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Maine AG wants uniform refunds on fast track

Apr. 23, 2009 - 02:30PM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 23, 2009 - 02:30PM  |  
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The Maine attorney general's office is taking action to speed up refunds for military uniform items ordered from Military Accessories and Community Support.

"We're concerned that a lot [of customers] are not getting their refunds," said Jim McKenna, a spokesman for that office. "We discovered quite a few have not gotten their money, and we have asked the court to hold a hearing."

Meanwhile, the attorney general's office is indefinitely accepting additional complaints about the company. Forty more people have sent affidavits to the office claiming that they have not received their uniform items since the Feb. 13 announcement of the Maine Superior Court's ruling requiring MAACS to refund a total of $18,716 to 96 military members who paid for uniforms that were never delivered, McKenna said.

The 40 new claims seek refunds totaling $19,800, he said.

New complaints should be mailed to Gail Cyr, Maine Attorney General Consumer Protection Division, 6 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333, or e-mailed to gail.cyr@maine.gov">gail.cyr@maine.gov. The phone number is (207) 626-8502.

Once complaints are received, the company will either pay or contest the refunds, and the matter will be decided through arbitration.

MAACS owner Allison MacDonald, who has described herself as a service-disabled veteran, could not be reached for comment. Company phones apparently are not working.

Neither MAACS, based in South Portland, Maine, nor MacDonald admitted to wrongdoing by entering into the agreement in the court's consent decree.

The Better Business Bureau has given MAACS an "F" rating because of the number of complaints — 615 in the last 36 months — and the company's failure to respond to them. Of the complaints, 119 are unresolved, 327 have received no response from the company, 89 were resolved and 80 have been administratively closed, a bureau spokesperson said.

A number of service members bought uniforms through outside sources when they were not available from their military exchange because of a shortage.

Free Hormel meal

Every buck helps these days, and Hormel Foods is offering coupons for a free Hormel Compleats microwave meal at commissaries through May 15.

There are 23 varieties of the full meals, which usually sell for $1.79 each in commissaries. Ranging from chicken and dumplings to spaghetti with meat sauce, they don't require refrigeration and can be heated in 90 seconds.

A spokeswoman said there will be just one day that you can redeem the coupon at your commissary, and that day varies by commissary. The coupons are available now at commissaries, with information on that particular store's redemption day. There's a limit of one coupon per family.

Uniform buying basics

• The military exchanges are the only Defense Department-authorized vendors for uniforms. They know what is required in terms of fabric and other features. Even if a company touts some sort of military connection, it is not a defense-authorized uniform vendor.

• Use a credit card, rather than a debit card, to make online purchases. You have more protection when disputing charges and a better chance of getting a refund. If you are not satisfied with a company's response, you can contact your credit card company to report that the items billed to you were not delivered. But as some service members have found in their experience with Military Accessories and Community Support, there may be term limitations. Check with your credit card company to find out what time limitations may apply. Some service members said they were repeatedly promised that the items would be received within a few weeks. By the time they contacted their credit card company, it was too late for the card issuer to intercede.

• Read the terms and conditions on the company's Web site. Unless you agree specifically to a longer term, the company must ship merchandise within 30 days or you can cancel the order and get a refund.

• Check out the company's history with the Better Business Bureau.

• File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, and with your state's consumer affairs office, if you cannot get a satisfactory response. This will help alert others that there may be a problem, and it might help you resolve your issue.

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