DealNews is dedicated to helping its readers better their shopping experiences. This page is a reference to consumer resources both provided by us and found elsewhere.
DealNews' complaint database
DealNews maintains a complaint database to track trends in complaints for possible future alerts to our readers.
State Attorneys General
If you have a complaint or are seeking information before you buy, consider contacting the state attorney general's office of the company in question. State attorneys general track consumer complaints and usually make that information available to the public. We have a mostly complete list of the web sites of state attorneys general below. The National Association of Attorneys General offers additional information.
The Better Business Bureau
A popular alternative to state attorneys general, the BBB is among the oldest and most inclusive consumer information and reconciliation services in the United States. The BBB maintains limited online information on companies, and you can file a complaint online. The BBB requires that merchants pay to become members.
In addition to other Macintosh web sites, several services provide critical consumer information. Some of the most popular are Consumer Reports, Consumer World, the Federal Trade Commission, ScamBusters, SpamCop, TRUSTe, and The U.S. Consumer Gateway. Yahoo! maintains several lists of consumer information sites. Please note that some services require merchants to pay a fee to participate or require you to pay to use fully. BizRate offers consumer ratings of companies but focuses more on providing advertisements from those same companies.
These are answers to the most frequently asked consumer questions that readers pose to us.
What's "cash discounting"?
Credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, charge merchants a percentage for any transaction. Most vendors roll that cost into their prices, as they do their phone bills or employee salaries. However, to advertise lower prices, some businesses offer "cash discounting," or pricing without those percentages added. Payment via credit card is then more expensive, the percentage varying by merchant and by card used.
Corporations, government agencies, and schools who pay cash benefit from these savings. But for everyday consumers, cash discounted prices are confusing and misleading. So while DealNews publishes cash discounted prices, we always note the credit card price too. If a published price has no surcharge, please assume that the price is credit card-friendly.
DealNews advises that all mail-order purchases by consumers be made via credit card. Cash purchases offer little consumer protection in the event of a conflict with a merchant. DealNews accounts for credit card surcharges when evaluating price lows.
What's a restocking fee?
A restocking fee is the percentage a merchant charges when a customer returns an item, usually 15 percent. Many merchants charge no restocking fee. Of those who do, none we've seen says it charges a restocking fee on defective merchandise. Reader experience says otherwise: restocking fees draw more complaints than almost any other policy, and some companies are more chronic than others. Always be sure to ask if a restocking fee exists before buying.
What do you mean by "the lowest price we've seen"?
Just because we've found a price to be very low, we can't guarantee that it isn't lower elsewhere. That's why we always say, "the lowest price we've seen." Rest assured that when DealNews evaluates a "low price," it adds all known charges -- particularly credit card surcharges -- except shipping into the equation. We usually exclude shipping because of its high variability, but we regularly note how shipping costs can degrade an otherwise "best" value.