Zero Interest?

(WSVN) - You see the ads all the time. “Zero interest” for a certain time frame. But does zero interest really mean no interest? That wasn’t the case for one woman, and it’s why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Cleo loves music. Cleo loves the elderly.

And so she combines the two.

Cleo Prieto: “I go to places where there is elderly people living, and then I go and play my piano with funny hats, and they just get a kick out of it.”

Making the elderly in a nursing home happy makes Cleo happy.

But when she looks at herself lately, she sees a sad person.

Cleo Prieto: “I’m very depressed lately, because I have this problem.”

Cleo Prieto
Cleo Prieto

The problem started when Cleo needed a new central air conditioning unit that cost about $6,000.

Cleo Prieto: “The salesman came over here. He was very nice. ‘You’re gonna get free financing. The first two two years, there’s no interest. So I said, ‘Wow, that is great.'”

For the next two years, Cleo paid each month under what she thought was a no interest plan.

And then…

Cleo Prieto: “So then, here we are, two years later, and I get their statement, and now I don’t owe $5,000. I owe over $9,000, and I’m going, ‘What?!'”

Cleo was surprised, because she has this document where the salesperson wrote “zero interest for 24 months.” But now she got a bill for that, nearly $4,000 in interest.

So she picked up the phone.

Cleo Prieto: “I spoke to the supervisor and told him, and he said, ‘No, it accumulates after the two years. You have to pay it all.’ And I said, ‘But that’s not what the paper says.'”

Cleo says she did not see a clause that says she would have to pay all that interest if the AC wasn’t paid off within two years.

Cleo Prieto: “I don’t really look at the fine print sometimes. I trust people, and that’s very bad.”

And now the reality: With a $9,316 bill for that air conditioner, her monthly payments have gone from $60 to $310.

Cleo Prieto: “I’ve been crying every day since this happened because I’m so stressed out.”

Well, Howard, this piece of paper says “zero interest for 24 months,” but the contract apparently says something else. Legally, where does Cleo stand?

Howard Finkelstein: “Because you have different paperwork saying different things, it’s not clear and conspicuous to the consumer. And because it’s confusing to a consumer, in many cases, the courts will rule in favor of someone like Cleo.”

We contacted Home Depot, where Cleo bought her AC unit. A spokesman told us the terms and conditions were included in the credit application, and prior to the expiration of the two-year no-interest promotion, two of Cleo’s statements read: “You must pay your promotional balance in full by 08/20/16 to avoid paying deferred interest charges.”

But — and this is a great but — we were told by Home Depot, because of the unique circumstances, and “we never want a customer to feel misled,” Home Depot made an exception.”

The $3,888 in interest was wiped out. Cleo does not have to pay it.

Cleo Prieto: “I have been thanking the Lord for this, and you guys. I just can’t believe it.”

Cleo is so happy with Home Depot and us, she did what she does best: started singing.

Cleo Prieto: (singing) “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Channel 7. Help Me Howard, Help Me Howard. And he did, he did help me.”

Now, if that doesn’t make you smile … thanks, Cleo. And what Home Depot did, wiping out that interest, is amazing.

Now, if you have any kind of loan and don’t believe you were treated right, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They can help you.

A problem got you singing the blues? Wanna strike up a different chord? Let it play out with us, ’cause we will never say we have zero interest in helping you.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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