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Updates and successes for DFW consumers

When The Watchdog attended a sales presentation for a Southlake-based travel club, Oasis Getaway, I learned that the company had been ordered to cease and desist using Royal Caribbean's logo as its return address.

The company has no connection with the cruise line but used it to lure potential buyers to its travel program.

So what did Oasis Getaway's marketing company do? Put the Southlake address on the letterhead? No, the company now invites North Texans to sales seminars using Norwegian Cruise Line's logo.

Thanks to Marco Fehlbaum for sharing one of many updates readers have offered on Watchdog columns.

Here's another: An ex-con who promised to fix a Fort Worth homeowner's foundation for $19,000 but never did the work has gone to prison. Hubert Burdick caulked and repaired cracks for a few hours and then disappeared.

Last year, Tarrant County prosecutors convicted Burdick of theft. He had served 15 years in state prison for other crimes.

After his story was told here, Royce Benson of Fort Worth had his foundation repaired by area companies that donated materials and labor and by staffers who work with Mike Holmes of HGTV fame.

Speaking of punishment, Fort Worth lawyer Marty Leewright tells this story to those who scoff at the power of small-claims courts to enforce judgments and get debts paid. Patience is key.

Two years ago, The Watchdog shared the story of Tia Anderson, who rented a Fort Worth house in deplorable condition. There was no running water. City inspectors found mildew and mold, which Anderson believes contributed to her two children having to be hospitalized.

Inspectors also found holes in the exterior walls, a leaking roof, exposed wiring, missing electrical-outlet covers and a large hole in the back yard.

Leewright took her case and, ultimately, a justice of the peace ordered the landlords to pay Anderson. It took a while, but Anderson recently received a check for almost $5,000.

Leewright is on the state committee working to overhaul small-claims courts and make them easier to navigate for people who are not lawyers.

Dan Haase says he was frustrated that a company kept calling even though he's listed on federal and state do-not-call lists, so he filed complaints with every agency he could think of. He passes along solid advice he received from the Colorado Office of Consumer Fraud:

"It is vitally important that you file a complaint with the national no-call registry each and every time you receive an unwanted call as fines may be applied for each infraction," the agency wrote to him.

That makes sense. Reporting violators to build the number of complaints is a smart way to get enforcers to investigate and impose steep fines.

So clip and paste alert: file your complaints about violators at DoNotCall.gov or 888-382-1222. Thanks, Dan.

Thanks also to Modern Monument Works of Cleburne for generously helping the family of premature twin girls who didn't make it. Lauren and Monica Box were the subject of a recent Watchdog column when one went to Huguley Memorial Medical Center after birth and the other was born at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

Workers at the monument company carved a headstone for both girls and gave it to the family as a gesture of eternal sympathy.

I keep hearing success stories from readers I send to the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, D.C. Problems are being reviewed and solved, often in the consumers' favor.

That's why The Watchdog welcomes news that the bureau is going to take a close look at debt collectors and credit-reporting companies, including the three biggies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

The bureau is also launching an overdraft-fee campaign aimed at making bank fees more transparent and fair. The bureau has already started work on regulating payday lenders, mortgage firms and student lenders.

Learn more about this new federal agency at consumerfinance.gov.

While reading a Texas electric industry newsletter, The Texas Retail Electric Scorecard, I noticed problems that consumers are having with electricity providers. Here are some things to avoid:

Companies are usually not allowed to charge customers a connection fee. If they do, that could violate state rules.

Consumers are not required to pay a security deposit for prepay electricity service.

And beware of a company that doesn't include recurring fees as part of its "average price calculation" of the rate it charges per kilowatt-hour on a bill.

When it comes to companies that charge penalties to those who don't use a specified minimum of electricity each month, customers need to make certain that these fees are disclosed before signing a contract and that they are explained in each bill.

A jolt of thanks goes to TXU Energy from Ginger Daniel of Bedford for clearing up a problem. She was promised 3 percent cash back as part of her contract but was never told that she would be bounced from the program if she changed companies.

Well, she changed but still wanted her money. Nobody at TXU would help her. She explained, "When I told them that I guess I would have to write to you, they claimed that they have never heard about The Watchdog."

They have now. A TXU spokesman investigated and gave Daniel her money.

"Unfortunately, the agent she spoke with initially gave her the wrong information," spokesman Michael Patterson said. "The program requires a customer to be active and in good standing at the end of the year, but we are honoring what she was told."

Coming Sunday: A little rowboat causes problems for everybody.

The Watchdog appears Fridays and Sundays.

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