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I have a dispute with a credit card company. I would like to know my rights and my options. Here is the situation. An Israel based group offered to sell me a language course. It was a year long course. I told the telemarketer that I was not sure I had enough free time to take such a course. The telmarketer told me that I could pay monthly and stop at any time. After 3 months I tried to stop and was told that the agreement I "signed" on-line said I would pay for the whole course whether or not I finished it, and had no provision for stopping without paying. My credit card company, Amex, looked into the matter and said I had to pay. This is the first time in over 30 years with Amex that I tried to cancel a payment. I am not happy with Amex. Was Amex correct to decide for the Israeli company, accepting their electronic record over my statement about what the telemarketer said? Why did my statement not satisfy whatever burden of proof that is needed? In any case, what are my rights and my options? (For example, can I take either the Israeli company or Amex to small claims court in New York, where I live.) The amount involved is $666.00.

Update: I called Amex and asked to speak to a supervisor. He told me that the vendor has a cancellation policy. So, technically, they did not bill me for tuition after I told them to stop such billing. Rather the vendor billed me for a cancellation fee. However, when I spoke w the telemarketer and gave him my credit card info I was not told about and did not authorize a cancellation fee. The vendor sent me terms and conditions after the fact. Amex also told me that the vendor said they have a recording of the sales call. I have contacted the vendor and asked that they review that recording.

  • Never buy anything over the phone if the seller calls you. That's just a good practice to have. If they are a legitimate company, they'll have a web site where you can read the terms (and have documentation) of any purchase. – Scott May 13 '16 at 17:14
  • @Scott Reading through long pages of dense legalese is not my thing. I have heard of a web service that generates a one-use credit card number. Their basic service is free: dnt.abine.com/#help/faq/faq-costofBlur. – user3270 May 13 '16 at 21:05
  • In general, purchase agreements are not long pages of "legalese". You're confusing them with terms of service agreements or other items. – Scott May 14 '16 at 0:01
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IANAL, but I see the following hidden issues within your statement -

First, if you only have a verbal statement and they have an electronic agreement, its more likely that AMEX will accept the electronic agreement as its stronger (not stronger != strong) evidence.

You may find it difficult to take the Israeli company to court, because its most likely outside the jurisdiction of the court - how can they "serve" notice on the company, and how can they enforce judgment ? (The Israeli company is probably not bound by US law). If you can surmout the obstacle of Jurisdiction, you may be able to get somewhere with AMEX.

Also, depending on your state laws, there will almost be a dispute resolution/escalation procedure you can follow with AMEX - you should follow up with this procedure, which could put Amex under pressure to change their view.

Alternatively, if AMEX refuse to honor your instruction to cancel an automatic payment (regardless of your agreement with the third party), you may want to advise them that if they don't follow your instruction, you will close your account... and then do so.

  • Yep: I once disputed a charge and AmEx decided to side with the merchant. I then called to cancel the card, and told them I would pay the balance due minus the disputed amount. They promptly decided it was in their interest to credit me the disputed amount to keep me as a customer. (I suspect they just ate the disputed amount themselves, rather than sticking it to the merchant.) Of course, my credit and usage history with them may have had some bearing on that decision. As does the difficulty in collecting a relatively small disputable debt through collections processes. – feetwet May 13 '16 at 2:07
  • Unfortunately, the payment was already made by Amex to the vendor. So it seems too late for me to tell Amex not to honor the payment. If you think that is viable approach in my case, let me know. – user3270 May 13 '16 at 13:15
  • @user3270 - Credit cards settle to the merchant within a day or two. But you can request a "chargeback" much later. If the card company agrees with you then the merchant has to return the money. Card companies have to allow chargebacks before your first bill listing the charge is due, and good ones will accept disputes for months if you have a good reason. – feetwet May 13 '16 at 16:34
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The small claims court issue was covered here. If the card is stolen and used fraudulently, the customer has limited to no liability, but this was not card theft. It is possible but unlikely that a credit card company has a "satisfaction guaranteed" clause in their contract with you. If you think there is something in the contract where they refund your money, you can point it out to them. Otherwise, even if you had absolute undeniable proof of what you said, it is still not the credit card company's responsibility to make you whole. You would have to litigate this in Israel.

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