Weekly layaway buyer beware

February 13, 2009 3:43:02 PM PST
Paying for a big-ticket item all at once can be difficult during these tough times so a weekly layaway plan may be tempting.

Action News first warned viewers about a company called Blue Hippo five years ago. Since then, it had promised to change the way it does business but consumers are still complaining.

Action News talked to Luis Cosme in February of 2004. Blue Hippo promised him a brand new computer, its mantra is your approval is guaranteed regardless of your credit!

But after Luis paid Blue Hippo nearly a thousand dollars he realized he had a problem.

"Computer never got here. I had to cancel, reschedule appointments all that stuff."

Action News called Blue Hippo and got Luis an immediate refund. But since then, many other Blue Hippo customers have made similar complaints and the company has been in legal hot water.

It's been the subject of a number of class-actions as well as lawsuits filed by a number of states attorneys general and last year, it paid up to $5-million in consumer refunds as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

Blue Hippo promised to clean up the way it operates but the Better Business Bureau said the company's complaint record doesn't reflect any improvement.

"In the last year, they've had about 1500 complaints," said Andy Goode of the BBB.

Cindy Campbell is one of the people still complaining. Her deal with Blue Hippo was the company would debit her bank account for $34.99 a week for 52 weeks.

"On my thirteenth payment, I was supposed to have my computer shipped."

Cindy made that thirteenth payment more than month ago but has yet to get her computer or even a tracking number.

"This is a way for them to get money from people who have no credit or bad credit make it sound like a good deal and you end up with nothing. Put the word out there so other people don't do this."

Also consider plans like Blue Hippo's require a lot of money in fees and interest. To avoid those charges pay into a computer fund or savings account you create for yourself. Also, before signing any contract read all the terms and conditions, especially the refund and cancellation policies.

We called Blue Hippo twice for comment on Friday's story no one ever called us back.

For more information:
Federal Trade Commission release on Blue Hippo
Court documents concerning FTC and Blue Hippo
Consumer Affairs.com article on Blue Hippo
Consumer Affairs.com article on Blue Hippo lawsuits

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