How to bring small claims actions against corporations. With apparent impunity, many large corporations (including financial institutions, computer manufacturers, and others) in recent years have blatantly defrauded and cheated consumers. Although not widely recognized, claims against these corporations can be expediently and inexpensively executed in local small claims courts.
I have successfully filed and prevailed in small claims against two corporations: (1) Hewlett-Packard, and (2) CitiMortgage. The Hewlett-Packard case involved a defective laptop computer and is reported in http://www.my3cents.com/showReview.cgi?id=29499.
The essence of the CitiMortgage case (completed Oct 2011) was as follows: CitiMortgage (1) promised a refinance loan, but subsequently defaulted on delivering the loan, claiming that the promises of their sales agent were not binding, and (2) attempted to direct me to a more expensive loan using a bait-and-switch tactic. Repeated complaints to them of their illegal acts were to no avail. I filed a small claims action against them for the present value of the difference between the promised refinance loan and the original loan.
The process of filing a small claims court action is quite simple and is generally explained in consumer-friendly brochures that are available at your local court house. In California, small claims can be made for up to $7500. The claims process is as follows:
First, make all reasonable attempts to resolve the matter with the defendant. If it fails, send the defendant a written letter via certified, return receipt, mail making your demand for payment. State in the letter that should you not get a response within 7 days, you will file suit against them. Send the letter to the “Agent for Service of Process.” In order to do business in a state, a corporation must have on file with the secretary of state, the address to which legal notices must be sent. It is important to get this address. In California, it can be determined quickly from the secretary of state website.
Absent a response in the specified time, fill out a claim form (provided by your small claims office). Take the form to the court, pay the filing fee (about $50 in California, depending on the amount of your claim), and submit it. The court will provide a summons and schedule a hearing date. You will need to have the summons delivered to the Agent for Service. In California, this can be easily done by paying the court a fee of $10 to take care of the delivery. This fee and the filing fee are recovered when you Win the case.
Appear on the day of the hearing prepared to present your case to the Judge. A week or so before the scheduled hearing the defendant will probably contact you and try to reach a settlement. In the case of my above-mention suit against Hewlett-Packard, they quickly agreed to pay my requested damages without going to court. In the case of my suit against CitiMortgage, they called nearly every day and essentially tried to bluff me into giving up and accepting less that I requested.
The day before the hearing, they offered to pay the full amount, but wanted me to agree that they were not at fault (making their payment a taxable income event to me). I refused this. We proceeded with the court hearing and the Judge ruled that they were at fault and must pay in full my requested amount.
Although in past decades Government consumer protection agencies looked after the little guy against the large corporations, today there is virtually no such protection. Fortunately, the small claims route offers a means of obtaining justice, for claims up to $7500 (in California).
As a matter of principle, more consumers should exercise their rights using this vehicle to fend off the abusive behavior of corporations. Also, please note that the small claims process works for internet purchases and other transactions that a consumer executes from his/her home city. Assuming that the defended is registered to do business in the state, the local small claims court has jurisdiction.
If you're reading this you've either been tarred with the same dirty black stick as me or you're considering investing money with Citibank. My advice is stay well clear of Citibank and anything they offer you, including any investment account, or off shore savings account. I googled Citibank before I did put my saving with them and nothing much came up about them so hopefully someone is reading this that can benefit and we'll make the world a better place. Here's my experience:
First of all I am just a working family man with no experience of stocks or investment banking. I am a fair open minded sort of a guy and never had big desires to buy stocks or no big ideas of investment. Just a normal steady guy. I wish I could go back in time to a year ago, I would keep walking past the Citibank building and carry on living my life with no problems...
Back in early 2008 had all my hard earned savings (HARD EARNED) in a Citibank savings account, just while I was figuring out what home to buy etc. around It was all I had. A few weeks into having the funds in there I get a phone call from my account manager "**." He began with the usual nice stuff, "Good day, how's your life going" etc. He expressed a personal interest in me and asked me would I be interested in making some extra money. He told me I could get into investing. I told him 'no.' It's not my field, I have no knowledge of it.
Over the coming weeks I got more phone calls from him. He said he could give me a 150k USD value loan in Japanese yen which has a payback interest of 1% and buy USD or sterling with it and yield 5% interest back from the new currency which would pay the 1% loan and leave me a profit, whilst also doing currency switches from USD to Sterling to euro etc while all the time keeping a YEN loan interest rate. I was interested and wanted to learn more about this trading but I told him 'no' I wasn't ready for it.
Citibank kept calling me, they assured me it was a great investment. He told me we could do a recorded verbal contract over the phone for the loan like the Forex trading guys do for live rates. I told him 'no.' Over the weeks I got more calls and they kept giving me scenarios demonstrating how I could make money with the Yen loan. 10 more phone calls later from Citibank, and I told them not to do anything without my final consent which they agreed to.
1 week later I get a letter informing me I got $150000USD deposited in my account. :0( I called Citibank up straight away. I tried getting hold of that account manager but he was always too busy to take my call. Finally I got hold of some random accounts person who told me for Citibank to take the money back. I will have to pay interest on it plus a penalty fee of $3500 US and they advised against it.
The loan money sat there for a couple of weeks while I tried to get hold of my accounts manager. I was so angry at them. I never consented to this loan. And anyway it certainly was not Japanese yen. And where they got 150000 U.S. from I have no idea. Looking back they must have thought how much can we screw out of this guy...
A couple of weeks after the loan I get a call from Citibank's ** and he advised me everything was going well and he advised I invest the $150k USD in a Citibank investment product called a "premium account." He explained the premium account runs for 4 week interval and time locks the funds in another currency, like a time lock savings account and earns high interest, then gives the return at the end of the 4 weeks.
I was really worried having this big loan sat there, I never had any loans, mortgages or credit cards in my life, and this Citibank representative seemed to know what he was talking about so I agreed. After all they are a bonafide company...? I gave consent to the verbal contract over the phone and we entered into the premium account. (This time I did actually give my consent - in the thought of damage control at this stage hoping things would get better.)
4 weeks later I get another phone call from Citibank. Same guy. **. He tells me I did well with this premium account, I covered the cost of my loan and made some money on the premium account. He recommended I do another one immediately to cover the costs on this loan. Of course I agreed. We did the verbal contract on the phone. This pattern went on for months and months. Every conversation we had Citibank told me I was making money and the investment strategy was effective.
I kept reading my bank statements each month and although they were confusing and hard to read, they appeared to be making money in interest each month on the premium account. I trusted Citibank's good reputation and kept in good faith that they were looking after my best interests.
Anyway. After a while I started getting a bad feeling so I sat down for a whole day and went through all the statements and they were very deceptive and confusing to read. On one side they showed a profit from the investment returns. Then they showed a portfolio worth then at the end my savings account. The portfolio worth always showed good value. But then it turns out every month my savings account was getting eaten up. It turns out I was losing a steady 5 grand a month across the board on my savings account :0( I lost 30 grand over 6 months.
This was coming out of my savings end of the account which was separate to the loan and investment product being eaten up with extortionate fees, and crazy interest rates. So on the one hand you got the premium account showing a tiny profit then whopping lumps coming out of the savings account for costs, loans, interest (US dollar based interest not yen I might add). I called Citibank up, I got hold of my accounts manager and his first words were: "Don't worry everything is fine! Your account is fine, you've made a good return this month on your investment." Can you believe these people?
I expressed my anger and asked what was he going to do about all this mess. His next words were "We recommend you reinvest in another investment product!" Balls or what? I terminated the loan with them, emptied my account of what little was left of my savings, and have since suffered a nervous breakdown. It has since changed my good faith outlook on the world and made me feel the world is full of sneaky, lying, Citibank people who prey on normal, trusting people like me.
It makes me sad, (not for me) but for my children that they have to live in such a horrible world where corporate suits are screwing us left right and center on our savings, pensions, mortgages and any other way they can find to remove money from us. My business confidence is gone. I now feel what's the point? I am now in legal proceedings with Citibank to try to recover my funds. To anyone considering opening an account with them with them - stay well clear and get on with your life - it will be much better if Citibank are not in it.
I currently have a mortgage with CitiMortgage that was purchase from ABN/AMRO in 2007. I purchased my home in May of 2007 without having sold my old home. Therefore, I only put down 10 percent on my loan and was required to purchase private mortgage insurance which I understand. Once I sold my old house, I paid ahead on my mortgage to bring the loan to value ratio under the 78 percent that is required to automatically drop PMI.
When I saw that it did not automatically drop off, I called your customer service and was told that I would be sent a letter of authorization that I would be required to sign in order for my PMI to be cancelled. However, when I received this letter, I saw that in addition to signing the letter, I would be required to pay for another appraisal even though my loan was only 8 months old. It took me three calls to get a hold of someone who knew anything about the policy even though they really couldn't explain the reasoning behind it except to say it was a Fannie Mae requirement.
Doesn't the Homeowner's Protection Act say that PMI MUST automatically drop off at 78 percent? This supervisor I spoke with said the PMI would drop off at the scheduled 78 percent date which was in about 8 years. This is RIDICULOUS! Why would PMI drop off in 8 years automatically but not when I actually pay the loan down to 78 percent? If I pay off the loan in full today will I still have to pay PMI for another 8 years? That sound about as ridiculous as your current policy! Shouldn't PMI be contingent on your ability to pay back your loan?
My credit score is over 800 and I have never missed a payment of any kind in my life but still I have to have a second appraisal to drop my PMI? This is one of the reasons the banking industry is so screwed up when you put people like myself with excellent credit through hassles like this but allow people that have no ability to pay their loans to obtain any amount they desire.
I also have a complaint with your mortgage refinancing sales representatives. Since I had to get an appraisal anyway I decided to look into refinancing. Once I began talking to mortgage brokers, I was sent a letter from your refinancing department that said that you would meet or beat any refinancing offer I received or I would receive a $100 gift card. When I called one of your refinancing representatives (I believe his name was **) and told him I had received an offer from ING Direct for 5.25 percent financing with only $895 in closing costs. He replied that he would be able to beat the offer and that I should fax him the good faith estimate which I did.
I never heard back from him again. I called him the next day and couldn't even leave him a message because his voice mail was full. Is this the way you honor your guarantee to meet or beat any offer? By ignoring the ones you can't meet?
I opened a new account over the phone with Citibank, I just recently moved to Los Angeles from NYC and my original bank was with an institution based in New York, so I decided to close that account and re-open another account I made with Citibank. Everything went well, I received my debit card in the mail and decided to deposit my 1st paycheck in the ATM. Note that my employer has a business checking account with B of A and are only able at the moment to fund my checks through this account until they are able to establish a payroll system.
I went to withdraw the available balance which was $200 and the ATM says they were unable to perform that action. This was Monday. Tuesday I went into my local branch which was the Little Tokyo location on 1st street. I explained to them my situation and they told me there was nothing I can do - I have to call the call center and finish the verification process through the mail. I found that UNACCEPTABLE! I am standing here in person with a valid driver's license, a SS card, birth certificate, and mail FROM Citibank and you can not verify me?
I called the New Accounts Support call center and I was told that I should be able to withdraw from my account if I brought my SS card and debit card to the branch. The branch explains to me that it is up to a manager to perform that transaction and lo and behold, they don't have a manager at the location. I will have to visit another branch. I called the Chinatown branch, and they explained to me that they ALSO WOULD NOT be able to perform that transaction because I need to verify myself through the main office.
So now my account is blocked. The call center tells me to close my account OVER THE PHONE and they will mail me a check for the amount in my account. What they are not understanding is I have absolutely NO FUNDS at all to survive. I told them I have no money to feed my family until I can withdraw from my account.
I signed up for this account with NY ID and my Los Angeles Address. If this was going to be a problem they should have stated so over the phone when I first setup the account instead of holding my money hostage! If I was trying to commit Identity Fraud why am I crying the branch from the humiliation of explaining to the personal banker that I don't having any money to feed my family and I need to withdraw right now!
I live 2 blocks from the branch in a well known luxury apartment complex. This is absolutely ridiculous that I have to fight over the phone and in person to withdraw $200! And to top it off one the call center reps hung up on me! I've tried to keep my composure in reference to this situation but it's hard to do that when you don't have food in your stomach! I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT RECOMMEND CITIBANK TO ANYONE WHAT SO EVER! THEIR CUSTOMER SERVICE IS ABYSMAL! YOU DO NOT TREAT PEOPLE THIS WAY!
When I went to the ATM on the day my direct deposit cleared into my account, I found that my debit card was useless and my account was blocked. I called the 800-number and was instructed to go to a branch to have it cleared up. When I did, I was directed to one of the associates, who told me the block was due to an overdraft, and that it was up to the bank manager at the bank where I opened the account.
She called the bank, and allegedly spoke to the manager, who said he would call me back by lunchtime. The representative then proceeded to laugh at me and said, "You'll be very lucky if you get any of your money back... we don't have to clear up this block, it is only a courtesy if we do."
I went immediately to the branch where I opened the account, and the manager told me he never spoke to anyone about me. He reviewed my account and closed it, and said that within 24 hours the block would be off and I could get my money back. I asked him why 24 hrs, he said it was bank policy. I asked to see where it was written, and he handed me some customer guidelines. He said he would call me the next day to let me know what time my check would be available.
This was last Thursday, and it is now Tuesday, and I haven't heard a spit from him. I have left so many messages for him I could probably be accused of stalking. I have spoken to so many different reps at the 800-number, who: (a) say things completely different from each other, (b) refuse to give me the direct line to the branch, and (c) refuse to take any complaints online, saying I have to complain at the branch. How do I complain about the branch manager TO the branch manager?
On top of that, one nice representative told me that he should have explained that it would be an additional 24-48 hrs before my money is issued. Translation: I may very well not see my money until next pay period, two weeks after the check was directly deposited. Why? All I am told is "It is bank policy." Is any of it in the little customer guidelines pamphlet he gave me? The answer is a big, fat, NO.
This company is so inept. The reps on the 800-service are sometimes so difficult to understand, they are rude, and tell you twenty different things. I have never had anyone speak to me the way that representative in the branch did that day. I've filed a complaint with BBB, and I'm going to the banking commission. And I'm still waiting for my money to be returned. It is such a disgrace that this company got bailed out and this is how they treat their customers -- I had been a Citibank customer for 15 years. What a disappointment!
MICHIGAN -- I bought my vehicle approx 3 years ago and CitiFinancial Auto is my lender. At first things started out fine, your typical auto loan...that was until the six month mark when I changed insurances, which also so happens to be the time that I needed to turn in a new insurance binder to Citi. I sent this company copies of my insurance binder SEVERAL times and yet they still did not get the copy. OK we are talking faxes here, not snail mail. I would verify the number and everything but always they would lose it.
Even more maddening was dealing with different people every day, some who are not at all nice. The straw that broke the camel's back came when I received a notice that my vehicle was going to be repossessed if I didn't pony up the money for my car payment. I hit the roof and immediately called Citi. There response was that because I had no insurance on the vehicle, they had put on their own insurance, tacked on thousands of dollars in premiums which only covered the minimums and was significantly more than the full coverage I already had on the car.
As it turns out the payment every month had gone to pay my insurance premium and whatever that was left was applied then to my regular payment. I had late fees as well as a late payments reported to credit reporting agencies. Add to that the constant phone calls every day, all day. I started counting them on my caller ID and many times in excess of 10 per day.
I would even tell them that I was in the process of resolving the issue and just like some brain-dead twit, the operator would come back and say "OK, but until it is, we will still have no choice to continue the calls. Is there anything else I can do to help you today?" Yeah how about get me someone on the phone with a brain who I can talk to and get this resolved!!!
It took MONTHS to resolve just this issue, which is one of MANY. It finally was taken care of when I was sitting in the office of my insurance company with one of the agents and had Citi on conference phone. I told the operator to give me the number of the fax machine within their eyesight and to not get off the phone with us until she had the binder in her hand and could read exactly what it said. I also requested her name too.
I thought that all was said and done and finally I was set, WRONG. Because I was switching my insurance at the time the old binder expired, I had to go back to my old insurance carrier and have them pull up a copy of my the binder proving that I did indeed have insurance for 1 day because when I switched the insurance, it was in the afternoon and so they entered it the next day.
After that ordeal I have dealt with "customer service reps" (I don't think they know what the customer service part means) calling me and being downright rude, saying that I was late on my auto loan that I just paid on-time! After he called me a liar and belittled me, I finally asked him what kind of a vehicle I had. He said a Jeep Grand Cherokee... With the minute amount of restraint that I still had, I explained to him that I have a Chevy Blazer. He then became quiet and looked through his records. He had the records of a different person. At least he apologized, but the damage was already done.
I would classify CitiFinancial Auto as being nothing better than legalized loan sharking. The customer service is horrible and the company's loan practices are borderline unethical, if not totally illegal. Do not go through this company and if your loan is sold to them, immediately try and refinance.
WEATHERFORD, TEXAS -- In March, my husband and I opened up a new Citibank Access Account. I had researched banks and accounts, and this one had free online bill pay and the per-check fee did not apply. It was perfect. The only drawback is that it said it did not come with paper checks. Well, that is no problem because I order mine online anyway.
I opened the account online and then the next day went to the bank and asked the branch manager to next day air the debit cards to me since I found out that I couldn't do any online bill pay without first registering my debit cards. During the process, I asked him for my new checking account and routing numbers so that I could order new checks. He gave it to me. The next week when I deposited, the teller asked me if she could order me any checks and I said no - that I had already ordered them.
I proceeded to write a total of 8 checks in 1 month. Two weeks after I wrote the first 2 checks and I still didn't see them post online, so I called customer service. The rep said that they cleared and that I had nothing to worry about. I asked why I didn't see them on my online account, and she responded by saying that they have a new system that has some glitches. They are working on it and it should be fixed by tomorrow.
Yesterday I received a letter in the mail from the school district to which I had written 6 checks. It stated that they had been returned and that I would owe $25 per check in service fees and I was no longer allowed to write checks. I called customer service and was told by a RUDE rep that I had what she called a "checkless checking account." When I ordered this online, I never saw anything that would make me think I couldn't write checks. Apparently, instead of the account not coming with checks, you can't actually write checks on this account!
How can you have a checking account without checks? It's an oxymoron! She said she could not fix it and was just so rude, so I demanded to speak with a manager. This did no good and he told me that they would not even talk to the merchants to explain how this happened for me. He said there is nothing he could do to help me.
In the morning, I went to our branch and spoke with the same manager who had given me the account and routing numbers. He said he remembered me and remembered giving that to me so I could order checks. I then told him that his teller had asked if she could order some checks for me when I was depositing. Then I told him what had happened and how I somehow have a checkless checking account. His response was that since I opened my account online he could not help me. I told him it was partially his fault since he gave me the information so I could order checks and they should be responsible for the fees.
I told him that I am a bail bond agent and that I have to have a squeaky clean record in order to keep my job, and that in my county, checks automatically go to warrant. I told him I could lose my job for this and go to jail. He responded by saying that they have countless accounts at Citibank and that if he looked at everyone that came in, he would be here all day. He also said his tellers didn't know anything, they just make deposits. I started to cry and he just sat there staring at me and was expressionless. He wouldn't budge. When I started to leave, I saw that my husband was on his way in.
My husband came in and asked him to change this to a checking account that we can write checks on so that may be some of these will clear. He then told us that he couldn't do that because the new account will have a different checking account number on it.
This has been a nightmare so please beware, do not get an account with Citibank called Citibank Access Account if you are planning on writing checks. Better yet, just don't get a Citibank account at all! Their customer service is horrible! We have banked with Wells Fargo for almost 10 years now, and have never had any trouble at all with them. My account with Wells Fargo also does not come with paper checks, I have to buy them, and the per-check fee does not apply either... but I am allowed to write checks because it's a CHECKING ACCOUNT! Thank God I didn't close out that account!
The only comforting news is that the owners of the bond company I work for have contacted the county judge (who they are friends with). In addition, my friend is friends with one of the Vice Presidents of Citibank, and she is calling on my behalf. My boss is a retired police officer whose father retired as county judge, so they know enough lawyers and people in power around this town to get something done.
I am actually thinking about fighting this. I am going to go pay all the fines on Monday, but I think I should be reimbursed for it. Sometimes it's not the money that matters, just the principle of it. Thank God we didn't write a lot of checks, because if we would have, this could have ruined us financially!
Oh, one more thing: About 2 weeks back I deposited about $300 in CASH about 4 pm on Friday. The receipt said the amount I deposited was "available today." When I checked the account the next morning, it did not show up online. I called customer service and was told that anything I deposit, whether cash or check, when deposited after 3 PM on Friday will NOT be available until the following Tuesday! It took 5 days for my cash deposit to become available to me! That is just unacceptable!
It is my opinion that Citibank is a horrible bank and their customer service staff all should be retrained or replaced with more friendly customer service oriented employees.
DALLAS, TEXAS -- In August 2009 an internet scammer cheated me out of $650 and sent me a box of worthless junk postmarked from a bogus return address. The scammer did not respond to any of my messages; therefore I could not get a refund, return or exchange. In Oct 2009 I filed a case with Citibank's fraud protection division. They sent me a letter saying that a conditional refund of $650 would be credited to my account pending the investigation, stating that the investigation would take "NO LONGER THAN 90 DAYS."
I didn't hear from them for 4 months, so I assumed it was all over. Then suddenly, six months after I opened the case, my account was re-charged $650, and I got a letter from Citibank stating: "DUE TO THE LENGTH OF TIME THAT HAS PASSED, WE ARE NOT ABLE TO INTERVENE ON YOUR BEHALF."
So basically Citibank delayed the investigation for six months, then told me it's too late to investigate, so I lose. I've called them a dozen times and been told each time that they'll look into it, only to get the same form letter response about it being too late. This is utterly sickening, and I shall never again use Citibank services. Complaints to the Better Business Bureau have been submitted. I suggest you save yourselves, or if you've already been cheated like me, report them to the BBB at once.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- I am closing my Citigold relationship with Citi, having just learned Citi removed 56,401 Thank You points from my account without notifying or telling me. I check the site regularly. There is a notification of points "Expiring (within 90 days)." It has always been 0. Yet I am told by ** that, because I closed one (of my seven) credit card accounts with Citi (a Premier MasterCard, of which I already had one) and did not use the points within 30 days of closing, the points were confiscated and there is nothing I can do.
The Thank You points are more like ** you points. There are a depreciating currency (over time, the cash you can receive for them has declined... it's now down to 1/2 cent per point). There is apparently some very fine print about their expiration (WITHOUT notifying you online), so what Citi giveth, it taketh away.
With the exception of gift cards (restricted currency), rewards on the Thank You redemption site are very expensive. Even deposits to one's account (a simple electronic transfer) are valued at 1/2 cent per point. Chase points are worth one cent. Bank of America points are worth one cent. HSBC points are worth one cent. Capital One points are worth one cent. Discover points are worth one cent. Only Citibank is so niggardly.
Further, my six remaining Citibank credit cards have some of the chinciest point rewards of all (1.2% for gas -- woo hoo! -- whereas my various other credit cards give 2%, 3%, 3.3%, 5%, and 5.1%). And these other cards reward one with cash back, not 1/2-cent points. So for the 56,401 points they deducted, without notification, from my account, Citibank will be losing a long-time Gold customer, and gaining a noisy spokesperson against them. (I'm also a stockholder... don't even ask me about what I think of their management.)
SPRINGFIELD, OHIO -- Every year since CitiMortgage bought our mortgage on a second home, we have problems with their insurance department when they request proof of hazard and flood insurance. Each year we have Certificates of Insurance mailed and faxed to them. They claim they never receive the information and always purchase a policy, usually flood, for us.
This year I personally mailed the Certificate to them and after checking with them they acknowledged receipt. Shortly afterward, we received a letter stating that they felt we were underinsured for flood, and suggested we contact the homeowners association and suggest we raise the amount of flood insurance carried on the building in which our condominium is located. We received this notification in previous years, and each year was advised by the agent who handles the policy that we carry the maximum allowed by the federal plan.
This year, without prior warning, CitiMortgage purchased a supplemental flood policy covering our unit for $11,350, with a premium of $341.00. Trying to reason with them and get information was impossible as all they could do was read from a prepared script telling me they were sorry I was inconvenienced and upset. I was transferred from the insurance department to customer service and back. At that point I requested assistance from the insurance agent who informed me this was a common practice with CitiMortgage to force insurance and it was not legal or necessary.
He did get them to cancel the policy, but now they are requesting a premium for the one month they feel we were underinsured even though no changes were made to the master policy. Watch out for them. This is common practice with them. They do make a commission on the sale as per our insurance agent. Check your escrow accounts for unauthorized purchases like this. We need a class action suit against them to stop this practice.