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Where's the refund?
Money Helps: Customer service drops the ball.
June 10, 2005: 4:30 PM EDT
By Ellen McGirt, MONEY Magazine. Reporting by Judy Feldman.
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NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - Q. I contacted Lending Tree for a mortgage. Before sending any paperwork, they asked for a credit-card number to show my good faith. Later I decided against their offer. They then charged me a $600 fee, even though I had never signed any agreement. Can they do this? My subsequent calls were never returned.

-- Larry Klumb, Pittsburgh

ANSWER Some lenders do ask for a loan lock-in fee while they process all the paperwork on a new mortgage (although others, like your friendly neighborhood local bank in Pittsburgh or the lender you ultimately chose, do not).

The fees are usually in the $300 to $600 range, and if the loan closes as per the terms of the agreement, most lenders will credit the lock-in fee against your closing costs.

Lending Tree won't return the fee if you quit the loan process after filing an application, but the company does promise a refund if you never actually get things started by signing the paperwork, which was the case. As for your calls going unreturned, who wouldn't be peeved by that?

Rebecca Anderson, a spokeswoman for Lending Tree, told us that your refund would have been processed sooner or later, but she added, "We strive for better service, and we will take this as a learning opportunity." Your credit arrived seven business days later.

Q. I canceled broadband service with AOL a year ago but was still charged for another five months. I'm due a credit of $241.02, but they say it's already been processed.

-- Carolina Sanchez, Walnut Creek, Calif.

ANSWER Ouch! Pardon us while we gently wipe the egg from the face of our sister company. (MONEY and AOL share the same parent corporation, Time Warner.)

As can sometimes happen in big companies with huge customer-service responsibilities, your request unfortunately went adrift in cyberspace. AOL first continued to charge your account after you canceled and then mistakenly informed you that the credit had been refused by your credit-card company. You've got mail, indeed.

We were able to connect you with an AOL representative who reviewed your case, and your excellent record-keeping made all the difference. You made notes on every conversation both with AOL and with your credit-card company and kept all your correspondence.

That made it a slam dunk. It took just three days for AOL to straighten things out. By the time we went to press, the credit had hit your account.

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Got a question about money? Have a financial or red tape nightmare? Need an advocate or some good advice? E-mail Ellen McGirt at  Top of page


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