14 News Special Report: Purchase Police - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

14 News Special Report: Purchase Police

Who do you go to when you have a consumer problem and need help resolving it? What if it was easy as just typing it up online and having a company step in to fight your battle? 

There's a new and growing internet industry specializing in just that: electronic non-traditional dispute resolution. 

Some sites are free, but others ask you to pay a fee. But are they legit and are they worth it?

From complaints about wireless service, used car lots, pet care companies, and in Neal Alderson's case, sunglasses. New online resolution sites claim to and "take the pain out of complain."

"It was resolved very quickly," Alderson said. 

Alderson says when his expensive sunglasses broke in half, he requested a replacement pair from the maker. All he got was the run around. So, he posted this gripe on Gripevine for free. 

Gripevine contacted the shades' manufacturer, and soon, Alderson got some not so shady news.

"I got exactly what I wanted, which was a replacement pair of sunglasses," Alderson said.

What makes Gripevine and other new problem-solving sites like Scambook and PeopleClaim different than traditional complaint resolution avenues?

The internet. 

Gripevine's founder Dave Carroll became a Youtube sensation when he posted a video about an airline he says damaged his guitar and refused to pay for it. After a million hits, Carroll says they changed their tune.

"In the first two weeks, I received 10,000 emails congratulating me, but also saying that they felt that they didn't have a voice and they wished they had a voice," Carroll said.

"Social media is what I call the great equalizer when it comes getting your complaint resolved," said John Breyault with National Consumers League.

While filing complaints on some sites is free, others may charge you. 

A PeopleClaim ad said, "PeopleClaim can help you resolve your dispute, for less than some people spend on coffee."

On PeopleClaim, filing a complaint is free. The site will notify the company about your problem, but if the company doesn't respond, you can pay $7.95 to have your dispute posted publicly online. For $14.95, PeopleClaim will also notify watchdogs, regulators and the media. 

On Scambook, it's also free to file a complaint, but you can pay $4.99 a month for a personal investigator to be assigned to your case, who will mail certified letters to the company for you each month. 

Of course, this is something consumers can do themselves…

"These sites offer to step in and play that role for you," Breyault said.

Do these sites get results? ScamBook said, "We have resolved over $10 million in reported damages."

PeopleClaim said, "Far more than half the complaints filed are resolved."   

Gripevine suggested we ask its customers. Alderson is now humming his own song, 'Walking in Sunshine.'

"It's a very quick, easy way to get your situation dealt with," Alderson said.

None of the companies provides mediators or legal services.

PeopleClaim says if the company you're complaining about doesn't respond to your public post in 90 days, it will refund your $7.95.

Copyright 2013 WFIE. All rights reserved.

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