Customer Catches Best Buy Breaking Law, Gets Banned From Store

Some companies sure are sore losers. Take for example the folks at Best Buy, who were not only caught violating consumer protection laws, but who then banned the customer who called them out in court for doing so.

Here’s the story from Consumerist reader Jed:

Back in January, I broke the digital-audio-in port on my Sony home theater system’s receiver. I looked into repair option, and found I could mail it to Sony or take it to my local Best Buy. I opted for Best Buy, and I paid Best Buy the $34.99 non-refundable deposit, relying on the following three statements by their Geek Squad agent, Joe: (1) that my receiver would be sent from the store to their repair facility; (2) once at the facility, it would be diagnosed and I’d get a call telling me how much the repair would cost and requesting my authorization for the repair; and (3) the estimated completion date for the repair was February 1, 2011.

February 1st comes, no word from Best Buy. I called multiple times over the next few days, couldn’t get through to a live person and got no replies to the messages I left. On February 6, I got through to a Geek Squad agent and I was told my receiver was sent from the store to their repair facility, then sent on to Sony on January 26th. He was not able to give me any more information or give me an updated estimated completion date.

On February 17th, I went to the Best Buy Store in person and spoke to Michael, the Manager on Duty, asking for the status of the repair, when it would be back, and how much it would cost. Michael had his “senior Geek squad agent” Walter look up my repair, and I was told it would be returned sometime before February 25-27th, the repair was already made, and would cost an additional $115 over the $34.99 I already paid. I pointed out that I didn’t authorize a repair and this was unacceptable. At first, Michael, the manager, was unwilling to help, giving me an 800 number to call. I left the store and thought about what I wanted to do.

I returned an hour later and asked for the phone number for Best Buy’s legal department. This time, Michael asked if I would be willing to speak to his District Manager. I agreed, he handed me a card with the District Manager’s name and number. I called and left a message and a few hours later, Michael (not the District Manager) called back and asked would I pay $94.92. I explained that I did not authorize a repair for any amount of money, and after asking a few more questions, Michael said he’d call me back again. Within the hour, I got a call saying I could pick up my receiver when it comes in and not pay any more than the deposit. I got a phone call on Feb 19th that my receiver was in, and I was able to pick it up without any problem.

I felt Best Buy violated three consumer protections: First, I was told my receiver would be sent to Best Buy’s repair center. If I’d known they’d just send it to Sony, I’d have done that myself. Second, consumer protection laws and regulations (at least in every state I’ve lived or worked in) say you can’t charge someone for work they didn’t authorize. Third, all they had to do to avoid violating the completion estimate regulation was inform me of the revised date before the previously stated date passed, which they didn’t do.

I filed suit against Best Buy in DC’s small claims court alleging three violations of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act. Every violation of the Act carries a penalty of triple actual damages or $1500, whichever is higher. At the trial, I won two out of three counts.

When Best Buy sent me a check to satisfy the judgment against them, they enclosed a letter banning me from shopping at, seeking services at, and/or entering any of their stores, threatening to have me cited for trespass if I do so. Apparently shoplifters and people who point out that Best Buy is violating consumer law get treated the same!

Best Buy can ban anyone they want, but this seems a bit like someone saying, “You can’t break up with me, because I’m breaking up with you!” just after they’ve been dumped.