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 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!
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.
Today, when I went to fill my tank, I was surprised that my Citi Shell card was declined at the pump. I showed the card to the attendant, who submitted it again, and again it was declined. I used another (Citi) card to pay for the gas. I was surprised because I have always paid the balance in full, on time. Because of the Shell card rebate program, I have bought Shell gas 90%+ of the time for several years. Furthermore, because I use this card exclusively for Shell gasoline, the balances are not large – rarely over $200. I thought it was an administrative mistake.
When I went to the Citi website, I could not log in. Finally, I called Customer Service. The CSR informed me that, "My card no longer met their credit quality standards," and that they had closed the account. This, despite the fact that I have always paid Citi in full, and on time. Citi apparently has received information from Equifax, and I don't know what it could be. (I do have an out-of-state speeding ticket that I have yet to settle, but all my financial relationships are in good shape.) So I'm out. A perfect (if small) customer – at least on this account.
I am a small businessman. I use credit cards for cash management and operating cash flow. I am very concerned about the impact of Citi's action on the rest of my credit history, and how it can hurt my business. I have large corporate clients, and I would not be shocked if they "pulled bureaus" as part of their procurement process (Insurance companies do it when they review policies.)
Moreover, this action lessens my overall credit availability, and therefore lowers my FICO score. With the same dollar amount of credit usage, I now have a higher "balance to credit limit ratio," an important FICO driver. So my credit score will go down. I do all my business with Citibank, including other accounts with much larger balances. In the past 5 years, I have paid Citi $271,000. I am very concerned that I will wake up one morning, and Citi will have closed my other accounts.
What do I learn? Do not do all your business with just one bank. With one bank, you are completely at their mercy. And you cannot trust them. They can make decisions that can cripple your business without even telling you. Ironically, the loyalty incentives banks give you make you more vulnerable to their policy changes. It costs more and it's more hassles to diversify, but you have to protect yourself. Being a perfect customer is not enough. So tomorrow, I'll go shopping for other sources of credit. Going forward, no bank will get more than 40% of my business.
SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA -- I have a Shell MasterCard from Citi. Yesterday I attempted to use it at a Big Boy restaurant to pay for my meal, and the card was declined. I was puzzled, since I still had over $1100 left on that card's credit limit, and that I was never late with a payment, never went over my limit, and often paid more than the minimum payment on that card. I first assumed it was a computer problem with the restaurant's cash register, so I attempted to use the card again today, this time at a Big Lots. Again the card was declined.
I then called Shell MasterCard, and was told that my account was closed due to something that was on my Equifax credit report. I then pulled up all 3 of my credit reports (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union), and found nothing negative on any of my credit reports. Ironically, Equifax was the only one of the three that still listed the Citi Shell account as open. Experian and Trans Union listed the Shell account as "closed at card issuer's request."
Because I have always been good at managing my credit card and other accounts on time, I took this account closure as a shock. My other concerns are that Citi will charge overlimit fees and/or ask me to pay the $6000+ I owe in one lump sum. I do have a Visa with another bank that I can transfer the balance to if need be, but I would prefer to work something out with Citi Cards, possibly by paying a fixed amount per month until the balance is paid in full.
Apparently I'm not the only one in this predicament. I went to the FatWallet.com forum and noticed that several other Citi Shell MasterCard customers had their cards declined and accounts closed as well. I also wonder if Citibank NA and Shell Oil are discontinuing the Shell MasterCard program, considering the sheer number of closed accounts, which I heard were in the thousands. Most of the other Fat Wallet posters mentioned the reason for their accounts being closed is due to something from their Equifax reports as well.
Citi Cards is giving their Shell MasterCard customers a lame excuse for closing thousands of credit card accounts, the majority of them in good standing. If a class action lawsuit is being considered over Citibank NA's actions over their Shell MasterCard customers, I would definitely be one of the plaintiffs.
This open letter is in response to a letter received on September 8, 2012 but dated August 29,2012 from a Citibank VP. This is in regards to 2 accounts; Holds have been placed on the two accounts. I am a pensioner with social security - these are guaranteed EFTs. Last month I had surprise expenses and was receiving a wire transfer from an associate. Somehow on August 24, 2012 the wire transfer was blocked by the local branch.
As well my September 1st pension deposit which goes in every month on the first. My cosigner who currently is on medical bed rest called the bank and the other two parties to get to the bottom of the situation. The Branch representative stated that EFTs aren't guaranteed funds and but they would take a cash deposit from anybody who was acting as our agent since my cosigner could not leave her bed. So another person went to another branch (Relative lives out of state). Her attempt to make deposit was not allowed and it was cash. Cosigner and I then called Citibank (3 way call) and were told no deposit could be made on the account until it was brought up to date.
That was an interesting phrase. I then called my place of my former employment which I had retired from which send me my monthly pension via EFT. After 3 days of investigation the money wired to my Citibank accounts which has been placed on hold is in limbo somehow. Monthly I get wired closed to 2000 dollars from my pension, as well as my associate who resides in Canada whose wire transfer was blocked which would more than cover the accidentally overdrawn funds.
I am now stuck in a country which no longer has a Citibank branch and have been trying to return home since September 2 since my cosigner has fallen ill. This situation goes beyond hardship. I am trying to make good with Citibank in regards to this oversight; but where are my funds since the parties that handle my pension and my associate's bank accounts who sent EFTs show a paper and electronic trails that stop at your bank branch? I am holding on to all correspondence in anticipation of the resolution of this misunderstanding.