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CD club cancellations

Joanna Dornfeld (The Maneater via U-WIRE)/COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Jim Matty said it wasn't important to know BMG's address and phone number when he signed up for its CD club membership.

When it came time to cancel his membership, however, Matty discovered the hassle of BMG's anonymity.

"As a member, they treat you well," Matty, an University of Missouri alumni in Columbia, said. "It was the whole cancellation that was a headache."

BMG advertises a service where customers can receive 12 CDs for the price of one. The customer's one CD purchase must be paid within a year of becoming a member.

Matty received his first seven free CDs and paid the shipping and handling charge. He then selected the CD that he wished to purchase. Matty selected his final four free CDs and mailed his check to pay the shipping and handling charges.

With his last payment in early February, Matty requested that his BMG membership be canceled. Recently, Matty received a letter stating that if BMG did not hear from him they would be sending him another CD.

Matty said he was worried that his credit rating would suffer because it would appear that his membership had not been canceled.

"I am simply trying to cancel," Matty said. "There is no way to call."

BMG has no phone number easily identifiable on its Web site.

"I think it is listed, but not right up front," BMG spokesman Lee Graham said. The company does not list a number in order to avoid overwhelming customer service representatives, he said.

Matty finally located a customer service phone number. He was informed that his membership had been canceled Feb. 12.

It takes about a month for BMG to process a membership cancellation.

Columbia House, another CD club, also offers customers 12 free CDs. In its current online new member offer, customers must pay a shipping and handling charge of 99 cents per CD. Customers are then required to buy five CDs in two years and pay shipping and handling for each CD.

Area attorney David Townsend said agreeing to the CD plan is like signing a contract.

"The agreement dictates the terms," Townsend, of Ford, Parshall and Baker law group, said. "By signing up, they waive certain rights."

The Missouri Attorney General's office recommends that potential club members read the fine print.

"Make sure you know what you are getting in to," said Jack Cardetti, spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon.

Since 1997, there have been 43 complaints filed against BMG and 27 complaints filed against Columbia House at the Missouri Attorney General's office.

"That seems to be a fairly large number, but it wouldn't be as large as it first appears," Cardetti said. The companies have so many customers that the number of complaints seems large, he said.

The majority of the complaints filed were regarding bills received after memberships had been canceled, membership without authorization and music received that had not been ordered.

According to the Indianapolis Better Business Bureau report, BMG and Columbia House are currently in good standing. They have responded to all complaints within a reasonable amount of time.

(c) 2001 The Maneater via U-WIRE

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