Updated: Monday, 21 Dec 2009, 10:02 PM CST
Published : Monday, 21 Dec 2009, 4:26 PM CST
By Lauren Cohn, FOX Chicago News
Chicago - Red alert on Redbox: Consumer complaints have been piling up after customers claim they've unfairly been charged late fees.
FOX Chicago News looked at the Chicago-area based DVD rental business.
They're convenient: “It’s a block from my condo," Chicago consumer Len Anderson said.
They're cheap: "It's a buck,” Chicago consumer Rick McPartlin said.
But for some customers, renting movies from Redbox doesn't always have a happy ending.
"I honestly refuse to use them," said consumer Jenny Gasero.
Gasero, of Elk Grove, claimed she was overcharged when she rented three movies from a local kiosk and returned them a few days late.
"I realized $75 was missing from my account when I looked at my statement and it showed Redbox,” she said.
Gasero said she spent weeks arguing with Redbox reps on the phone.
"I talked to a customer service person from there, and they said I hadn't returned the movies," she said.
When that didn't work, she filed two complaints with the Better Business Bureau.
"In the last three years the BBB has received 316 complaints that come from 40 states,” said Steve Bernas of the BBB.
Bernas said he's seen a pattern with the complaints.
"Specifically consumers allege when they return videos into machines, (they’re) subsequently charged,” said Steve Bernas.
Many consumers also told the BBB they never received any e-mail alerts or notifications there was a problem.
Bernas said the BBB was concerned enough that it tried to meet with Redbox, but its requests were ignored for an entire year.
"Ultimately this organization lost their accreditation. It was revoked in March of 2009,” Bernas said.
And now Redbox is facing a class action lawsuit that was filed in Illinois in October.
"Hard to imagine how a dollar night turn into $380,” the plaintiff's attorney Jeff Millar said.
Millar said more than 200 complaints have been filed with the Federal Trade Commission since January of this year.
He argued the problem starts with Redbox's Web site.
"I don’t think it’s clear at all,” he said.
The Web site stated there are no late fees.
According to the company’s rules, if a movie is returned in 24 hours, it costs a dollar.
But Millar has found many customers claim they were charged as if they never brought the movie back.
"They said no late fees, but when you take it back after deadline, sometimes even before, you’re charged an extra dollar,” said Jeff Millar.
The lawsuit alleges Redbox charged late fees that are of such excessive amounts as to constitute unlawful penalties.
It also claims that Redbox has collected $100 million in illegal and punitive late fees.
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