Bamboozled: Speaking up means happier customers, here’s the proof

Bamboozled gets credit where credit is due, offers an update on the Verizon billing fiasco and warns of more potential trouble for BB brandingtwo-named New Jersey drivers.

The rewards are in

Earlier this month, we told the story of Howard Titen and his battle to receive rewards that were earned on his Hess Visa credit card, issued by Chase Bank.

The card issuer sent notices to cardholders that its rewards program would change effective April 1. Previously, rewards were credited monthly in billing statements, but after April 1, rewards would only be credited when they reached $25.

Titen said Chase didn’t credit the rewards he earned before April 1. Instead, the company held those rewards toward the new $25 amount. When Bamboozled questioned the company about those pre-April 1 rewards, it refused to budge.

Titen complained to Hess, Chase and a variety of government agencies and consumer advocates, including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which covers national banks including Chase, but he didn’t expect to get anywhere.

Titen received a pleasant phone call last week.

“I just received a call from Chase Bank and it is going to credit my account for the unpaid rewards!” Titen wrote in an e-mail. “I asked her about the other thousands of people who were caught in the same problem and she could only say that the executives were aware and would consider the problem.”

Bamboozled called Chase and Hess to see if they were officially considering a policy change. Neither company returned our phone calls.

See, frustrated consumers, complaints sometimes do get results. A reminder: to contact the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, where a real person will investigate your complaints about many national banks, go online to occ.gov or call (800)613-6743.

“Dateline” mystery solved

We shared the tribulations of Sheri Neuwirth, the Verizon customer who couldn’t stop unexplained charges to her phone number. The charges turned out to be from a U.K.-based online gaming company named Jagex, for a game called Runescape, probably played by her son.

The remaining mystery was why the phone charges said “Dateline” and not Jagex. (The company name originally led Neuwirth to believe the charges were for an adult entertainment phone line. Bamboozled linked the phone number to Jagex with a simple Google search.) ‘It is not, in any way, connected to us,” Mod Mac, a billing support team leader for Jagex, said in an e-mail.

“This must have been a charge made by another company entirely. When adding membership credit for any of our products, ‘RuneScape’ or ‘Jagex’ would be the only two names detailed on the phone bill.”

But Jagex had to be Dateline, we surmised. The charges were for the precise amounts charged for the gaming site, and Jagex has Neuwirth’s phone number listed in its computer system for several different user accounts.

We asked Verizon to take a closer look at “Dateline.” After peeling through layers of middlemen, Verizon spokesman Rich Young found “Dateline” is used by a Florida-based company called Champion Communications. It provides 900-number billing services.

Champion does billing for many clients, including Jagex, said Champion vice president Martin Cherry. But he said Jagex shouldn’t be listed as “Dateline” on a bill. He said at some time, that 900-number was used by a company called “Dateline,” and when Jagex took it over, the name wasn’t changed in the billing system.

“We will get that fixed right away, which could mean two or three billing cycles,” Cherry said.

Two or three billing cycles means “right away?” That’s speedy customer service for you.

THE EXACT NAME GAME

Bamboozled reported New Jerseyans with two first or last names, or with an apostrophe in their name, couldn’t get their legal names on their driver’s licenses because the Motor Vehicle Commission’s antiquated computer system doesn’t allow for spaces or apostrophes. Mary Ellen Jones has to be Maryellen or just Mary, and John D’Agosto has to be Dagosto.

That hasn’t changed since we covered the story, but here’s a new twist for you two-namers: The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) is in the process of instituting new rules for collecting airline passenger information. The “Secure Flight” program, among other things, asks passengers to buy their airline tickets using the exact name that appears on their identification. The TSA will use that information to compare passenger lists to government watch lists.

So for those New Jerseysans who have two first names or use an apostrophe, you had better book your flight using the name on your license — whether it’s your legal name or not.

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