Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Tell postal inspector of
unsolicited subscriptions

Question: I received a letter with an invoice from a certain magazine subscription service on the mainland thanking me for subscribing to their magazine. I was told to send $12 for a year's subscription, which I did not happen to order. I then sent a letter telling them that I never ordered the magazine and I was still sent another invoice. They've already sent two magazines. Because I intend to refuse, can they force me to pay? Where can I get help and more information on this in order to stop it?

Answer: The first bit of advice from the Federal Trade Commission is to try to resolve your complaint with the company itself.

But since you've already sent them a letter, the FTC suggests seeking help from the local U.S. postal inspector (call 1-800-ASK-USPS and ask to be connected to the Honolulu postal inspector's office); the state Office of Consumer Protection (587-3222); the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii (536-6956); and/or the Direct Marketing Association (6 East 43rd St., New York, N.Y. 10017).

The FTC says that while you have no legal obligation to do so, sending a letter is advisable if you keep unordered merchandise as a free gift.

Your letter may discourage the seller from sending repeated bills or dunning notices, the FTC says, or may clear up an honest error.

An added precaution is to send your letter by certified mail. Keep the return receipt and a copy of the letter.

Use the same approach if you receive bills or dunning notices for unordered merchandise.

"Write a letter to the company stating that you never ordered the item and, therefore, you have a legal right to keep the merchandise for free," the FTC says.

The FTC also advises people to be careful when participating in sweepstakes or ordering goods advertised as "free," "trial" or "unusually low-priced." Read all the fine print to make sure you are not joining a club with regular purchasing or notification requirements.

Also, if you want to order from a mail-order company, check its reputation and return policies first.

When ordering by phone, keep a record of who took your order; the company's name, street address and phone number; the price, description and item numbers on the ordered merchandise; the total cost of the order; the method of payment used; the method of shipment and delivery date; and the date of your order.

Keep comparable information when ordering by mail.

You can also contact the FTC, although the agency tells you up front that it cannot resolve individual complaints.

What it can do is take action against the company "if it finds evidence of a pattern of deception, unfair practices or statutory violations."

Send your letter to: Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580.

You can also call the FTC's consumer hot line, toll-free 1-877-382-4357, or check out its Internet Web site,


To the driver of a white Buick who, on the afternoon of Nov. 18, came out of Emma Lane, turned right and proceeded to drive against oncoming traffic on Queen Emma Street to get to Beretania Street. One of these days, you're going to cause a traffic accident because you're too lazy to go around the block! -- No name

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
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