MEDICAL ALERT-CONNECT ACCUSED OF PERPETUITY BILLING IN VIOLATION OF DECEPTIVE BUSINESS/TRADE PRACTICES LAWS
We have learned from multiple consumer complainants that Medical Alert has a non disclosed, unfair billing practice. Unlike most cable, and phone companies that claim to have not received their equipment back so they bill you a one-time fee for the unreturned equipment, the medical alert one-sided policy allows that their service subscription fee to be payable forever until the equipment is returned. In reviewing their agreement, this little hidden money-making gem is not conspicuous at all.
Though many of the consumers we have heard from claimed to have sent the equipment back, several claim to have done so without tracking the return. While this is something we advise consumers not to do, some simply say they thought it unnecessary since they received the equipment via regular mail, or simply thought nothing of it. Others believe that Medical Alert is taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers and may very well be receiving the returns but since they aren’t tracked are using this to generate additional revenue.
At any rate, when you have several consumers complaining about the same patterns and practices, especially those that deprive them of their personal property, as in their money, then there is cause for concern. We are speaking of constitution violations. Specifically, due process.
Some say that when they phoned Medical Alert to cancel the subscription this was never mention. They assumed the agreement was canceled and later sent in the equipment. It was when they received an additional billing, that they contacted MA about the overage or additional billing only to learn it was for mailing the equipment back a week later.
Bank documents from at least six consumers show where Medical Alert has made large unauthorized charges against their accounts. As many seniors are on a fixed income, these large drafts have left them in a financial bind. Some were nearly two hundred dollars made twice in a single day. So, you are taking nearly four hundred dollars from accounts that impact their ability to pay rents, mortgages, and other household bills.
Even if a consumer has agreed to a monthly bill, these large chunks of monies being levied against their monthly retirements, Social Security checks or what have you clearly present a problem. Traditionally, a collection agency must attempt to collect a debt, then a lawsuit can be filed against a consumer after notifying the consumer of the suit. If granted a judgement a garnishment is possible in certain states and on certain types of income. However, Medical Alert it seems, has invented its own loophole by removing collection agencies from the equation and relying on its initial agreement with and its non conspicuous language. Accessing accounts months, and months after their accounts have been canceled is improper, especially when Medical Alert knows it is not servicing these households.
In some cases, at least four consumers state that once they received the equipment that they thought it was flimsy, so they did not activate the services. Yet, they are still being billed since they claim to have simply placed the equipment back in the regular mail to the company. Paperwork shows that not only did Medical Alert continue to bill the person, that they eventually pulled two payments of 134.00 from one individual’s account on the same day. A temporary charge-back was given but, the outcome is still pending.
It is our contention that Medical Alert is violating the deceptive trade practices acts, and that attorney generals in these areas must address this issue given it impacts a number of consumers. We are reaching out to the various states involved and asking for a review on behalf of IATD clients.