Fine print on Walmart deal stymies refund process

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- One local Houston woman says she did not agree with the fine print she was presented with after making a holiday purchase. And when she requested a refund, she says that's when the problems began.

She thought she was getting a good deal. But when she was presented with the full terms and conditions of the purchase, she said she wanted to back out.

Like many Thanksgiving shoppers, Maria Selva was looking to take advantage of Walmart's Door Buster sales.

"I was hoping to get a really good deal on a TV set," she said.

But the television was sold out.

"They hand me a coupon, tell me to go to the checkout and pay in full," she said.

Selva made the purchase and tells us she was under the impression that she would just pick it up at a later date and that was the end of transaction. But that wasn't the case.

"And it's only then that they give me a little piece of paper that says I have to go register online," Selva said. "And it's only when I go online that I found out that I have to give up certain rights."

Selva says by agreeing to the terms, she'd have to give up her rights to file a lawsuit in court if anything were to arise. And in order to receive her purchase, she says she had to accept the terms stating, "All claims arising out of or relating to the 1-Hour Guarantee shall be determined by binding arbitration."

So she changed her mind about the purchase.

"I tried getting my money back, and they said no," she said.

Selva says she was told in order to get a refund, she had to agree to the terms on the website, receive the TV, and THEN return it for a refund.

David Tiede with the University of Houston Law Center says it's not just retailers. Cell providers, auto dealerships, even home builders have clauses in their paperwork favoring forced arbitration.

"You cannot say well I love everything about this about this transaction, except for the arbitration clause and expect to be able to continue the transaction," Tiede said.

Tiede says most of the time these terms and conditions rarely favor consumers. These issues have been addressed on Capitol Hill, however...

"Unfortunately until legislatures act, consumers are really between a rock and a hard place in major purchases," Tiede said.

When we reached out to Walmart, they did not issue a statement. However they told us over the phone that they would take care of the customer. We confirmed with Selva that she was able to get her refund, without agreeing to the terms on the website.
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