Fix-It Services Help Consumers Fight Back
But you may do better on your own.
When it comes to wrangling a refund for a delayed flight or an unjust bill, many consumers would rather let the occasional error slide than wade through pages of fine print to figure out their entitlement. So services that promise to recoup your money may sound tempting, especially when there is no initial fee and all you have to lose is a cut of your refund -- which you may not have asked for in the first place.
A sampling of these start-ups includes Fixed, an app that contests parking tickets; 71lbs, which collects refunds for late package deliveries; and AirHelp, which claims compensation for delayed or canceled flights to or from Europe.
These are recent iterations of an old idea, says Susan Grant, of the Consumer Federation of America. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these sorts of businesses -- as long as they don’t charge upfront (a sign of a scam). But disgruntled consumers may do better on their own.
Start your dispute with the business itself. Use a social-media platform, or send a complaint letter. Make it clear you’ll notify a consumer agency if you don’t hear back promptly. Then explore one of many free services that don’t skim from your payment, such as local Better Business Bureaus, consumer protection agencies or trade associations that handle disputes. You can find them in the Consumer Action Handbook, available at USA.gov.
If you do resort to a fix-it service, clarify how your personal information will be used, and exactly what you are signing away if a power of attorney is required. Be wary of services that imply you’ll never succeed without extensive experience. Says Lois Greisman, of the Federal Trade Commission, “Consumers can be enormously effective when dealing with a legitimate company.”