GE Promises Free Inspection And Repair, Then Charges You, Then Threatens To Send You To Collections

Reader Zack is frustrated with General Electric because they offered to inspect and repair his washing machine as a courtesy, then after they came by they stuck him with the bill. Now they’re threatening to send him to a collection agency.

Zack writes:

OK, I’ll try and make this a quick summary. I called GE with a problem with my 11 week out of warranty washer machine on August 4th. Long story short, I get forwarded to customer relations, who tells me that as a courtesy a technician will be sent out the following week, on the 11th. I get immediately suspicious and ask that he will in fact fix the washer, as I thought this might just be a courtesy diagnostic to tell me the true cost of repair. No, she said that it would be a full repair.

A week later, on the 11th, a technician comes and immediately determines that the motor and lid switch need replacing. He says that there is no courtesy credit to my account, and calls in to confirm that yes, they will not repair the washer for less than $175. I decline, it is a $400 washer give or take and I don’t want to throw good money after bad. I talk to customer service with the technician there to confirm that the previous weeks technician did not in fact fill out the correct form to give me the free repair. I am informed those forms can no longer be filled out. So be it, I am where I was last week, no big deal.

The problem comes as the technician leaves. He tells me that I will be charged $99 for the visit. To make it clear, the first time out of several phone calls and speaking to several people I am informed of the charge is as the guy is leaving. I tell him to leave the property immediately, and he does.

I call GE, and they say that they will not remove the charge. I never would have consented to it, it was said that this would be a courtesy call for which I expected there would be no charge at all. They have already threatened to send this to collections. One representative said it doesn’t matter if I was not informed of the charge as, and I quote this, “I should have been aware of the service charge already.” I will be filing complaints to the BBB and NY Consumer Protection Board, but is there anything else I can do to not have to pay $99 to get my credit out in the clear?

We’d suggest getting in touch with someone higher up at GE to see if they can resolve this.

(Photo: silent (e))

Comments

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  1. jaydez says:

    My mom had a GE washer that ate its transmission after 13 months on a 12 month warranty. GE said they will compensate her by providing the part for free but she would have to pay the labor to install it. She called around and the least expensive estimate to replace the part was $475… the washer cost her $399.

    To this day she tells EVERYONE she knows not to buy GE. When i just bought all the appliances for my condo the sales person asked what brands I want and I told him any except GE.

    There isnt a single person my mom knows who will even consider a GE product ever again.

  2. jadenton says:

    You can always dispute the mark on your credit record.

  3. PinkBox says:

    @jadenton: That doesn’t always work. As long as the company can “verify” it, (and I bet they’ll find a way to do so, since they have records of the repair work), it will most likely stick.

  4. thinkliberty says:

    If a company reports you to a credit reporting agency as delinquent when you are not, it’s fraud.

    Sue their ass for defamation.

  5. Anonymous says:

    GE are war mongering neocons and they own NBC.

  6. bohemian says:

    @PinkBox: The problem with the “verification” is that all they have to do is claim there was a transaction. I disputed a fake debt with a reporting agency and it came back verified. Even though the original creditor says I don’t owe them anything outstanding.

    It is way too easy to get something put on someone’s credit report. They have to change the process so the consumer has more of a right in the process.

    So someone can ruin your credit easy enough and in some cases put you on the no fly list if you make them mad, or have you hauled off to the funny farm.

  7. bohemian says:

    @jaydez: We looked at GE fridges and after reading the online reviews we won’t buy anything from them.

  8. Tara says:

    Nothing to add about the outrageous story, but the photo makes me wish I were on the west coast of Hawaii’s Big Island right now, looking at Sakamoto Electric in person. Sigh.

  9. SkokieGuy says:

    You can pay with a credit card, then dispute the charge. Since you probably have no record of the verbal promise, the chargeback will likely be declined.

    You could contact the media to shame GE into honoring their own promise, but then again GE owns a lot of the media.

    You could pay the bill, to avoid damaging your credit and continue to publicize this and spread the word that their service cannot be trusted.

    I am in the market for a new dryer and because of this post, I will not consider GE.

  10. billbillbillbill says:

    Hard to tell on this one.

    I had a similar thing happen with a car repair. My car had coolant leaking so I took it to a mechanic, they diagnosed it as something strange with a very high cost so I wanted a second opinion. I took it to the dealership where they gave me a very different diagnosis (a lot less money too-go figure). I was going to think about it but the dealership informed me that it took them 2 hours to determine the problem and that I would have to pay $150 for the time, unless I chose them to do the repair. Since I was already $150 into it, I told them to do the repair. It worked out OK but I was a bit bugged that they didn’t tell me of the charge for investigating.

    It always takes once before you know to ask the right questions!

  11. dkush21 says:

    I had the same problem with maytag washer, bought it a little over a year ago and the motor and bearings needed replacing Warranty was good for 5 years on parts only, but they sock it to you for the labor. They wanted 199.00 for labor. Stay away from Maytag, they are garbage also.

  12. mariospants says:

    Tara, thanks for identifying the image, it’s really cool to have insight on these photos once in a while. Hey Consumerist: maybe we can consider having an “about this image/photo” link on the interesting ones? (or can we get those comments on the original flickr page?)

  13. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    @dkush21: Maytag = Whirlpool (and KitchenAid, Kenmore, Amana, Roper, Jenn-Air, and a bunch of other ones)!

  14. Starfury says:

    We recently re-did our kitchen and replaced our appliances and bought a GE dishwasher.

    It is garbage. Our 5 yr old Kenmore works better..but since that one is gone we’re stuck using this one for a while. I would not recommend a GE appliance ever. I’ve had good luck with Kenmore.

  15. SkokieGuy says:

    It seems to me that a reasonable Federal consumer protection law would require companies to provide, upon customer request, any customer-specific account notes and files. As it stands, companies can promise the sun and stars, but typically provide no verification and can also put untrue or slanderous statements into a customer’s notes, without our ability to be informed, let alone protest any inaccuracies.

    How difficult to have the CSR request and email and click ‘send’ before terminating a call. This provide a trail that would avoid a lot of misunderstandings and conflict, increase CSR efficiency and potentially avoid lawsuits.

    For every corporate CEO that claims to take customer service seriously, who’s going to be bold enough to ‘walk the walk’ and implement this type of process?

    Isn’t it outrageous that what I am proposing (companies actually backing up their promises and commitments in writing) seems like such a crazy and revolutionary idea?

  16. nicemarmot617 says:

    The problem with trying to avoid GE appliances is that all the appliance companies nowadays manufacture their crap under tons of different names, thereby making it impossible to do a genuine price/value comparison. Just like mattresses!

  17. parliboy says:

    Devil’s Advocate:

    No where in this article does it actually say that GE said the repair would be free. “As a courtesy,” they sent a technician, as opposed to making the OP call one.

  18. PinkBox says:

    @bohemian: Tell me about it… I’ve been fighting a ding on my credit report for over a year that somehow keeps getting verified when I know it isn’t my debt. It should fall off this year though, hopefully. If not, I’ll take it to court.

    As for GE, we recently paid $16 for a GE night light. It lasted maybe five days. The $3 replacement has been fine for months.

  19. PinkBox says:

    @parliboy: Isn’t a “courtesy” call generally regarded as being free?

    “offered or provided free by courtesy of the management: While waiting to board the airplane, we were provided with courtesy coffee.”

    I’ve had courtesy calls from a number of businesses, and was never charged. To me, being charged for something isn’t exactly a courtesy.

  20. LoriLynn says:

    @parliboy: I was thinking that too, tricky wording. Does “as a courtesy” usually translate to “for free”?

  21. neko613 says:

    Most electronics, appliances, and various other machines and vehicles were made so that things are “more likely” to break down after the warranty period. These big companies estimate the time it takes for their products to break down on average…then give it a warranty that covers it up to that time frame. Only exception to this is maybe KIA, since they need a big warranty to sell such crappy cars that break down anytime so people will even consider it.

  22. SkokieGuy says:

    @PinkBox: And it isn’t exactly convenient to be charged a ‘convenience’ fee either.

    A courtesy call simply means that the person showing up will be polite, and say please and thank you before sticking you with a huge bill.

  23. SkokieGuy says:

    @neko613: The term you’re speaking of is planned obsolescence. [www.investopedia.com]

  24. GyroMight says:

    If the Help Desk tech everywhere would just tell us the truth to begin with things would be so much easier. You just never know if something like this is deception on purpose or just a mistake and miss communication on the customer relations part.

  25. Anonymous says:

    @parliboy: “Courtesy” in this case without a doubt translates into free. There is no way the consumer should have thought he was going to be charged.

    He called specifically because he knew was past warranty and was told not to worry that they would send someone.

    The OP isn’t even trying to get his washer fixed free, he understands the mistake without complaint…he still shouldn’t have to pay. I sure hope he didn’t sign any paperwork. If he did, he’s out’o’ luck.

    Don

  26. jswilson64 says:

    Grandpa always said to Get It In Writing. OP should have verified the “free” repair call and had them fax him something, e-mail him something, get something in writing. Now it’s just his word against theirs.

  27. mike says:

    @jswilson64: That’s why hindsight is always 20/20. I know I would just been happy that someone was coming out and wouldn’t really question them.

    Unfortunately, the days of trusting the corporations are gone. We need to record more phone calls and keep better notes.

  28. BadAxe says:

    @:
    “A courtesy call simply means that the person showing up will be polite, and say please and thank you before sticking you with a huge bill.”

    I sure hope that was meant as a joke. “Courtesy call” means a free visit. Period. There should be no charge if there was no repair. Sounds to me like the original CSR screwed up and offered something they wouldn’t provide. GE has an obligation to live up to her screw-up, though.

    My advice: Call the customer service line, ask for a manager, ask them to send you a copy of the notes from the original call. If you are reasonable and friendly, they can provide that by email or fax. Then go back to the billing department with written evidence of the CSR’s mistake and you may get them to cancel the bill.

  29. DangerousLiberal says:

    @: And Jack Welch was a prick. The end.

  30. Mollyg says:

    This should be very simple. If the customer did not agree to the $99 charge then it is invalid. This is a basic concept in contract law.

    GE had an obligation to tell the customer that there was a $99 fee and give the customer an opportunity to decline.

  31. jonworld says:

    I have had some terrible experiences with GE. One story: My Family bought 2 GE Monogram Mini-Fridges after we remodeled our house, one for the bar and one for the kitchen. Monogram is GE’s “luxury” appliance brand, and therefore, I would expect that GE Monogram Appliances are better quality and have better customer service. Boy, I was wrong! A few weeks after moving in, the cooling system in our kitchen fridge would run almost constantly, no matter what the set temperature was, freezing everything inside. We called GE and they came out in a FEW WEEKS to replace a part. That didn’t work. The next month consisted of GE just coming out and replacing all these various parts, with weeks in between each repair session, and no progress whatsoever towards a fully-working fridge. We started suggesting that GE replace the whole fridge altogether, but they stubbornly refused. Finally, after a few months of having orange juice, milk, and soda “slushies” instead of the actual thing AND GE replacing every part imaginable in the fridge, they finally decided to stop wasting our time and replace the fridge. At least they didn’t charge us…

  32. MyPetFly says:

    @Franklin Comes Alive!:

    That’s why I wash my clothes by beating them against a rock with a stick at the river. Where my van is, down by the river.

  33. tortcat says:

    Unless I am mistaken, if you did not sign a work order etc, it would be very difficult if not impossible to send you to a collection agency. Plus, how would they even have your ssn?

  34. parliboy says:

    @: I dunno. When I locked myself out of my car, I called Chrysler, because I had their number. Even though it was out of warranty, they offered to contact a locksmith in the area for me, as a courtesy. Now, they were explicit it telling me I would be charged, and that might well be a difference. Still “courtesy” was definitely a word involved.

  35. bohemian says:

    If you have the option to deal with customer service via email instead of over the phone that seems to be the better option. That way you can have a paper trail of what they said or promised. With this GE situation that could have been enough to dispute it minus the their word against his situation.

    After having Verizon Wireless lie to me multiple times and then later try to deny it when we renewed our contract and got new phones I try to get everything in writing or email.

  36. Black Bellamy says:

    Did the guy sign something? Because otherwise there is no case, there is no bill, there is nothing.

    I can send out bills for $450 to every poster in this thread and so what? Unless I have proof there was a signed contract how am I going to collect?

  37. tom2133 says:

    When I used to sell appliances, we had a joke about GE.

    Q: What does “GE” stand for?
    A: Good Enough!

  38. Anonymous says:

    Don’t pay the bill, let them sue you. When they do, you can get a copy of your conversion with the phone tech telling you the visit was free. You didn’t agree to pay $99 bucks, why should you?

    Next time go on line to find the problem, get the part and fix it yourself. It’s cheaper, faster and you don’t have to wait for some repair tech.

    Good do it (fix it) yourself sites: [fixitnow.com] and my favorites: [www.handymanwire.com] and [www.repairclinic.com]

    So far I have repaired a washer, dryer, stove and 2 refrigerators all quickly a much cheaper (all under a $70 each for the parts) than the price of a tech visit.

  39. Marshfield says:

    I’d be inclined to dispute the bill over the phone after I got something in the mail.

    It’d go like “I didn’t authorize this transaction and I’d like you to remove it.”
    “sorry, we can’t do that.”
    “But I did not authorize this transaction. If you can’t take it off, please let me speak to your supervisor.”

    And just keep up the pressure. You did NOT authorize that transaction.

    If the phone call doesn’t work, write a letter and simply say “I did not authorize this transaction. If you have any evidence to the contrary, please send it to me or CANCEL this bill.”

    You’re in the right here, don’t back down.

  40. Riddar says:

    @parliboy: @SkokieGuy: OP here. I tried to make the complaint short, so I will elaborate…

    I actually had a repairman come before I called GE. He basically said that it was a problem with the computer on the machine and out of his expertise. I called GE for a second opinion (because I wasn’t aware my no screen, sort of basic machine had a computer to speak of), and solely on a whim, I asked about the possibility of getting them to extend the warranty as a courtesy. This technician forwarded me to customer relations to handle it, and I made it very clear that I was looking only for a free repair as a ‘Broke straight away after warranty expired’ courtesy. Like I said, I was suspicious… but who knows, GE may have been more interested in saving a customer here. No dice, as we all know now. Hindsight, what ifs, and shoulda/couldas all apply now, of course. Heck, it was not an expensive machine, I wasn’t spending $200 to repair it. That’s a third of the cost of the machine right there, delivery and tax included.

    The reason that the credit card complaint wouldn’t have worked here (by my understanding) is they they were going to mail me a bill. If I pay a bill by credit, that is an acknowledgement I owed the money, why would the credit company rule in my favor after that fact?

    Anyway, for a resolution, I just got a call from GE (they say from the BBB complaint, who knows) that they will drop the charges. Thanks for the kinds words, commentors, and thanks Consumerist! Learned to avoid GE on the replacement, at least.

  41. Riddar says:

    @Marshfield: Oh, you would be amazed at the conversation I had with them.

    “I did not authorize that charge.” – “You consented to the repair”
    “I was not told there would be any charge, I never would have agreed” – “You should have been aware, so you will be charged”
    “I can not be required to pay a bill I did not authorize in any way” – “We will send this to collections”
    “This would be akin to me telling you right now you are liable to me for a bill for talking to me” – “I will not discuss this with you, the charge stands”

    I know that you are not supposed to get angry at customer relations, just doing their job, and all that, but I lost it at this point. When this man told me that he would not even discuss the bill with me, it was the last straw. It was, by far, the worst customer service experience I have had, and I have had my share of good and bad. So, I got off the phone shortly after, wrote complaints to the BBB, CPB, Consumerist, and will probably write reviews or advise others where possible. I know, don’t ever say ‘I will never be your customer again’, but I really think that they backed down for an honestly awful legal position and not as a kind gesture, so they won’t be backtracking anytime soon.

  42. Fly Girl says:

    @neko613: I just have to step in and defend my Kia! I bought a brand new Kia Spectra in 2003– she just celebrated her fifth birthday.

    I have never, ever had a problem (mechanical or otherwise) with my Kia. I’m a city dweller, so I don’t drive her all *that* much– she’s got 35,000 miles on her and a big chunk of that comes from a couple of 1,600 mile road trips. I guess I’m putting about 7,000 miles or less on her each year.

    She gets me great gas mileage– about 350 a tank, which is about 11 gallons, so about 31 MPG– which is even better than what Kia claims it will get. In five years, I’ve only had to bring her in for service twice. Both times it was because of something caused by a road hazard. And both times, despite the fact that the problem was caused by a rock or something, Kia paid for the repair 100%.

    Other than new tires, oil changes, and a new battery, I haven’t had to put a single penny into my car. Not a penny. It’s got that 10 year/100,000 mile warranty on and I only paid $10,000 brand spankin’ new. It’s a manual, but otherwise it’s fully-loaded– alarm, power locks, CD player, four doors, etc…

    Oh! And the dealership washes my car for me (for free!) whenever I want– so I’ve never had to pay for that, either.

    If after 10 years my Kia drops dead, that will be just fine with me– I’ve already gotten my 10k out of it! She’s been reliable, affordable, and relatively green. I love her and she was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made– I recommend Kias to all of my friends.

    IMHO, if you’re not investing in a hybrid, buy a Kia! Why spend 10k more on a comparable car?! (I actually bought my Kia from a Honda dealership. I was going to buy a Civic and they talked me out of it and into my Kia– saving me thousands of dollars and making me one happy girl!)

    /endorsement

  43. blackmage439 says:

    Screw GE. Heck, screw all of the General companies. Those idiots ruined a great car company in Saturn by hiring the most incompetent advertisers and engineers in GM. For too long, they made cars that were just barely different enough from the competition, and their advertising was sub-par. My family has two, flawless Saturns with no recalls or major problems; and one piece of rotting shit Ford Windstar that’s had at least one recall and the transmission literally fall to pieces… just after 10,000 miles! I wanted the first car I bought to be a Saturn… now it looks like Saturn will barely last another couple of years.

    Thanks for nothing, General. You just can’t help showing the truth of American companies: if we’re not making enough money, we need to screw our customers more.

  44. BoomerFive says:

    GE is a horrible manufacturer. Their TV’s are always rated very lows buy consumer reports and their appliances are no better.

  45. SkokieGuy says:

    @Riddar: In my first post indicating chargeback, I acknowledged that it would likely not work as you have no proof of the verbal promise of a no charge repair.

    I’m delighted for you that you got the charges removed, but like so many companies discussed on Consumerist, it is sad that the ‘right thing’ only occured after threats, via BBB, perhaps your post here and more.

    Don’t stop in publicizing the way you were treated. Informing the public that GE will not honor THEIR OWN PROMISES except under threat is important information consumers should have to help them make the best choice when deciding whom to buy from.

    And as noted in these comments, MANY washers and dryers (and other ‘brand name’ appliances) are all made by the same company and simple given different brand labels.

    I’ve suggested in other threads that everyone should arm themselves with an inexpensive telephone recording device (and familiarize themselves with their state’s recording and consent laws) so that company statements and promises can be documented.

    Congrats again on your ‘victory’.

  46. tcs says:

    nice tip skokieguy! I am now going to my state’s online law library to figure out the consent laws. I think anyone posting to this site should realize by now that YOU CANT TRUST A BUSINESS. Excrement rolls down hill, and someone will always have a boss that scrutinizes how their ‘good heart’ cost the company money, and therefore negatively affected the value of each share, even if microscopically. This angle cannot be overlooked. It is the basis for every article that makes it to this site. Treat every business transaction like you’re going to be screwed, and you will be impressed with your own vigilance in the end. Sure, initially it feels like you’re just a cynical person with little faith in humanity, but it sure is vindicating when you can offer documentation to stop a snake in their tracks. I’ve successfully sued a few local companies, and even named collection agencies as a party, in small claims court. It feels great to take action and rectify your credit score. It’s not cynical if you’re right about the motivations of others!

  47. tcs says:

    Dont forget the history of GE. GE founder JP Morgan successfully destroyed the work and reputation of Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest minds of the last 200 years. If it weren’t for GE, we’d be pulling free energy from shuman’s cavity by now. Do the research…

  48. newfenoix says:

    @SkokieGuy: Very good advice. It is a sad fact of life that we have to FORCE people to do what is right these days.

  49. IAmMarchHare says:

    @parliboy: Are you sure the call wasn’t the courtesy and not the visit from the locksmith?

  50. IAmMarchHare says:

    @IAmMarchHare: Or, maybe what I really meant was, “Are you sure it wasn’t the call that was the courtesy instead of the visit from the locksmith?” Awkward, that I said.

  51. SayAhh says:

    Shopper beware.

    You get what you pay for.

    There’s no such thing as a free lunch, e.g., free oil change = broken fan belt.

    Valet parking is also a courtesy, albeit a costly one.

    Fixing your credit is harder than you think, and you won’t get your “lost wages” back in small-claims court.

    GE sucks, lost money on their NBC Olympics broadcast rights, but now has access to sell their appliance and medical equipments to billions of Chinese people. (Read: one individual American scammed consumer = worthless.)

  52. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

    @parliboy: As a courtesy, I will say thank you for that stunning insight.

    Now you better pay be $5 for my gratitude, or I’m sending you to collections.

  53. Keter says:

    @Starfury: I have had good luck with a GE dishwasher. It’s over 7 years old, and still works like new: the only maintenance I have done is run it through a full cycle (empty) with lime remover every six months. I just veneered its faceplates so it goes with my new kitchen cabinets.

    A GE telephone/answering machine and a GE rechargeable flashlight I received as gifts, however, both sucked mightily.

    *shrug*

    Filed under “am I getting old or what?” — used to be, people repaired their own appliances; it was considered a basic life skill to do simple repairs like that. Now no one even attempts it. Most appliances are still really simple to work on, and you’re not likely to scam yourself. ;o)

  54. Toss says:

    I have worked for GE for 11 years (our company was bought by GE). I receive decent discounts as part of employment, so when I bought a new house 6 years ago, I filled it with GE appliances at a nice discount. The dishwasher leaked without my knowledge and soaked my bedroom carpet. After being repaired, it had various other problems, so to cut my losses, I ripped it out of the cabinent and threw it in the back yard. My refrigerator has the worse ice maker every constructed. It is starting to have other problems, so I’ll probably get a hernia when I throw IT in the back yard.

    GE is getting away from the consumer end of the market. They sold their Plastics division to Sabic last year, their insurance and financial divisions a couple of years ago, and they are currently in the process of selling the appliance division. My opinion, good ridence, let someone buy it and try to make actual reliable appliances.

    Bottom line, I get a huge discount from GE and I’ll never buy another GE appliance again. Crap is crap, even at a discount.