Over the past decade consumers have seen the retail price of most items increase faster than the rate of inflation, even those items that traditionally get less expensive or stay level over time. At first, consumers could keep costs low by clipping coupons. Then companies got the idea to have "preferred customer" cards, which in exchange for saving the customer from having to clip a coupon, gave the retailer the ability to create profiles for each customer. In some cases merchants sell those profiles. Retailers have now gone one step further, requiring customers to fill out rebates and wait 8-12 weeks to receive their rebate. While rebates started as small refunds, manufacturers and retailers started using rebates of $50-$500 to reach the advertised price. Many retailers now require the submission of multiple rebates on a given item to reach the advertised price. RebateFraud.com's purpose is to allow consumers to discuss their experiences with retailers and manufacturers who engage in deceptive and therefore unlawful marketing and rebate processing practices. The need for a discussion forum such as this is necessary, since there is no other way for consumers to find out about rebate fraud, other than the occasional news report on a particular retailer's or manufacturer's failure to honor rebates.
Some of the most common forms of rebate fraud include:
-Massive rejection alleging anything from receipt after submission deadline to wrong SKU/barcode to insufficient/incorrect information to process rebate.
-Claiming that they never received the rebate form (note how every rebate disclaims liability for mishandled mail). This is one of the most popular forms of rebate fraud because the company does not have to send the claimant any paperwork denying the claim, and many people will forget about a nominal rebate after 10-12 weeks.
-Claiming that they sent the rebate check, and that they are unable (i.e., unwilling) to send a replacement check, even after the original check has expired (rebate checks usually have a 60-90 day redemption period). We are always amazed that some of the companies using this excuse never have any of the details as to the original check (e.g., check number, date sent, address sent to, etc...)
-Advertising a product at the after rebate price knowing that the consumer cannot use the item for the purpose advertised and claim the rebate (e.g., give the item as a gift).
-Offering a rebate to make the product free (e.g., a cell phone) then tacking on an undisclosed "application processing fee" to the first month's statement.
-Advertising a product at the after rebate price knowing that in order to receive the price, multiple rebate forms will need to be filled out and mailed separately (often to the same rebate processing company, only different P.O. Boxes) and that each rebate requires the original UPC, original receipt, etc...
If you've been the victim of a rebate scam or other unlawful act by a business, please send us an e-mail with the details at info at consumerprotectionlaw.org.
Companies that have a pattern of cumbersome rebate submission requirements or engage in other deceptive practices are listed in our Corporate Dog House.