Rebates

Manufacturers and retailers can draw you in by offering you rebates and other discounts on your purchase. Many rebate programs may benefit you and the company.

Some companies offer rebates at the time of purchase, but mail-in rebates are the most common form and they can cause confusion. With mail-in rebates you are required to pay full price at the time of purchase, and then send proper documentation to the manufacturer or retailer in order to receive a reimbursement by mail.

Typically, you must provide copies of the rebate slip, the sales receipt, the service agreement or invoice, the UPC code, and your name, address and telephone number. Your paperwork usually must be postmarked within a certain time period after the purchase date. Generally you will receive your rebate checks several weeks later. The check may have an expiration date, and you may need to cash it by a specific date.

What to Do

We encourage you to keep good records of your purchase. Follow the instructions on the rebate form carefully and submit all required documentation on time.

Make sure you keep a copy of what you send the manufacturer or retailer so that you have a record of the transaction in case problems arise.

New Texas Rebate Law

Texas has a new law regarding rebates that took effect on September 1, 2007. In the past, Texas law did not regulate the amount of time that companies must send rebates to consumers, and consumers complained about long waits to receive their rebate.

Under the new rebate law, a company offering a rebate must mail the rebate amount to the consumer within the stated time period. If the company does not state a time period, it must pay the rebate within 30 days after the consumer submits a properly completed rebate request.

If a consumer submits an improperly completed rebate request within the appropriate time period, the company must either process the rebate within the time period as if it was properly completed, or the company must notify the consumer that the consumer submitted an improperly completed rebate request.

Under the terms of this new law, a "consumer rebate" is limited to an offer of cash, credit, or credit toward a future purchase in connection with the sale of a good or service that is $10 or more, and that requires the consumer to mail or electronically submit a rebate request after the sale is completed.

You can find the new Texas rebate law in the Texas Business & Commerce Code, Chapter 605.

Common Problems with Rebates

People often complain about rebates that have hidden terms and conditions, undisclosed fees and costs and long wait times.

Patience is the key to mail-in rebates. Read the fine print of the rebate agreement and familiarize yourself with the expiration dates of the offer.

If you don't receive your rebate check as promised or within a reasonable time frame, contact the company first. Most manufacturers and retailers will make a good faith effort to try and resolve disputes with their customers. Many times not notifying you that a rebate check will be late is the result of poor customer service, rather than a violation of the law.

Fulfillment Houses

People are often surprised to learn that the company they purchased a product or service from is not necessarily the same company that processes their rebate. Many times a "fulfillment house" handles a rebate request. A fulfillment house is a third party company hired to process consumer requests and ship items or rebates.

If there is a problem processing your rebate request, you may work with the fulfillment house rather than the company you made your purchase from.

Filing a Complaint

If you're dissatisfied with the way a rebate is processed, you can file a consumer complaint with our office. A violation of the new Texas rebate law is subject to action by an individual consumer or by the Attorney General's Office under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If you feel a company has violated the new rebate law, please notify our office and describe the problems in detail, including if a company used misleading terms, hidden conditions, does not meet its obligations, or if a rebate arrives late or never arrives at all.

You can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). A rebate is subject to action by the FTC under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The FTC advises that companies are required to send rebates within the time frame promised, or if no time is specified, within a "reasonable" time frame. "Reasonable" often is interpreted as within 30 days.

 

Revised: July 02 2010