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When in doubt, don’t pay for services in advance, consumer attorney says

Consumer Investigations

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Jen Maloney said when the owner of a local laser hair removal business contacted her with a package deal, she took it.

But halfway through the nearly $1,000-worth of treatments, the business vanished.

“I was able to get two appointments in and then the business disappeared,” she said. “Their phone got shut off and their website went down.”

Maloney said all communication with the company stopped, meaning she couldn’t get ahold of anyone to inquire about getting her money back.

“It’s been remarkably frustrating,” Maloney said, adding that she’d bought treatments from the business in the past and never had any issues.

Consumer Attorney Christopher Lefebrve tells 12 News when a business closes, the customer doesn’t always get refunded for pre-purchased services.

“When a business goes belly up or has financial problems, there aren’t many consumers that are made whole,” he explained.

Lefebrve suggested customers be cautious when pre-paying for services.

“Sometimes getting a better deal in the long run may be a bad decision to make,” Lefebvre said. “If you want to be safe, pay as you go and don’t pay in advance.”

“Many businesses are fragile, so you need to be careful when you make a decision, hoping that that business will be around six or eight months so that you get the value of the services that your paying for,” he continued.

He also advises customers to research the business before paying for service in advance, speaking with the owner directly and driving by the location to scope it out beforehand.

And the worst thing you can do, Lefebvre said, is pay over the phone.

While the Attorney General Consumer Protection Units in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts can assist customers in getting their money back, Lefebvre said it doesn’t always happen.

Maloney said she was able to get her money back for her treatments by disputing the charges on her credit card.

“In hindsight, I wish I would have read the fine print more carefully, because there really is little to no protection for the customer,” she admitted.

The business appears to be back open, according to Maloney, but she said she still hasn’t heard back from them about her purchase.

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