Ask Finney: Surcharges, reverse mortgages, washing machine repair

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- 7 On Your Side's Consumer Expert Michael Finney answers your consumer questions.

Question 1:

Medhi from the South Bay asks: I was eating at a restaurant in San Jose, and I noticed a $1.40 minimum wage surcharge on my receipt. What is it? And why am I paying for it?

Answer 1:

Restaurants all over the Bay Area are doing this. A new minimum wage goes into effect or government mandated health insurance is passed, and rather than increase prices, they add on fees. Some think it looks like a government added tax. It is not, and sometimes it is not even legal.
To be legal, customers must be informed of the charge before they order, many restaurants put the fee on the bottom of the menu. I have busted restaurants for non-disclosure before. If that is what happened to you, let me know and I will check it out.

Question 2:

Sandy asks: What do you know about reverse mortgages?

Answer 2:

Reverse mortgages are for people 62 years of age and older who own their home. Rather than pay a mortgage lender, the lender pays them, either a monthly amount or a lump sum. The loan is not paid back until the owner dies or moves from the home. Now these things can be a real life saver, but they are not cheap. There have also been elderly scams around these things. So move slowly, and make sure you understand what you are getting into.

Question 3:

Jimmie asks: I bought a washing machine from a big box retail store last fall. It had to be repaired a few times, but still has issues. I requested credit to buy a new one, but I have not gotten it.

Answer 3:

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act covers warranties on nearly all consumer products. The law says products must perform as expected, and if not, there needs to be a repair, replacement, or money back. Document the issues, repairs, and how the washing machine is still not working properly for you. You have to go to small claims court with this, but usually the threat is enough to get things moving. If you're not getting help from the manufacturer, contact me here at the station, and we'll give them a call.
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