Buyer Beware: Rebate warning

(National) Jan. 17, 2005 - When Harry Levy bought his laptop computer, he tried to save a little money by getting one that offered a rebate, "I ordered the items online, and you can only order it online to get the rebate at the end of February. It didn't ship till the first week in March, and because it shipped after the rebate period they denied my claim."

Harry wasn't going to take no for an answer, but he says it took months of phone calls to get his money, "By the time I got the rebate it was the end of August."

Consumer Reports' Kim Kleman says many companies make rebates too hard to redeem, "You have to jump through a lot of unnecessary hoops to get a rebate. In many cases it's more like 'rebate and switch.'"

To get a rebate you usually need the original receipt, a bar code from the package and the rebate form. That sounds fairly straightforward, but you can run into trouble pretty quickly, "You have one original receipt for three separate rebate items, for example, or the bar code is on the box you've already thrown away, or the claim slip you were given has expired."

Companies use rebates to encourage you to buy, but the math works in their favor. It's estimated 60 percent of rebate offers are never redeemed.

If you're having trouble collecting a rebate, you can register a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 877-382-4357 or online at the FTC's web site .

by Judi Gatson

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees

Copyright © 2005 Consumers Union of US, Inc. All Rights Reserved.