News 3 On Your Side: Phenix City woman shares warning about credit and fees

Greg Loyd - PHENIX CITY, Ala --If you're planning to do home improvements and thinking of financing, be sure you know what you're getting into. One Phenix City woman says she's learned the hard way when it comes to money matters.  News 3 is On Your Side with one woman's warning of buyer beware.

"I just wanted that 5.85% interest rate," says Betty LeBlanc.

Betty LeBlanc says she made it crystal clear to the window salesman. She wanted the new windows for her home—and financed—but not on a credit card. She wanted a fixed-term loan.

"But I had already signed this part of the contract," says LeBlanc.

But when she noticed the application was for a credit card, she wrote "void" on the back of it. But LeBlanc claims the company went ahead and processed her financing through the credit card anyway.  She says she didn't know it until she had to rush out of town when her son got sick.

"But I got back here the day that the payment was due, so I tried to do it by phone, and they told me I couldn't do it by phone and there was going to be a late charge," LeBlanc says.

LeBlanc says late charges appeared on her next statement—and then, so began a series of back-and-forth calls with the bank to try and get the late charges removed.

"As far as the product itself, Ms. LeBlanc says she's very happy with her windows. What she's not been happy with, though, is how she's been treated when she tries to get answers about the bill payments," says LeBlanc.

According to the Better Business Bureau, most companies do not finance their own products—and do depend upon banks to make unsecured loans to customers who finance usually in the form of credit cards.  Once that happens, the arrangement is between the bank and the customer.

LeBlanc says aside from that one time she was late, she always paid early.  She says she has a name for what the bank is doing to her and millions of others.

"Predatory lending is ridiculous. For one thing, I've always dealt with they've given you a grace period in case an emergency came up. And that was my one emergency. If I had it to do again, I would for my child," says LeBlanc.

LeBlanc says she plans to save her money to make future purchases until she can pay for products in cash.

Kelvin Collins, the interim president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of West Georgia offers the following advice when it comes to home improvements and finance.

He says most companies do not finance their own products. They do depend on banks who use unsecured loans—or credit card lines.

Collins says to be sure to read all the fine print before signing any papers. In addition, he says it's important to know the payment policies of your lender before agreeing to borrow.  For example, banks can decide whether they will accept phone or online payments.

Collins also says never sign an application and leave it blank. Be sure you understand the contract you sign.  If you see blank spaces in a contract, Collins says strike a line through it.

 

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