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.
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…
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.