Rebates for energy efficient appliances never arrives

April 22, 2011 6:38:35 PM PDT
California's Cash For Appliances program has paid consumers almost $28 million in rebates for buying energy saving machines. One woman bought all the right appliances, but didn't get her money until 7 On Your Side stepped in.

Joanne Paiva finally got rid of her old appliances and bought an energy saving washing machine and clothes dryer. She also traded an old water guzzler for this energy efficient dishwasher.

"My appliances were getting old. I wanted to be energy efficient, I thought it was the perfect time to go out and replace everything," said Paiva.

Perfect because the state's Cash For Appliances program was offering rebates for replacing wasteful appliances with energy savers. The program was about to expire so Joanne hurried out and bought all three appliances in one day, mailed off the forms and never heard back.

"'There is no record you've ever sent us anything.' That is the mystery, I don't know what happened to the mailing," said Paiva.

Cash For Appliances said it never received her application -- so, no rebate. Joanne offered to re-send the forms to show she'd purchased the right appliances at the right time, but the agency said she also had to prove she mailed it on time.

"If I had proof maybe they would listen to me. They wanted something that was postmarked," said Paiva.

Joanne said it wasn't fair since she'd purchased everything by the deadline.

"For someone to go out and spend $1,500 because of a promotion the state offers, I think it's very harsh based on the fact I have all the paperwork," said Paiva.

Joanne contacted 7 On Your Side and we spoke with the California Energy Commission, which runs Cash For Appliances. It said rules are rules and they required mailing the forms no later than last Dec. 6. No postmark, no rebate.

"We recommend a certificate of mailing or mailing by delivery confirmation or certified return receipt," said James Wigdel.

Wigdel of the U.S. Postal Service recommends using certified mail or other special service for important packages.

"That certainly was a voice in my head that was saying, 'I should have sent it certified,'" said Paiva.

However, just when it seemed all hope was lost, a twist. After we called, Cash For Appliances was reviewing applications leftover in its processing center and there was Paiva's package. Unfortunately it had somehow slipped through the mail without getting a postmark stamp. However, the agency said, since the documents were dated prior to Dec. 6, her application will be approved after all.

A spokesperson said, "We continue to process and review applications to ensure accuracy by the rebate processor. The Energy Commission regrets the inconvenience this has caused consumers."

"Wonderful. I appreciate it, thank you so much," said Paiva.

If you'd like to find out how to send a package with postmark proof, prices start at just $1.50 and can be found on the USPS site.


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