For more than a year, federal and state safety officials have been trying to stop of the use of certain drop-side cribs, because of the danger of infant suffocation. A year ago the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled all Simplicity drop-side cribs because of the problem. But Tim, of Sacramento, Calif., reports a problem trying to return his crib.

“As per the CPSC Simplicity Crib Recall and confirmed by JC Penney's own recall web page I attempted to return my recalled Simplicity Vienna Crib and Changer Combo for a refund or store credit,” Tim told ConsumerAffairs.com. “However, JCP refused to honor the recall because we were not the 'original purchasers' of this crib/combo set, therefore we lacked an invoice or receipt. It was actually a baby shower gift from former co-workers, emphasis on former as I no longer work there and neither do the people who likely purchased the crib for my baby shower gift. After hours trying to get JCP to read their own press release - they actually had the nerve to tell us they would refund $5.97.”

Here is the CPSC's original recall notice. Nowhere in it does it say a consumer has to be the “original purchaser.” Since the manufacturer is no longer in business, retailers like Penney's have to eat the cost, and may be looking for ways to have consumers like Tim eat some of the cost as well. Tim should report this to the CPSC.

Big help

It's bad enough that a company can't repair a problem with their product, but what if they return it to you in worse shape? That's what Adrianne, of West Chester, Pa., says happened with her Toshiba laptop.

“I sent my laptop in for warranty repair as some of the characters on the Keyboard were not registering,” Adrianne said. “They called and stated it was spill damage not covered under warranty, and they would return the laptop to me.”

When she got her computer back, Adrianne said the keyboard was not reattached.

“They also, neglected to include the black strip they removed above keyboard to secure it down,” she said. “They sent me back the laptop with pieces missing on it and not put back together as I sent it to them. I asked for the pieces back they said no.”

Andrianne said Toshiba told her that once technicians see damage they immediately stop work on the product and return it to customer as-is.

“Their policy states, they will return it to me as they received it,” Adrianne said. “That was not the case here.”

Adrianne isn't arguing with Toshiba's decision not to repair her computer. She simply wants all the parts back. We have to agree, this doesn't seem like an unreasonable request.

Another 'free' trial

All kinds of products that are offered on a 'free' trial basis usually end up costing consumers a lot more.

I was offered a "free trial" for Prado's electric cigarettes on the Internet through my hotmail account,” Nancy, of Laguna Beach, Calif. , told ConsumerAffairs.com. “ All I had to pay was $12.95 for the shipping.”

But Nancy reports a few weeks later two unauthorized charges of $149 and $69 appeared on her credit card statement.

“I never agreed to these charges, nor was I ever aware they existed,” she said. “I promptly returned the merchandise unopened to Prado and I have the tracking numbers.”

But Nancy encountered fierce resistance when she tried to get her money back. Though Prado had charged over $200 to her card, Nancy said they would only agree to refund $40. She ended up cancelling her credit card.

It's just another reason to never agree to pay a small “shipping and handling fee” with your credit card to get a “free trial.” Once any company has your credit card, nothing will be “free.”

Avoid debt settlement schemes

We continue to get a lot of complaints from consumers about debt settlement companies. These firms promise to help consumers reduce their credit card debt or other bills, but it hardly ever works out.

“I hired Impact Debt Settlement to help with debt reduction but they took $4200 and did nothing but increase my debt,” Stephen, of Franklin, Mass., said. “Stay away from this company.”

Actually, the best advice is to stay away from any company that charges an upfront fee with the promise of providing relief from debts. That is no longer allowed under federal law.

Debt settlement companies usually advise consumers to stop paying their creditors and to instead set up a special account to build savings that will be used in the future to negotiate a settlement. As the consumer deposits savings into the account, the debt settlement company withdraws money to cover its fees even though it hasn't reached a settlement with creditors. By stopping payments to creditors, the consumer ends up with a worse credit score, additional penalty fees and more interest charges.