Telecom companies love to mousetrap the unwary with lots of tempting cheese (low teaser rates) and a nasty surprise (early cancellation fees that apply even when you have to cancel because they aren't living up to their bargain).
And now that the US Supreme Court, Inc., has followed its pro-corporate and anti-consumer, anti-real-people bias to its illogical yet perfectly consistent conclusion (in deciding recently that consumers can't band together to hold abusive companies accountable in collective arbitration), it's more important than ever that you, before you sign ANY contract with ANY company, take the time to understand (a) what you are buying; (b) what you are supposed to pay; (c) and what constitutional rights you are being forced to give up and what protections you are waiving so that the companies can abuse you at will without any fear of having to appear in front of a jury of real people and answer for their conduct. To that end, if you are considering getting or renewing a contract for cell phone, cable or satellite TV, or Internet service, you should know about CUBConnects.org, a free service provided by Citizens Utility Board of Oregon (CUB). The companies in this field are some of the worst bad actors imaginable, regularly winning polls of "Worst Company in the World." They are fantastically profitable, providing a "service" with a marginal cost approaching zero, and yet they spend virtually nothing on training customer service representatives (CSRs) and they give them no authority to actually solve the problems that their absurdly complex rate tables and overlapping promotions and schemes create. Worst of all, they use outrageous early cancellation fees as a club to keep you from telling them to stick their "service" in their ear when you realize how the bills you are getting have nothing to do with what you were promised on the phone or on your doorstep. My advice: 1) Do not sign up with ANY of these companies over the phone or at your door. 2) Go to an in-store kiosk or a separate store to speak with a sales person. 3) GET A WRITTEN OFFER from them -- what you are buying and how much it will cost. 4) DO NOT SIGN IT until you take it home and READ IT with a highlighter in hand. Highlight any penalties or early cancellation provisions that they've hidden in there (such as mandatory arbitration provisions).
Notice how the contract is all about letting them get away with anything, while limiting your ability to hold them accountable. 5) IGNORE them when they tell you that the offer is "only good today" -- whatever they're pushing, if they don't want you to read their offer and compare it to other choices, you don't want it. 6) Go to CUBConnects.org and compare you offer with the others out there, and read the blog and its warnings. 7) If you want me to look over their offer with you, feel free to give me a call and make an appointment; for $35 or less, I'll look over their offer, point out any red flags, and help you consider your options.
The for-profit "education" institutions are at least educated enough to be able to read the writing on the wall and know that the days of being able to bilk far too many people out of far too much money entirely unmolested are drawing to a close. Thus, the usual tactic of the wrongdoer caught with both hands in the cookie jar and crumbs all over his chin: Propose a voluntary (read: meaningless) code of conduct. In other words, as soon as it will no longer fly to say that you weren't doing anything wrong, propose a toothless "code" of mush that says "and we won't do it any longer."
From the linked AP article:The Coalition for Educational Success, a Washington, D.C.-based group that represents career colleges serving 350,000 students at nearly 500 campuses, announced the Standards of Responsible Conduct, but won't release the complete code until this summer. The industry group said it will cover areas ranging from standard disclosures of tuition costs and job placement rates to more transparent financial aid policies. Managing director Penny Lee said the standards will provide a "new level of accountability." "We know concerns have been raised and we take them very seriously," she said. "This is a significant step for the sector." The announcement comes as another industry group battles the U.S. Department of Education in federal court in a bid to block new regulations of for-profit higher education institutions. The industry has lobbied heavily in Washington against a proposed "gainful employment" rule that could limit schools' access to federal financial aid if graduates' debt levels are too high or too few students repay loans.
AP story on debt includes this
worrisome section: Despite the rising costs, 85 percent of students and recent grads say college is worth the time and money. In overwhelming numbers, they express satisfaction with the education they've received. And they have wide expectations for that education: Most say it's very or extremely important that colleges broaden students' knowledge and expand their minds, help them gain life skills, expose them to new experiences and train them for a career.All true. But now, the worrisome part: Nine out of 10 expect to find a job in their field. And for most, that's the bottom line. Fifty-five percent say an education that focuses on success in the working world is more valuable than one focused on general knowledge and critical thinking. With that pragmatic attitude, many treat education like a commodity to be shaped to fit their needs and budgets.The big problem with this attitude is that crystal balls are in short supply -- there are plenty of unemployed people who chased software jobs, thinking that focusing on the work world (that they hoped would still be there upon graduation) would assure them a place among the comfortably employed. Oooooops, major blunder. The bottom line is that the most necessary skill in any field of work is critical thinking: figuring out how to know when you're being lied to or asked to cooperate in a delusion, in both rhetoric and in numbers. A working BS detector, in other words.The huge need for this is best shown by the horrific levels of unmanageable student debt, young people who accept rosy promises about their future employment prospects uncritically and use that as motivation to take ever higher amounts of student debt. The most encouraging sign: the high number of students recognizing that the grossly underused later years in high school can be put to much better use: On the other hand, lots of students are racing to the finish in order to save money. About 4 in 10 college students hope to graduate in less than four years. To get a jump start, 58 percent of students took college-credit courses in high school. And about half earned credits at a community college before moving on to a more expensive bachelor's degree program. If you are a parent or an adult thinking about how to finance a college or continuing education for yourself, a child, or grandchild, niece, nephew, etc., I'd be happy to meet with you for an hour for 1/3 of my usual rate to lay out the options and the benefits and risks of student loans (federal and private).
Project on Student Debt's report
. Includes interactive map to compare the debt levels of individual states and institutions.
For those trying to understand or navigate the state court system on their own.
(H/t to Oregon Legal Research blog
.) One thing though: If you're trying to research the Oregon Revised Statutes, OregonLaws.org is a lot better format that is a lot easier to use. One other thing: It's the cheap person who usually winds up spending the most. Some of the most expensive cases I saw when I worked at an appellate court were started by people who tried to save a couple hundred bucks in attorney fees and wound up having to litigate for years. There are definitely a few things you can do for yourself in the legal system but, as a general rule, it's not a system set up to support self-helpers. Grab your favorite piece of "legal" software and read the fine print -- the first thing it says is that it is not intended to replace qualified legal counsel. Of course that's utter BS; nobody would buy the software if it wasn't sold as the solution to your legal problems at big savings. But it's an important point to remember -- if a licensed attorney screws up your matter, there's a bar association Client Assistance Office and a bar complaint process ready to help you. The software companies refer all their consumer complaints to Helen Waite, as in "Go to . . . . " Just sayin'.
And note that many people don't bother looking at the actual email addresses, they use the shorter handle (the part outside the < >, which a scammer can easily spoof to say whatever he wants. "Craigslist.org" <email@example.com>
This is part of a "phishing" attack, where slimy cesspool denizens try to get access to your accounts by disguising themselves as part of the security detail for a website you use, such as craigslist. They provide a misdirect link to get you to think you are going to the actual site; instead, you are simply going to a site where they get you to feed them your info. Remember: Reputable Internet sites do NOT send you a link to their sites when they have security problems or issues to discuss with you
. Since you signed onto the site before, they know you know how, so they say "Go to our site. Sign in as usual. Then read this." or something to that effect. In other words, they never set you up as bait for phishers by training you to follow links they send you. This is the Internet equivalent of the people who call you on the phone pretending to be from a credit card security detail and who ask you to give them some private information relating to your account "to verify your identity." NEVER give anything to anyone who calls and asks you for your private information. Good post on phishing here
Great website here
to deliver an important message:
http://www.protectstudentsandtaxpayers.org/Taxpayer-funded federal financial aid should not go to wasteful career education programs that consistently leave students buried in debt they cannot repay. Read more about this site.The for-profit ed in
dustry often leaves students staring up at a mountain of debt, deep in a hole, and shackled to a ball and chain of debt that they can never pay off because their "school" was better at putting kids into loans than into gainful employment. If you or someone you care about has or is considering taking out loans to attend private, for-profit institutions, you owe it to yourself to check out this website
Isn't this a great sight for a daily commute? I see a lot of people really struggling, and it's wonderful to be reminded now and then to look up and smell the cherry blossoms.
More from Economic Fairness Oregon
: As many of you know, Oregon legislators are currently considering two measures to protect swipe fee reform. A hearing on one of those items, SJM 18, was held yesterday evening in Salem. Thanks to the tremendous support of small business owners, we were able to convince committee members this is an important issue that deserves their attention now – and they voted to move the measure out of committee. While this is an important first step, it will take more momentum to earn a passing vote on the Senate floor. The Oregon Banker’s Association testified against swipe fee reform, and will do its best to keep SJM 18 and the related SB 965 from passing. That’s where you come in once again. This video, featuring several of you, was played for legislators at yesterday’s hearing Please share it with your customers, friends and family. To help them understand more about the issues, you can send them to our website dedicated to swipe fee reform - www.dontswipeourmoney.com. Also take a few minutes to e-mail your legislator asking for support of swipe fee reform. If you haven’t already pledged your support for the measures you can also do that in just a few moments by using our easy online endorsement form. Together, we can move Oregon into a financial environment that works for businesses and consumers.