National Energy Rebate Fund Scam

Some window installers are offering what sounds like a great deal, a 50% off rebate, but just try to collect it, like the unlucky people in this KUTV investigation video (transcript inside). Just look at some of these clauses, not following any of which will invalidate your claim with no second chances:

Clause 5-B: Return all check stubs and rebate check claims separately.
Clause C-1: Notify the National Energy Rebate fund on or before the 17th day after the dealer gives you a rebate check.
Clause 3: You can only apply no earlier than the 47th month after the issue date AND no later than the 30th day after.
Clause 4: You can’t be reminded or encouraged by the media or any other reminder service.

Customers across the US have complained about the onerous rebate requirements, prompting the states of Wisconsin and Utah have charged the National Energy Rebate fund with charges of deceptive marketing. Get Gephardt investigates and pays a visit to the company headquarters.

Transcript:

t sounds like a great deal: buy a product and get a huge chunk of your money back. It’s called a rebate. But when several people across the country say they couldn’t collect thousands of dollars owed to them, it was time to get Gephardt.

A rebate, by Utah definition, is part of a sales deal where the customer gets some money back. It’s an incentive, often, to get a customer to buy. But in the case of the “National Energy Rebate Fund,” it seems to be less of a rebate and more a contest.

Four years ago, Thomas Bartlett had brand new windows installed throughout his home and he picked his installer, he says, because of a special incentive…

“They said, hey we have this great rebate you can get back,” says Thomas.

The rebate was offered by the ‘national energy rebate fund’ and for Thomas, it meant he could get 50 percent of his $14,000 dollars paid back.

“With the rebate, we thought we’d save some money,” says Thomas.

Now, like any rebate, there are specific rules to follow. Here’s are the rules for the Thomas’s rebate:

“Ensure that the relevant sections of both this rebate check are accurate and complete…sign and date…have been charged an amount…return the check stub section…original bill of sale…photocopy of valid passport or driver’s license…lease or credit agreement…copy of recent utility bills…failure to do so will invalidate your claim.”

Carefully following the rules, Thomas filed a claim for his $7,600 rebate. But instead of a check…

Denied!!

Thomas was denied because of the second part of clause five “B,” Thomas “did not send registrations separately.” And there is no second chance at getting his $7,600 rebate.

And these rules are rather complicated.

Clause C-1: notify the national energy rebate fund “on or before the 17th day” after the dealer gives you a rebate check. Then, clause 3: you can only apply no earlier than “the 47th month after the issue date.” and “later than the 30th day after.”
And clause 4: you can’t be “reminded or encouraged by the media or any other reminder service,” to do all this. And there’s a lot more. Is this really a rebate, or is it more of a game to see who can follow the rules?

And we’re not the only ones to raise that question.

The state of Wisconsin is suing the National Energy Rebate Fund saying their rebate offer is deceptive. And here in Utah, the division of consumer protection has cited the company with 3 counts of deception.

We tracked the rebate company to Colorado to find out if they think the rebate offer is rather tricky.

Tim Stubbs is the president of the National Energy Rebate Fund in Grand Junction.

Bill asked, “just want to know if you really try to give rebates to people or if you try to keep people from getting rebates.”

“No, people get paid,” said Tim.

Indeed, Wayne Hemple got a $2,150 rebate on two fireplaces he bought. He is one of 23 people whose photo is on the company’s website with a giant check and here’s something you don’t often see with rebates…company officials presenting the checks.

Wayne says he knows people who missed just one step or rule, and failed to get the promised rebate.

“Does it seem like an ordinary way of getting a rebate?” Bill asked Wayne.

“No…absolutely not. No, it doesn’t, I did get the money but like I said, it is a game. It was a game that I was playing real hard,” said Wayne.

For example, what could the purpose be of clause 4, the one that says customers can only be reminded of rebate deadlines by the national energy rebate fund, not by the media or any other reminder service?

Bill asked Tim, “Can you explain to me why?”

“Get out. Out,” said Tim.

“–You have clause 4 in there. The clause that people aren’t even allowed to be reminded.”

“–they get a reminder.”

“–no, but a reminder from someone else. It all seems silly to me.”

Tim responded, “If a dealer was to insert himself in the role of helping or assisting a consumer, and he did it wrong then he could be held liable.”

“–Why?” asked Bill.

“–We’ve had dealers tell them the wrong thing.”

Bill said, “I think you’re trying to keep…if you find out that somebody’s even been reminded. I think you’re trying to keep rebates from people.”

Tim responded, “There are certain people that will not claim in accordance with the terms and conditions.”

All the rules are explained up front, Tim says, even the part where if too many consumers make a 100 percent proper claim at once, if there isn’t enough money in the rebate fund that month, consumers won’t get their full rebate.

But is that really a rebate then?

Tim Stubbs admitted off camera that maybe they shouldn’t call it a rebate…but something else.

While Tim agreed to come to our studios to do an interview, his lawyer said he would not be coming in this letter to me.

The letter also says by telling you this story, I am violating clause 4. That is, even though news of the national energy rebate fund is all over the internet, I am now reminding holders of some 50-million dollars worth of these rebates in the country and therefore the National Energy Rebate Fund may never have to pay another claim.

Utah ruled against the National Energy Rebate Fund for deception last week. Wisconsin has a trail set for early 2009.

Get Gephardt – Company Tactics To Keep Your Rebate Money [KUTV]

Comments

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  1. timmus says:

    Time for a Congressional investigation on the National Energy Rebate Fund. Obviously someone is skimming profits for personal gain.

    Why is there no National Energy Rebate Fund article on Wikipedia?

  2. vr4z06gt says:

    you know i hate rebate companies just as much as the next guy, however I hate the media more, the way they spin things, this interviewer was a complete jackass, especially the way he handled the situation.

  3. Xkeeper says:

    This is one of those times the Consumerist really needs a tag for “Complete Scumbags” (or shortly, “Scum”)

    This falls under that.

  4. cobaltthorium says:

    @vr4z06gt: I agree. That guy might not have been available then – you just can’t barge into someone’s office and demand an interview then and there! Not that I’m saying he’s innocent – just that a little tact could go a long way.

  5. evslin says:

    That is, even though news of the national energy rebate fund is all over the internet, I am now reminding holders of some 50-million dollars worth of these rebates in the country and therefore the National Energy Rebate Fund may never have to pay another claim.

    Of course, the first rule of the National Energy Rebate Fund is that you do not talk about the National Energy Rebate Fund.

  6. UTC says:

    The NERF? This isn’t as much fun as I remember from childhood.

  7. ThomFabian says:

    This is a crystal clear case of someone setting up a business model for the express intent of taking advantage of someone not reading/understanding the fine print.

    Its fraud on its face to call it a rebate since it more accurately a lottery. The money you receive back is proportional to the number of other folks who happen to navigate the ridiculous criteria successfully.

  8. warf0x0r says:

    That “investigator” was a little obnoxious. I remember a Daily show where one of these “special investigators” and he went around following this kid who got a DUI for months after the infraction, and at some point it simply became excessive. So one of the correspondents started following around the investigator and it was hilarious.

  9. jamesdenver says:

    Christ almighty I hate local news even more now. I’m functional adult and completely capable of mentally processing words and audio without the requirement of stupid graphics, lookalike monopoly cards, and the music from Jeopardy.

    Just tell me the goddam story. I’d rather watch a complete six minute boring interview with the consumer than all the hasty edits and extra nonsense. And have this report spit out all the marbles in his mouth.

    This is why I listen to NPR and the BBC.

    oh and back on topic. Unfortunately the consumer said he wanted to “save” money. Not his fault – but a common theme: You aren’t SAVING money if you part with it first, then have to beg for it back.

    james…

  10. tomok97 says:

    Yes, why can’t have he a clear speaking voice like NPR’s Carl Castle or Diane Rehm?

  11. Murph1908 says:

    @evslin:
    LOL. =)

  12. bukz68 says:

    “Clause 3: You can only apply no earlier than the 47th month after the issue date AND no later than the 30th day after.”

    Now I’m no legal scholar but I assume this means that they make you wait 3 years and 11 months to apply then you only get 30 days to do so?

    These are the types of people I wouldn’t even piss on if they were on fire.

  13. godawgs7 says:

    @warf0x0r:
    It was “You Jackin’ It” when Carl Monday goes after a guy caught masturbating in a library.


    + Watch video

  14. LorneReams says:

    So is this a government slush fund or what? I’m seeing the bill that funded it, but no details other then that. It looks like this was straight pork. To give the guy (minimal) credit, the rules seem to have been found in committee, not by the shell company who gives out the rebates (which is probably headed by some overpaid bureaucrat who donated a crap load of money to his senators campaign, and is now relying on the good ol’ quid pro quo.

  15. MisterE says:

    After reading all of the fine print, I would NEVER have done business with this company. Scam! Stay away!

  16. Michael Belisle says:

    @LorneReams: I haven’t found anything that says it’s government related or funded. What bill is that?

    Their program page makes it pretty clear it’s not a rebate: “Our program works somewhat similar to your health, auto, or life insurance.” Hence, the game: the people who get paid are collecting from the losers.

    Just be one of the people who remembers and follows the terms and conditions and you will get paid! You will remember and follow the terms and conditions won’t you? [www.nationalenergyrebates.com]

  17. Brad2723 says:

    I hope after forcing this company to pay out all of the denied rebates, the states drive them out of business.

  18. WraithSama says:

    @ThomFabian:

    You mean it’s inversely proportional.

  19. mike says:

    I’m convinced that mail-in rebates was created by some retired bureaucrat.

    Wasn’t there a store that changed their policy on mail-in rebates? I think it might have been Best Buy or Staples: all their mail-in rebates were instant?

  20. mike says:

    You know…to their defense, they were quite clever. They probably knew that their “rebate” would land them in some media trouble. So they added a clause that says that if it does, they don’t have to pay out.

    Interesting…

  21. unklegwar says:

    @timmus: NO time for Congress to investigate this. They’re too busy wasting money and time to determine if Clemens used to take shots in the @$$.

    ..and for some strange reason, if he is or ever was a Vegan.

    Important stuff? No time.

  22. ThomFabian says:

    @WraithSama:
    Yep, I meant inversely proportional. Good catch.

  23. hwyengr says:

    @LorneReams: Please, by no means should you let the facts of any story get in the way of making shit up to bitch about the government.

    There is no bill. This isn’t a government program. This wasn’t funded by your precious tax dollars.

  24. ninjatales says:

    This is why I hate rebates personally.

    A hint of advice. BUYDOTCOM’s rebates are the worst offenders. I’ve personally heard one too many complaints about them.

  25. brent_w says:

    Its amusing how many people, even commenters here on the consumerist, are completely fooled into thinking this is some sort of government program just because they have the word “national” and “fund” in their name.

  26. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @sohmc: I think Frys recently got rid of rebates after too many customer complaints. Now that I thnk about it, i’ve never seen one at a best buy either, so maybe both?

  27. goller321 says:

    Anyone calling the reporter annoying or anything else for his tactics are complete idiots. The company owner is nothing but a complete scammer. This loser is no better than a drug dealer and should be treated as such. If this company owned me $7K, I’d be at the CEO’s house bringing with me some “incentive” to pay the claim immediately. Too bad no one has knee-capped this douche yet.

  28. Ragman says:

    @m4ximusprim3: If Fry’s got rid of them, it was only in the past couple of months. BB hasn’t done rebates for the last 2 Black Fridays – they just cut the prices. That and the fact that BB runs Black Friday online starting Thanksgiving morning makes them my first BF stop.

    Any rebate that says you have to send it in between 3 yrs 11mos and 4 years is obviously a scam.

  29. MFlick says:

    what a scheming, conniving, bunch of scum-bags. I thinks I smell a class action suit…

  30. tk427 says:

    It looks like the bullshit “fund” is not their only source of income. Here’s part of the confidentiality agreement for a merchant that inquires about doing business w/NRF, Inc.

    …within three (3) months from the date of this agreement, the other party agrees to return to NRF, Inc. all written information, documents, materials and copies thereof in their possession relating to the NRF, Inc. business…

    …The parties recognize that the damages that will be suffered by NRF, Inc. as a result of Merchant’s breach of this Agreement will be substantial…

    …for each violation of this Agreement, Merchant shall pay NRF, Inc. the sum of $10,000 for each such breach. The parties acknowledge that these damages are a fair and reasonable estimate…

    I’m starting a business where I send out a half-dozen fliers and brochures to companies that email me once for info – then charge them $10,000 a piece when they misfile a piece of paper.

    Belize, here I come!

  31. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    @godawgs7:
    LOL. Thanks for the link. Too funny. Although my all time favorite correspondent from the daily show will be beth littleford. Her “interview” with David Cassidy is classic.


    + Watch video

  32. mikemar42 says:

    they deserve the wrath of anon.

  33. M3wThr33 says:

    4 years to wait? God damn.

  34. Kounji says:

    So from now on when people have issues with receiving rebates, is the Consumerist going to call it being NERF’d cause that would be awesome.

  35. AndrewJC says:

    @RealityIs: Funny, but RealityIs has only posted one comment, ever…

    Here’s the thing: If they REALLY wanted you to be able to collect, then they would allow you FIX YOUR ERRORS IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE.

    The fact that the company requires you to take more detailed and exacting steps that taking HIV medication, then denies your claim permanently and fully after making even one tiny mistake, shows them for the deceptive scam artists that they are.

  36. ekasbury says:

    Trial, not trail. Unless the folks from Wisconsin are going to hike to Grand Junction.

    Sorry for being a smart ass.