Free Help for Consumers at the UH Law Center

If you need help resolving a consumer problem, the Texas Consumer Complaint Center is an online service ready to offer free legal advice or assistance. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports that the project got started thanks to a diet pill scam.

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A San Antonio company was selling a pill it said would help you lose weight while you slept. A lot of people got taken in before the owners disappeared. The Texas Attorney General's Office was able to recover about $700,000.

"It wasn't enough to compensate all the people who bought these pills, so the court thought one of the ways to use this money was to give it to a university, a law school, so that we could create a program that would help consumers way into the future."

And so began the Texas Consumer Complaint Center at the University of Houston Law Center. Professor John Ventura is the director.

"To reach us you have to go to a web site, its called www.texasccc.com and you can put in your complaint. That complaint is sent to me and I supervise law students, the law students contact the consumer and discuss their problem. In discussing it they try to give information that would show the person's options."

Jesse Skinner is a 3rd year law student who says a lot of complaints are easily satisfied with a demand letter.

"A letter that the consumer is able to send to the company, the business, the landlord who ever it is, stating that they know their legal rights and if you don't resolve it we'll end up in small claims court."

The Texas Consumer Complaint Center can also contact the other party to the transaction to try to negotiate a solution and if the situation demands involve an attorney.

Maria Lowry is also a 3rd year law student who says sometimes the consumer has no recourse.

"Some of them are hard to resolve because someone has not read the warranty or read the lease that they signed and those are sad because often there's not a lot that I can do."

John Ventura says consumers often hurt themselves by not reading what they are signing and that sometimes the resolution is simply knowing that you don't have a case.

"It's a great service, I think, for people to be able to have someone say, you know you really don't have a claim you shouldn't pursue this. Because too many people waste so much energy and time pursuing matters that shouldn't be pursuing at all."

But Ventura says most problems can be solved, even the odd ones.

"There was a man who invited a woman to come live with him and she got his credit card and ran it up to over ten-thousand dollars. When he asked her to leave she refused and he didn't know how to get her out of the house and he called here and actually there is a solution to that."

You can contact the Texas Consumer Complaint Center at www.texasccc.com you'll also find a link at kuhf.org.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...