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StarBulletin.com

Read fine print to avoid 'free' prize problems


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

QUESTION: My parents went to the Senior Expo and “;won”; a drawing for a free hotel stay. They were informed by phone that they won, then a young man drove out to their house to give them their certificate and explain what they'd “;won”; from Redeemincentives.com. You have to “;redeem”; the certificate by giving your credit card over the Internet first; then you are given a list of participating hotels that are available at the time of your vacation. They pressure you as well, because this certificate must be used by Dec. 11. The local rep appears to be with an insurance company, while the Redemption Center is in San Diego. The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has no complaint history, and I wasn't able to get through on the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii's automated menu. Can you find out more about this or warn your readers?

ANSWER: This is another example of needing to read the fine print, especially on drawings for “;free”; prizes.

In this case the drawings for a free hotel stay were offered by a local insurance company that had contracted with Redeemincentives.com to provide the hotel stays AS A MARKETING TOOL.

An official with the insurance company, who asked that the company not be named because he said it had done nothing wrong, said your parents would not have been visited by a representative unless they had indicated interest in its services.

He showed us a copy of the entry form in which entrants could check off boxes saying they were interested in various insurance issues.

At the bottom of the form is the required disclaimer — in the proverbial fine print — saying that entrants “;may be provided with free information on the services that they provide”; and that consent is given “;to contact me regarding products, services and upcoming events.”;

The official said one free trip for two to Las Vegas was awarded, as well as numerous Longs Drugs gift certificates. Also given out were certificates for a discounted stay at a resort of choice, which required a $15 redemption fee.

A certificate we saw says they can be redeemed either online or by mailing in payment information. The terms and conditions were spelled out.

“;There is no pressure”; to redeem the certificate, the insurance official maintained, saying the company does not make any money from hotel reservations. He also said people are not contacted unless they checked a box indicating interest.

Complaints like yours “;are not uncommon at BBB and are often traced back to entering to win a prize at a mall, fair, trade show or other local event,”; according to a BBB Hawaii official.

Regarding Redeemincentives.com, the official said the parent company appears to be Advo Solutions Corp. in La Mesa, Calif., whose “;BBB Reliability Report”; showed that its BBB accreditation was revoked in February.

If you would like to follow up on this, call BBB Hawaii at 536-6956 or file a complaint online at www.bbb.org. (It was checking into your complaint about problems with its automatic phone system.)

BBB advises people to provide only the minimum amount of information required in a drawing, such as a first name only with a phone number, city and ZIP code without the street address or e-mail address.

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