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Fingerhut Telephone Calls Not a Good Fit for Good Friday

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Eden Prairie, MNSomewhere out there is a TV ad for Fingerhut.com featuring a fictitious but representative consumer named “Nancy.” The description of the ad, catalogued at GlobalAdSource (2/27/14), suggests that “Nancy’s budget used to be a total downer before discovering Fingerhut.com. Now, Nancy can get what she wants without upsetting her budget.” However, would Nancy be upset if she was on the receiving end of a Fingerhut automated call today? Today is Good Friday, when Christians mark the Crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. The problem with FingerHut telephone calls, automated as they are, is that a computer doesn’t know it’s Good Friday. Or if it does, it doesn’t know whether the recipient is a practicing Christian or not.

Such a call, on this day, would certainly be considered intrusive. Such intrusiveness remains the foundation for many plaintiffs embroiled in the Fingerhut Robocalling Class Action Lawsuit.

Various past and present Fingerhut consumers have complained about intrusive phone calls not only to their home numbers, but also their mobile numbers. The difference between land lines and cell service is, of course, the higher costs associated with data transmission. Whereas incoming calls to a land line are not associated with any cost (unless it’s a collect call, and who in their right mind would accept a collect call from a robocalling service…), both incoming and outgoing calls to a cell number carry an associated cost. While most data plans feature terms that include a basket of free minutes up to a certain cap, and various parts of the day or week, the clock starts to tick when the cap is reached.

Consumers can control their usage when this cap is reached. But an unwanted robocall coming in can cost a consumer in data fees.

Various reports reflect calls that come in at all hours, day and night, or so it is alleged. Others have complained that repeated calls by Fingerhut to facilitate a minor collection issue can not only run up data costs, but also inconvenience otherwise busy consumers who don’t have the time for such an intrusion.

One complainant about Fingerhut telephone calls noted that his wife, who had suffered a stroke, was kept on the phone for extended periods of time by a Fingerhut representative who continued making errors on the call. There have also been reports of language barriers, also resulting in longer calls when a consumer had trouble understanding a Fingerhut representative.

It should be noted that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits nuisance calls, and regulates when calls can be made, where and to whom.

Is Fingerhut good for your budget?

But let’s get back to Nancy and her budget. Is her budget better off with Fingerhut? One consumer advocate, weighing in on Fingerhut’s so-called “FreshStart” program in 2012, noted that Fingerhut merchandise is “probably overpriced.” This observation is backed up by another Fingerhut consumer who tried to return an item he found at a lower price at a local retailer (and had trouble returning it, together with some 50 nuisance Fingerhut telephone calls).

FreshStart, as it was described in 2012, is an effort to provide consumers with poor credit scores or other credit problems access to Fingerhut merchandise, and the ability to buy on time and make payments as a means to re-establish a good credit history - not to mention keeping the consumers in the Fingerhut family.

However, Gerri Detweiler, who was serving as the Director of Consumer Education at Credit.com when she made these comments in October 2012, noted that “the biggest concern for customers is that they will just focus on the small down payment and monthly payments, and lose track of how much they are really spending. When they do, they’ll pay interest. So instead of buying an item on sale, they are paying more by the time the bill is paid off. The interest rate is 24.99 percent, which is not unusual for a retail card or credit cards for those with bad credit, but it’s high compared to the average credit card rate of about 15 percent.” Again, these comments, and thus interest rates, were reflective of October 2012.

Still feeling good about your budget, Nancy?

There is little doubt that Fingerhut would not have become as successful as it has, in the absence of providing a service valued by so many. However, there are those who argue that Fingerhut telephone calls are not similarly valued. Especially if one of those unwanted calls comes in on a day like today - Good Friday. Not a good thing, indeed…

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