Ok, I have the same story as everyone else. Long story short, I was told I was signing a month to month lease, was not given access to the entire lease at the time, and all the handwritten info (including terms) was added after I signed it. In the end, I did not pay a cent to MBF more than I had agreed to and did not have to pay a lawyer at all. Here is how I did it:
I realized that I had been scammed when I closed my business approx. 6 months into my lease. WHen I tried to close my account with MBF I was then informed for the first time that I was locked into a 4 year contract.
The first thing I did was close my bank account and send MBF confirmation that my bank account had been closed and asked them to invoice me every month. I know this may not be practical for everyone, but if you want to protect yourself from losing money I would. Otherwise, MBF is not going to work with you because they are getting their money every month.
Next, I filed the compaints with the following entities (I never actually expected them to do anything, but I did it to use as leverage with MBF):
1. Texas Attorney General
2. Illinois Attorney General
3. Better Business Bureau
4. Federal Trade Commission
I live in Texas. So I went to our states legislature website where all the Texas statues are listed. I found the business and commerce code for our state and picked out the laws that I felt made the MBF lease contract illegal and invalid. I wrote a letter to MBF listing all the laws I felt they were violating. Also in my letter I attached copies of the above 4 complaints that I sent.
I faxed the letter to MBF and also mailed it to their Illinois and New York offices. A week after I sent it I called to check up on it and was told over the phone that my lease had been cancelled. So while I have not received written confirmation yet, I do believe I have prevailed.
Here are some tips that I think helped me:
1. I took immediate action - dont wait around until it is too late and they start harrassing you and messing up your credit. Like I said before, I was 6 months into my 4 year lease and about 3 months behind in payments when I got my lease cancelled.
2. I documented every phone call and got the name of the employee that I spoke with.
3. I am not an attorney and have no legal experience. And I know in my letter that my citations of the law were wrong and that I was probably wrong in a lot of my threats. However, I think I made it clear to MBF that I was not paying them another penny and that I was willing to follow through on my threats.
4. Most importantly, I argued with them with facts. I know that the company sucks, they are rude bla bla bla. However, screaming at an employee that they are mean and corrupt does not help anything. It is hard to argue with them because when you call they say "well you signed the lease" "why would you sign a lease with blanks in it" etc. On the surface, these are valid responses. However, the bottom line is that there is contract law that protects consumers from being fraudulently induced into signing a contract.
Here is an exact copy of the letter I sent (with my personal info edited out):
December 10, 2008
MBF Leasing, LLC
281 West 83rd St., Suite D
Burr Ridge, IL 60527
VIA US Mail and Facsimile
To Whom It May Concern:
This purpose of this letter is to request a cancellation of lease number INSERT (attached as exhibit A). It is my position that I am now paid in full per terms agreed upon with SALESMAN NAME AND COMPANY. All handwritten information listed on this contract, including the schedule of lease payments, were fraudulently inserted after my, (LESSEE), signature was obtained. The verbal conversation and agreement between LESEE and SALESMAN at the time the lease was signed concluded that the terms of the lease were month to month. You can tell from the different handwriting on the lease that the information was added by another individual that was not present at the time of the signing of the lease. I cannot even be 100 % certain when the lease was signed as the date was added next to my signature by someone else. Additionally, the bank account information for COMPANY was not provided to MBF Leasing until May 23, 3008 (see exhibit B) and could not have been listed on this lease at the time of signing.
I expect to be released from this lease immediately and that any negative reporting to credit agencies will be reversed.
Additionally, any further phone calls to PHONE NUMBER, or any other phone number you may obtain for the purpose of contacting lessee, for the purpose of requesting payments on this account will be considered harassment and used as evidence in court. Texas allows single-party consent for telephone call recording. Be advised that all calls to PHONE NUMBER (or any other contact with lessee or other owners of COMPANY) may be recorded, documented, published and used as evidence.
As of December 10, 2008, I have done the following to protect my interests against your company and to report allegations of fraud and misconduct on the part of MBF Leasing, LLC:
1. I have filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General (see exhibit C);
2. filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General (see exhibit D);
3. filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (see exhibit E); and
4. filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (see exhibit F).
If lessee is not fully released from this lease immediately, if any more harassing phone calls are made, or if any negative reporting to credit agencies occurs lessee will hire a private attorney to pursue the following legal actions against MBF Leasing (or any other parent, subsidiary, contracted company, etc who may have been involved in the fraud perpetrated against COMPANY and LESEE) including but not limited to the statues listed below.
I. Under Texas Bus. And Commerce, Title 1 Sec. 2A.108, the following provisions in the lease are unfair to the lessee and overwhelmingly favor the lessor:
1. Section 20. The lessee waives the right to pursue legal action against lessor in the appropriate venue, and must pursue action in the state convenient to the lessor. However, lessor retains the right to pursue legal action in any jurisdiction. In addition to being unfair, under 2A.106, this provision is unlawful and the jurisdiction of New York is unenforceable.
2. Section 21. Waiving the right to pursue a claim as part of a class action, private attorney, general action or other representative action is not fair to the lessee.
3. Section 22. Per this section, lessee has the ability to opt out within seven days of the signing of the lease. However, at the time of the signing of the lease, a copy of the contract was not provided to the lessee so that lessee could review the terms. In fact, a copy of the lease was not provided to lessee until a letter dated May 12, 2008 was sent requesting more money to cover insurance for the equipment. At that time, the opt-out period had ended. It was also not until this time that lessee became aware of the additional handwritten information on the lease.
4. The schedule of lease payments, which lessee contends were fraudulently added after signature was obtained, is unconscionable in and of itself. At $49.95 per month for 48 months, lessee will have paid $2397.60 in lease payments for a used piece of equipment which can be purchased new for $239.00 (see attached exhibit G).
I plan on seeking all relief allowed for under Sec. 17.50. for mental anguish as a direct result of the unconscionable actions of MBF Leasing.
II. Under Title 2, chapter 17, Sec. 17.46, MBF Leasing, LLC, SALESMAN violated certain deceptive trade practices act provisions by purposely caused confusion as to who SALESMAN worked for and who the lease was being signed with.
III. On page one of the lease, the guarantor's personal information was added to the lease after signature was obtained, and without guarantor's authorization. This is a direct violation of Sec. 48.101 of the Texas Business and Commerce code which protects my personal identifying information.
I plan to pursue these actions against MBF Leasing, LLC and any other action my attorney recommends and that is allowed for under the law. I will pursue relief related to mental anguish, recovery of attorney's fees, and any other remedies for which I may be entitled. Pursuit will be made in any jurisdiction that is allowed for under the law, possibly including small claims court in Harris County, civil court in Harris County, and civil court in the state of New York. Additionally, I will be in contact with the county and district attorneys of Harris County to seek consumer protection under Sec. 17.48.
Additionally, if the phone calls are not ceased immediately I will file complaints with the appropriate entities under Texas Penal Code 42.07., which protects me from harassment by telephone.
Thank you for your attention to this matter,
CC: MBF Leasing, LLC
132 West 31st Street 14th Floor
New York, New York 10001-3401