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MAINERS PROTECTED FROM CHARGES AFTER TRIAL OFFERS IN SALES AGREED TO BY TELEPHONE
February 19, 2003
FEBRUARY 5, 2003
CHARLES DOW, DIRECTOR
COMMUNICATIONS AND LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS
"If you like the product, simply keep it, and we will bill your credit card," said the telemarketer. "Not so fast," said the Maine Legislature.
Since the fall of 2001, Mainers have been protected by a law that regulates "negative option sales," so-called because the sale is completed when the consumer fails to act to prevent it. Telemarketers may no longer charge a consumer for a good or service after a trial period unless they send the consumer, at least 15 days prior to any charge, a clearly written description of the good or service being purchased, the amount to be charged, and the calendar date the consumer will be charged for the good or service if the consumer does not cancel the sale. This notice also must provide the specific steps by which the consumer can cancel the agreement by both mail and telephone. Failure to provide the required notices constitutes a violation of the Unfair Trade Practices Act, which can be enforced by the Attorney General or by private parties.
The new law does not apply to sales under $25 or to sales of credit, insurance, or securities.
Attorney General Steven Rowe warned that the increased convenience of credit cards and telephone sales must be balanced by increased consumer vigilance. "We all must read our credit card statements and scan our mail carefully. My office will enforce the law, but people need to report violations to us." The phone number at the AG's Office is 626-8800.
Read the law online at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/10/title10sec1210.html.