MagicJack Refund Lost in Customer-Identity Snafu

Earlier this year I ordered a MagicJack Voice-over-IP USB phone hub from MagicJack's Web site, planning to use it with a Mac laptop. The unit came with a 30-day no-risk refund policy, so when it did not work as advertised with my Mac, I obtained a return merchandise authorization on the site and sent the product back via UPS. A month later, with no refund in sight, I contacted via online chat a customer service rep, who confirmed that the unit had been received and assured me that the refund would be forthcoming. To date, I have gone through five tech chats, and each representative has promised to take my problem to the next level of support. Anything you can do to help?

Bob Green, Los Angeles

OYS Responds: MagicJack told us that at least some of the confusion stemmed from the presence in its database of several customers surnamed Green--compounded by the fact that the reader had used two different e-mail addresses and had also switched between "Robert" and "Bob" in his communications with the company. Green had kept no records of his chat sessions, either. A MagicJack rep eventually found the correct account record and issued a refund.

MagicJack says it recently upgraded its RMA system to use bar codes, which should help to prevent problems identifying customers with similar names. However, we recommend that you be consistent in identifying yourself to vendors, including using the same name and e-mail address in all correspondence. We also recommend keeping copies of all online chat sessions; some firms will e-mail such records to you, but regardless you should copy each chat, paste it into a text document, and save it before closing the chat window. Terms-of-Service Complaint

James D. Wick of San Leandro, California, wrote in about the terms of service for one of our Most Innovative Products of the Year, the financial aggregation site

Wick, an attorney, was concerned about the combination of a requirement that users grant a limited power of attorney and agent status, and a $500 limit on liability. User terms for Mvelopes and Quicken Online, services that also aggregate financial information, don't make such demands. "Although those are both one-sided agreements drafted to protect the drafter and strictly limiting liability, neither requires the granting of power of attorney," Wick wrote.

Anton Commissaris, vice president for revenue and business development at, says the company believes it is "prudent and appropriate" to insist on power-of-attorney authority in order to access information on financial institution sites on the consumer's behalf.

"The power of attorney is not authorization to defraud the consumer," Commissaris says. He adds that should abuse this power to commit fraud, "the consumer would be protected by federal antifraud banking law," so the $500 liability limit would be moot.

Eric Goldman, assistant professor and director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara (California) University School of Law, says that's power-of-attorney requirement might address bans on password sharing in some online-banking agreements. But he understands Wick's concern. "This might not be the right service for some," he says.

Yardena Arar contributed to this story.

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