Following is information about consumer rights under state and federal laws.
- Free Credit Report
- Lemon Law
- Three-day Right to Cancel
- Door-to-Door Sales
- Gift Cards and Gift Certificates
- Charitable Solicitations
- Store Return Policies
- Debt Collectors
- Credit Counseling/Debt Management Services
- Unordered Merchandise
Free Credit Report
Under federal law, an individual is entitled to one free credit report each year from Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. You do not have to order all three reports at the same time - you can order the different reports throughout the year, and use them to monitor your credit accounts for signs of fraud.
- The only way to get your free reports is from the Annual Credit Report clearing house.
You must provide your full name, social security number, date of birth and mailing address. You may be offered optional items, such as getting your credit score. These are not free. You do not have to buy anything to get your free report.
North Dakota’s Lemon Law (contained in N.D.C.C. Chapter 51-07) applies only to new cars. It does not apply to any other motorized vehicle or to used cars.
- When you buy a used car, you buy it “as is,” unless a warranty is included in the purchase. You are responsible for any costs of repair after you buy it.
Before a new car can be declared a “lemon,” there are specific procedures that must be followed. Check your owner’s manual for more information or contact an attorney in private practice.
Three day Right to Cancel
By law, you have three business days to cancel a purchase over $25 that was made away from a permanent place of business, such as over the phone, at a trade show or home party, or from a door-to-door salesperson. The seller must give you both a written and verbal notice of this right.
- If you are over 65, you have fifteen days to cancel a transaction over $50.
- There is no "right to cancel" for vehicle purchases.
Door to Door Sales
Except for transactions involving food products, all door-to-door sales people must have a Transient Merchant license issued by the Office of Attorney General and a photo ID card. They also may be required to have a second license, issued by the local city.
- Before letting a salesperson in your home, or agreeing to anything, check to make sure they have the required licenses. If not, shut the door and call your local law enforcement agency to report the illegal activity.
- Check the list of licensed Transient Merchants.
Gift Cards and Gift Certificates
“Universal” prepaid gift cards (for example, those with a Visa or MasterCard logo) are the most frequently purchased type of gift card because they can be used anywhere major credit cards are accepted. North Dakota’s gift card law does not apply to these cards. If the gift card is not used within the time specified by the card issuer, service charges may be deducted from the card’s value or the card may expire and the unused balance forfeited.
- North Dakota’s gift card law applies only to gift cards and gift certificates purchased for use at a specific retail store or service. These gift cards and certificates must be valid for at least six years from the purchase date and maintenance fees cannot be deducted from the value of the gift. Use these types of gift cards as soon as possible; if the company goes out of business or files bankruptcy, the gift card may be worthless.
While many charities use your money wisely, others may not deserve your generosity. When solicitors contact you, always ask if you are speaking with a volunteer or a professional fundraiser. If you are talking with a paid professional fundraiser, find out how much of your money the fundraiser keeps and what the charity will receive. Even if the charity sounds worthwhile, you should request written information. Legitimate organizations should respect your right to be an informed donor.
- Scam artists take advantage of natural disasters to set up fake charities and solicit donations, often online. Money donated to these fake charities does not benefit anyone other than the scam artist. Beware of these fake or look-alike websites.
Charity Watchdog Organizations
Several "watchdog" organizations track charities, providing information about how much money each charity spends on fundraising and administrative costs compared to instead of actual charitable activities, including;
- Better Business Bureau: www.give.org
- Charity Navigator: www.charitynavigator.org
- Charity Watch: www.charitywatch.org
You may wish to consider making donations directly to reputable charities in your own community.
Store Return Policies
By law, a retail store can set its own return policy, which may include a cash refund, store credit, an exchange, or no refund at all. Some retailers have different return policies for seasonal and sale items or for online purchases.
- Check the store’s return policy before buying anything, and save your receipt for at least 90 days.
By law, a debt collector cannot threaten to have you arrested or take your property (unless it can be done legally), use obscene language, pretend they are a government representative or attorney, or use a false name. A debt collector can contact you by letter or phone, but cannot call you before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm. You can tell the debt collector not to call you at work.
- A bill can be turned over for collection even if you are making regular monthly payments to reduce the balance.
- If you reach an agreement on the bill being collected, follow up with a letter to the debt collector setting out the details of that agreement. Keep a copy of the letter for your file.
To file a complaint about a debt collector contact the ND Department of Financial Institutions at (701) 328-9933 OR the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at www.consumerfinance.gov.
- More information about your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act is available from the FTC.
Credit Counseling/Debt Management Services
If you are overwhelmed by debt, you may wish to contact a reputable credit counseling or debt management agency for help. Credit counselors have professional training in money management and provide financial counseling and support. The services are usually provided free or at low cost to individuals seeking help.
- Use caution - not all agencies are legitimate.
By law, a credit counseling service providing services to a ND resident must have a surety bond on file with the Office of Attorney General. Call Consumer Protection at (701) 328-3404 to make sure the company is bonded before you give them any money.
- The Village Family Service Center is the only credit counseling organization located in North Dakota that is also an approved provider for required pre-bankruptcy financial counseling. Contact VFSC toll-free (800) 450-4019 or www.helpwithmoney.org.
If you are sent merchandise that you did not order, you have a legal right to consider it a free gift. If you receive a bill for the unordered merchandise, simply send a letter to the company that you did not order the item and therefore you have a legal right to keep it as a free gift. If the unordered merchandise was the result of an honest shipping error, give the seller a chance to arrange to have the item returned at no cost to you.
- Be careful when buying trial items or unusually low-priced items. Your order may commit you to purchase additional items that may be shipped to you without further notice. These shipments are not considered unordered merchandise.