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CONSUMER ALERT: Review Online Coupons Carefully
November 5, 2012

Contact:  Jerad Albracht, Communications Specialist, 608-224-5007 or Jim Dick, Communications Director, 608-224-5020 

MADISON – Consumers who sign up for emails from daily deal websites are offered products, services, meals and travel at heavily discounted rates.  The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) advises consumers to do their research on the service provider prior to clicking the purchase button.
 
For example, Wisconsin consumers have complained about chimney cleaning services that were purchased through Groupon from a company called Fireplace Doctor.  According to Groupon, more than 270 consumers in Milwaukee purchased the deal. 
 
Despite being a Florida-based company, Fireplace Doctor advertised its services on the website under the names “The Fireplace Doctor of Madison” and “The Fireplace Doctor of Milwaukee.”  Many consumers confused Fireplace Doctor with a legitimate local business with a similar name.  Among complaints received by consumers who purchased the deal are claims of homes left in a filthy state after a chimney cleaning and a consumer who paid $350 but received no services.
 
If you use daily deal websites, follow these tips:
  • Read the fine print.  Make sure you read the terms of the deal and that you understand any redemption restrictions.
  • Look for reliable merchants.  Research the company you intend to buy from.  Call the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-422-7128 to find out if we have received consumer complaints against the business. 
  • Is it really a deal?  Verify that the offer actually is a good value by comparing prices for similar services or merchandise on other websites or by calling around to competitors.  Consider the cost of tips if the deal is for a service and shipping if you are purchasing a product.
  • Be aware that some companies have difficulties fulfilling their deals when demand is high, so know that you may have shipping delays or find yourself competing with other purchasers for available time slots for services and classes.
  • Know your daily deal site.  These sites differ in how and when they charge consumers for their purchases and how they handle refunds and returns.
  • Keep your receipt and copies of any communications.  If you have problems with a daily deal site or with the service provider, ask to speak with a manager about your problem.  Document the interactions.  If you are unable to come to a resolve and you choose to file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Bureau, this documentation will be important for your case.

For more information or to file a consumer complaint, visit datcp.wisconsin.gov, send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call the hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.

Connect with Consumer Protection on Facebook: www.facebook.com/wiconsumer.

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