50%, as well. We were…less than pleased.
After arguing with their store manager for some time, we managed to get the bill reduced. In my opinion, Macro Right violated numerous consumer protection laws, and could have been liable for thousands of dollars in damages. If you take your personal, non-business, computer in for repairs, you have a right to know the cost of the repairs, length of repairs, and other information beforehand. It’s not much different from the rights you have when you take your car in for repairs or have repair work done on your home.
Today’s Lesson for Consumers and Businesses
If you are a consumer, and you feel taken advantage of, you need to speak up and make your voice heard. How much money have you lost over the last year or two from illegal, deceptive, or unethical business practices? What could you have spent that money on, or what debt could you have paid off with it? A wedding, a car payment, a house payment, Christmas gifts for loved ones, charitable donations?
When a company refuses to work with you or do what it is required to do, contact an attorney immediately. Sometimes all it takes is a letter written on an attorney’s letterhead, other times it takes a lawsuit or more to get the company to listen to you. It happens to all of us. Don’t just sit on your rights. Why should you lose money or suffer the costs of the business’s illegal conduct?
If you are a business, and you want to protect yourself from these lawsuits, you need to contact an attorney who will prepare and teach you how to use the required forms. This will manage only some of your risk. You are not likely to be sued simply because you don’t use the proper form. Happy customers don’t sue. Angry customers do. And when these angry customers contact a smart attorney, that attorney will know what forms you did or did not use. You will wish you had. You can control the quality of your work, let an attorney control the quality of your forms so that you can focus on your work.