It started as a magazine subscription service, and ended with them threatening to have my family jailed.
I was first contacted by 716 Services while working as an office manager at a family business. The sales pitch was simple enough: three years of magazine subscriptions at a set, low monthly rate. Since I subscribe to a number of magazines and would save significantly with the deal they were offering, I accepted the offer.
The first red flag came when they asked to record our conversation. It's been my experience that if a company HAS TO resort to recording the phone conversations to confirm agreements, it's because so many of those agreements fall through. Against my better judgement, I continued. Next, as "credit references," I offered the names and phone numbers of two relatives and my employer.
Around the second month, no magazines had arrived. I called to check on the status, since I had already made three payments to them, and was told that it could take that long for the subscriptions to become active but that my 3 years of receiving them would not begin until they physically began arriving at my home. The magazines did begin to arrive shortly after that.
When I wrote a letter asking for the magazine list so that I could change my selections, I was called by "customer service" and told that they no longer provided the list as part of the package, but I could still change my choices at any time by calling customer service. I didn't see how that was possible without me knowing which magazines I could be choosing from, so I informed the girl on the phone that I would be cancelling the service.That's when it got weird.
"You can't" she told me. I explained that since the service was not of the caliber I was promised that I most certainly could, and we left it at that.
A few days later I got a call at work from my frantic mother, who told me that she got a call from a lawyer in New York who told her that I was in serious trouble over a large unresolved debt and that criminal charges were pending against me. I could not imagine what this was in regards to, so I did my best to calm her down and took down the 800 number she had been given by the "lawyer."
Later that afternoon, the office secratary gave me a message that a lawyer had called while I was out and had told her the same thing my mother had said earlier.
This time I called back immediately, and was told by the man that answered that he was a lawyer from Buffalo representing 716 Services. I couldn't believe it. Criminal charges?? Large debt?? Over a cancelled magazine subscription??!?!? I didn't try very hard to hide my anger at the fact that this guy had just called both my work and my mother with such nonsense. I told him to not call me at work, and if he company had anything to discuss with me to do it by postal mail so that I could have solid documentation.
I did some research in the next few days, and found that magazine subscription agreements such as the one I had entered in to were in fact legally binding, even just with oral agreement. I hadn't signed any documents, and I thought that would protect me. My heart was sinking. I thought perhapss the fact that the service they actually offered was sub-standard and I wasn't offered the services promised when I initially agreed, but I couldn't be certain. The thought of giving that company anything after they had made those calls made me sick to my stomach.
I kept looking into it as much as I could, all the while fending off these phone calls to me at work, at home, and other calls to my mother and cousin, the two relatives I gave as "credit references."
Eventually, I found Federal laws regarding debt collection, and it dawned on me that 716 Services was breaking just about all of them. I started writing down the dates and times of all the calls. I started keeping all the paperwork I could find. I filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, who basically told me that since the company didn't wish to cooperate there was nothing they could do. I then filed complaints with the State Attorney General in both Pennsylvania and New York and any consumer action group I could find. None of them really got me very far, and meanwhile the "attorneys" for 716 Services were threatening a 100% wage garnishment on me, and were threatening to press charges against my "references." They told my mother that I had used her as a co-signor on my contract and that she was financially responsible for the debt, or she could face wage garnishments and legal action. I of course had never used her name for anything but a reference, but she was pretty worked up none the less.
Finally, I received another phone call at work from an "attorney" demanding I pay somewhere around $2,000 for my contract and legal fees. I epxlained that I couldn't receive such calls at work and wouldn't discuss the matter. I went on to detail all the Federal laws I had recently learned and told him flat out that I was working on a harrassment case against his client for the actions of his office. He told me that since he was an attorney and not a collection agency that the laws did not apply to him, and that he could have me jailed for breaching the contract I had entered into with his client. When he continued to talk, I hung up on him. They continued to call me at work that day for the rest of the afternoon, and both my mother and cousin called to say they had been doing the same to them all day.
I couldn't believe that lawyers were somehow exempt from collection laws, so I filed a complaint against the office with the Attorney Greivance Committee of New York. The letters and phone calls had all come from an Attorney Alan P. McCarty of Buffalo, NY. When he answered the complaint, it was on entirely different letterhead than the letters I had been receiving. He claimed that while he did represent 716 Services, he did not send collection letters or make collection calls.
At best, that meant 716 Services had been lying all along, which breaks yet another Federal law.
The bottom line is that no matter who is to blame - the lawyer or the company - 716 Services uses false statements, harrassment, and threats in the normal course of business.
If anyone has had similiar experiences with 716 or Allan P. McCarty, please email me.
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