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What is the effect of a “no refund” sale?

Richard M. Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

Richard M. Alderman
Interim Dean of the Law Center

Q. I signed up and paid $1,100 for online fitness coaching. The website said I would receive exercises, meal plans, and 24-7 access to the trainer for one year. The site states no refunds (on the page where you enter payment), and also guarantees 24-7 access with responses guaranteed in 12 hours.
From the beginning meal plans were not always provided, exercises were not clear, and our communication was off from the beginning. Most recently, I asked for a return phone call to clarify a few questions, and after never receiving it after a week, I texted the trainer telling him that because we couldn’t communicate, I wanted to terminate his service and negotiate a partial refund. He refuses to do so, and states “no refunds” was clearly on the website when I paid. Do I have a claim, and under what law? It seems unfair that he gets a windfall when the very thing he guaranteed, he was unable to comply with.
A. It is unfair, and that is not how a “no refund” clause in an agreement works. When a seller says “no refunds,” it means you cannot just change your mind and get your money back. Regardless of what a contract says, however, if a party breaches it by not performing as promised or misrepresenting what it is going to do, you are entitled to damages, which usually means some or all of your money back.
Based on what you say, the seller made representations and guarantees about the services to be provided through its website. If the trainer does not perform as represented, he violates the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act [DTPA]. This is our state’s consumer protection law, and it allows you to recover the money you have lost, and up to three times that amount if the person acted knowingly. You cannot sue, however, without first giving written notice. I suggest you let the company know in writing that you know about this law and believe it been violated. Tell them why you think the law was violated—they misrepresented what they would do and breached their warranties—and how much money you want. You then must wait 60 days to see if they respond and offer to settle. If you hear nothing, I suggest you consider a claim in justice court.
Q. I have a question about medical law in the state of Texas. I was under the impression that people can’t be sued in Texas for outstanding medical bills or have it count against their credit report score, if they are making an attempt to pay. Have the laws changed or am I mistaken?
A. I am surprised how many times I am asked this question. The law has not changed, and you are mistaken. Debts arising from medical care are not treated differently from debts arising from any other obligation. Whether you owe a credit card bill, a hospital bill or a doctor’s bill, the collection procedures are the same and the information stays on your credit report for the same seven-year period.
Q. I am 73 years old. I don’t pay much in property taxes because of my exemptions. Someone just told me that when I die all the back taxes, plus interest, would be due. Is this true?
A. Based on what you say, it is not true. Your question, however, points out the difference between a tax “exemption” and a tax “deferment.”
Under the property tax system, you pay taxes based on the value of your property. Some portion of that value is “exempt” and no taxes are due on that portion. The amount of the exemption increases at age 65. In your case, you pay very little in taxes because the amount of the exemption is significant.
On the other hand, if you owe taxes even when the exemption is applied, you have the right to “defer” the taxes when you reach age 65. This means that you do not have to pay when the taxes are assessed. The taxes, however, are still owed. Taxes, plus interest, must be paid when you die or sell the property. If you had your taxes deferred, your estate would owe the taxes plus interest after your death.


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