April 20, 2024

Bucks: PeopleClaim: Taking Complaints Public Via the Web

A Web site called PeopleClaim assists consumers in filing complaints, for a fee.A Web site called PeopleClaim assists consumers in filing complaints, for a fee.

Consumers are increasingly using the Web to take their gripes to the court of public opinion. A site called PeopleClaim aspires to go beyond mere venting, to assist customers in filing a complaint with the service provider in question.

For a fee, the dispute-resolution site files complaints against retailers, banks, health insurers, airlines and smaller businesses like landlords, lawyers and plumbers. If the offending company doesn’t respond within a predetermined time limit (the claimant sets the deadline, which can’t be in less than two weeks), the consumer has the option of publicly posting the complaint on PeopleClaim’s Web site. The target also has the option to reject the claim and post a response.

PeopleClaim charges $7.95 to file a claim by e-mail, which it refunds if the complaint isn’t resolved in 90 days. For extra fees, the site will send a complaint by mail and notify any relevant regulatory agencies.

PeopleClaim aims to provide an alternative to the legal system for consumers with beefs who may not have the time or money to go even to small claims court, says its founder, Mark Deuitch. In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that limits consumers’ ability to file group arbitration claims, informal avenues like PeopleClaim may provide another option. “PeopleClaim’s goal is to transcend the existing legal system,” says Mr. Deuitch.

The site, operating in beta mode, has processed about 2,000 claims, of which roughly 25 to 30 percent were resolved, Mr. Deuitch says. It’s not always possible to know if claims are resolved, though, because some claims are settled without notification to PeopleClaim, he says. Plus, some claims aren’t resolvable by the Web site — like one recent claim that demanded that the United States “get out of Libya.”

Despite such political grandstanding, PeopleClaims’s Web site says its vulnerability to frivolous or anonymous claims is limited, because users must register and give a credit card number.

The site maintains a searchable database of unresolved claims, which can be helpful to consumers looking to vet a potential service provider. A quick perusal turns up smaller claims — mostly under $100 — with favorite targets including major wireless carriers, and cable and satellite television companies. When multiple consumers post claims against the same company, Mr. Deuitch says, that may be red flag: “If you have 30 to 100 claims, and your competitor has three, you probably have a problem in the way you’re doing business.”

Some businesses are not pleased to have complaints posted publicly, but most appreciate the chance to respond in kind. One post, for instance, outlined complaints against a lawyer; the wife of one of his clients, a man convicted of drug dealing, posted a complaint against the lawyer, who then called PeopleClaim, livid. When the lawyer realized that he could post a response, however, he did so immediately. “We don’t take sides,” says Mr. Deuitch. “Both parties have their say.”

PeopleClaim expects to upgrade its Web site in June, adding features such as a live-scrolling stream of complaints as they are posted.

Have you had trouble resolving a consumer complaint? Would you be willing to pay a fee to have a site like PeopleClaim pursue it for you?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=6cb8e73727bd4fbf476b85d5b5277f51

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