Utility or delivery service late? Now you can sue

Often consumers complain to 7 On Your Side saying the delivery didn't arrive or the repairman called and said he wasn't coming. No apology, not even acknowledgment that their time has been wasted. Well, you don't need to put up with that.

Just talk to people at random and nearly everyone has a story about waiting for a delivery or repairman that never showed up.

"Recently, I had someone that was supposed to drop off some bypass doors at my house that I ordered from a large retailer," says Susan Cole of Pinole. "They were supposed to be there before 5 p.m. on Friday and they ended up there on Tuesday."

At the California State Consumer Information Center they hear from ticked off consumers.

"We do get a lot of questions about it, so we do our best to answer those," says Russ Heimerich with the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

Now, the state isn't going to go arrest anyone for being late, but they have given you a tool to stop this madness.

"Nobody really knows about it, but if a company with more than 25 employees is more than four hours late in the window they give you, you can sue them for up to $500 for actual damages," says attorney Al Anolik.

That's right, wait long enough and you could have $500 coming your way, thanks to State Treasurer Bill Lockyer. Back in the late 80s, Lockyer was a state senator and heard plenty of complaints.

"When I first introduced it, I proposed a two-hour window and the business world came unglued," he says.

So the two-hour window was switched to four hours and business, by and large, backed the legislation.

"I noticed right after it became law a particular utility did a big advertisement campaign on what great customer service they were going to require even though it was required by the law," says Lockyer.

So what's the catch? With cable and utilities you have to know about the law before making your appointment.

"They are only required to make a connection or repair calls in a four-hour period if the customer requests it," says Heimerich.

Now you know to request it.

"We all work for a living. I have to be someplace and time is money. They know that better than anyone," says.

Small claims courts are consumer-friendly. Before you sue, however, send a demand letter to the offending party and say you would like to be compensated. Remember, you must have actual damages, like lost pay for work, for instance. There is no pain and suffering or punishment.

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