I have received numerous emails on the question of contracts raised by Susan. Here are a few of the comments I received with some advise that may be helpful. If you have a problem that you think effects a lot of small businesses around the state let me know.
Small Business California
2311 Taraval Street
San Francisco, CA 94116
Stuck in a similar situation, I wrote a letter outlining how they had not met their contractual service obligations, and notified them I wd stop pmt, and asked for refund.
They stopped service.
Also, you can threaten class action suit for unfair business practices CAL. BPC. CODE § 17200 : California Code - Section 17200. After this step, I got very quick personal call from head counsel for Xerox, and they stopped charges the contract retroactively.
“unfair competition” shall mean and include any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising and any act prohibited by Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17500) of Part 3 of Division 7 of the Business and Professions Code.
Pl pass on, and feel free to publish to other small biz owners.
Regarding the situation posed by Susan Frey. Yes, the “evergreen” contracts are a problem. My advice is to set a calendar schedule for the renewal of these contracts and begin review and negotiation within the timeframes set out by the agreement. Even if negotiations are under-way, it is in your best interest to serve a notice of intent to terminate within the timeframes. If you don’t, the negotiations will not proceed in a favorable manner because the company knows they can delay the process until you are stuck for another year.
Susan brings up an ongoing problem with us as well --- it is in regards to our telephone service in our stores where we use AT & T. They are now mirroring the cellphone industry contract provisions with their landline telephone service. For example in order to have affordable telephone service our business is required to purchase minutes plans, calling area plans, long distance plans, 800 number minutes plans, etc. and all of these plans have contract periods that we are required to adhere to;and to top it off, if we cancel any of these plans, there is an early termination fee. Now, I have an MBA in business and I am not able to figure out many of their plans and I find that their customer service people are not very well trained in the differences between plans, so it is a "crap" shoot and hope for the best. And if you do not call the AT & T outsourced telemarketing company to discuss your telephone service before the end of your contracts, if the same plan is still offered, you are automatically renewed and if the plan is not offered AT & T picks a plan for you. All of this infuriates me as I have other things to do than sit on hold with AT & T to discuss telephone plans. Just this week we received a booklet in the mail from AT & T indicating that we ordered new telephone service;we did not order any new service. Apparently they "slammed" our Oakland store on July 20th and called the Oakland store and asked our Store Manager if he wanted faster DSL and he said yes;they never told him that he was requesting a $30.00 more a month DSL service, or an additional $360.00 per year. Yesterday I tried to have this extra $30.00 per month charge removed and work this out with the customer service people at AT & T and basically I was told that I am stuck .... Thus, I made a call to the President of AT & T's office for help. First of all, the records at AT & T clearly state that I am the only authorized person to make any changes in telephone service, and they have to contact me in our San Francisco location. Secondly, I learned this AM that the "slamming" techniques that the outsourced AT & T telemarketing firm used on us is illegal. Scott, I am convinced as the economy continues to worsen, many companies will be doing the same thing to small business as small business has always been a preying ground for the "big gorillas" !
Best regards and have a wonderful weekend,
Michael A. Gardner
Great American Mercantile Co., Inc.
Siegel's Clothing Superstore & Tuxedos
Siegel's Tuxedo Shops
2366 Mission Street
San Francisco, California 94110-1814
Tel: (415) 824-7729 Ext. 15 Fax: (415) 824-7256