Free legal help for consumers

January 22, 2008 2:47:09 PM PST
If you have ever had a problem with a company or service and just did not know your legal rights, you are not alone.Thousands of consumers have found themselves in that exact same spot, but knew where to turn for help. We're talking about the Texas Consumer Complaint Center. It is staffed by student lawyers and you can get them on your case, too. It won't cost you a thing.

There's good news for Kay Smith who had power problems last year.

"It's been a nightmare. It's been an absolute nightmare," said Smith.

Smith's problems started when her power bill doubled.

"We had gone four months of notifying them every month that we were being double billed," said Smith.

Smith had moved out of an apartment and into a home, but some how her electric provider kept charging her for both residences.

"They would not do anything about it. It was an excuse from month to month," said Smith.

As the costs mounted and the company kept sending double bills, Smith contacted the student lawyers at the Texas Consumer Complaint Center.

"We were given what to do, how to follow up and how to follow through," said Smith.

Armed with her rights, Smith was told to contact the Public Utility Commission, and it worked.

"It was not easy to resolve. It actually took about four months to resolve, but two weeks ago they actually received a check back," said Robyn Goldstein.

Goldstein is one of the student lawyers at the University of Houston who staff and run the T.C.C.C. The office has been around for just over a year.

"We helped over fifteen hundred people save well over a million dollars," said University of Houston Law Professor Richard Alderman.

A review of files shows most people are seeking help with renter-tenant issues, then car complaints and finally debt collectors. Through all the problems there is a common thread.

"Very few people really read the contracts that they sign," said T.C.C.C. Director John Ventura.

He adds most consumers simply do not know their rights, or believe they are protected by the law when in fact they are not.

"One of the common things we get is that a person will buy a used car. And the transmission falls out and then we have to bring it to their attention that the contract they signed shows very vividly, they bought the car as is," said Ventura.

This is a free service, and you can contact the student lawyers.

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