mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

What? I don't get to keep this DVD forever?

EDIT: Welcome Overlawyerd readers. Hope you like this post, and I hope consider checking out the rest of my blog, with posts on everything from online shopping to donuts.


New Jersey, mad anthony's old home slice, is suing Blockbuster for fraud for their end of late fees ad campaign. Slashdot discussion here.

NJ has been very busy "protecting consumers" of late - I've posted before about them suing Circuit City, and suing Nissan for putting headlights on cars that thieves like.

All these cases are against national companies, but as far as I can tell NJ is the only state to move against them.

Blockbuster does tell you in their FAQ that seven days after the due date, they will convert the rental into a sale and charge you for it. Seems fair - and if you are planning on keeping the DVD a week past when it's due, maybe you should check into the policy. I mean, do people really think that they would never have any penalty for not returning their DVD? If there wasn't, WHY THE HECK WOULD ANYONE EVER RETURN A RENTAL IF THEY COULD KEEP IT FOREVER WITH NO COST?

I have to say that if this is the worst business practice that the state of NJ can find to complain about, capitalism has proven itself to be pretty effective and self-regulating. I don't see anything wrong with government going after business that are actually involved in defrauding customers, but the Blockbuster and Circuit City cases are ones where customers are failing to do their due diligence in reading the fine print and asking questions - and in the Blockbuster case, leaping to unreasonable conclusions. (The Nissan case makes even less sense, but it's a different kind of illogic).

What makes me most nervous about this kind of government involvement is it is punishing not only businesses, but the majority of consumers who are intelligent enough to read and understand the terms. Lawsuits like this put a chilling effect on companies coming up with innovative ideas - especially ones that benefit some people, but are complicated and not easily understood by all consumers. Most Blockbuster customers are smart enough to know that they will have to return their DVD at some point - but NJ feels the need to stick up for those who are too dumb to figure that out.


At 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might sound stupid, but hey- that's what they said they were offering. NO LATE FEES. If you sign a contract it IS your fault for not reading the fine print, but at the very least if the're are going to be /fees/ directly associated with an item being /late/ then advertising 'no late fees' is false advertising, and they should be sued for it. So "what, i don't get to keep this dvd forever" might sound like a supid question to you- but it's exactly what 'no late fee's' implies baring any other reason you'd have to return the dvd, whether it sounds stupid to you or not. Oh- and just so you know, there IS a company that does do this...ever heard of netflix?! The reason it works for them is because they charge a monthly subcription fee, and if you don't return the dvd's you already have, you just can't order more. Blockbuster is obviously trying to compete with netflix, so it makes sense that people would think along those lines- but conceptual mistakes or not, the words 'no late fees' means 'no late fees'! They can't advertise that AND have the late fee clause in their policy. It's one or the other.

At 11:03 PM, Blogger mad anthony said...

As you mention, the netflix model involves a monthly fee. With Blockbuster not having the fee, and not restricting the number of DVD's out, there is no reason for it to

My guess is that most people who return DVD's late are a day or two over, and those people WON'T incur any extra costs. The Blockbuster conversion to paying for it don't kick in for a week AFTER the DVD is due. The only people who get charged are affect are a small portion that is VERY late.

I think the Blockbuster system is decent and a good deal for more people, and I think it's getting shot down because a few people didn't bother reading or thinking.

If having to eventually return your RENTED DVD's is the worst abuse of consumers in the country, I have to say that captitalism is doing a pretty damn well.

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

regardless if it's a day, a week or 22 years, no late fees means no fees associated with an item being returned 'later' than a specific time. I'm not saying that even though blockbusters business model is different there's still a reason for them to let people keep the dvd forever. I'm saying that the idea of having no late fees (and the resulting implication that a dvd can be kept forever) is not that absurd because it's already being done, and in a way that works financially. Basically the business model of netflix allows them to advertise 'no late fees'. That of blockbuster does not. I have no problem with the blockbuster system itself. It's obviously not the best choice out there anymore, but it works- and like you said it's probably not a large percentage of the customer base that is running into these charges (and when it is, it's people who didn't read the contract). The bottom line for me- I completely disagree with people who have been charged getting they're money back, because they signed a legal contract agreeing to the charges. But whether they try to disguise the fact that it's a fee (conversion to a sale) or not (restocking fee)- these ARE late fees, and blockbuster is false advertising, which is illegal.


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