Bring in the big guns to prod unresponsive credit-card firm


Ideally, the issuer should be your mediator

Dollar & Sense

January 23, 2000|By Liz Pulliam | Liz Pulliam,LOS ANGELES TIMES

I'm having a credit-card problem that I feel is taking excessively long to settle. Using my Visa card, I bought a bracelet in Alaska that I later had appraised and that turned out to have fewer carats than the merchant claimed.

I called the credit-card company in August, and they advised me to return the bracelet, which I did. My card still hasn't been credited for the $3,255 I paid, and it has accumulated $160 in finance charges.

I have talked to 12 people at the credit-card company regarding this problem but could never get through to anyone in authority; every time I ask for a supervisor, I'm told one is not available. I even tried calling the merchant and asking him to return the bracelet so we could put the whole matter behind us, but he hung up on me.

One of the advantages of having a credit card is supposed to be the mediator role the issuer will play; in other words, there's someone between you and the merchant who can help settle disputes.

This one should have been easy: You returned the merchandise, and your account should have been credited. Instead of prompt resolution, however, you got the runaround.

Time to bring in the big guns.

Because your credit-card issuer is a subsidiary of a national bank, you can contact the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates national banks, at 800-613-6743. The Federal Trade Commission also might be able to help. Its Web site is, and its phone number appears in the federal government listings of your local phone book.

Once the problem is resolved, seriously consider transferring your business to another credit-card company. A business that treats its customers this badly shouldn't be rewarded by your continued patronage.

I hope you'll also contact the Better Business Bureau in Alaska; its number in Anchorage is 907-562-0704. It's doubtful your shifty merchant is a member, but your complaint might prevent other unsuspecting souls from doing business with him -- assuming they check the bureau first, which is the smart thing to do with any major purchase.

In the future, it might be best to buy fine jewelry from someone who has been established in your community.

If nothing else, it's easier to picket a local company should it do you wrong.

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