Elderly parent conned into purchasing extended vehicle warranty

Dear Consumer Ed:

I came across a $395 charge on my 88 year-old father’s Visa card statement.  My father has dementia, and was conned into purchasing an extended warranty on his 2011 vehicle.  My father will be charged $160 per month for the next 18 months.  I have contacted the business directly, but the issue has not been resolved. What can I do, and how can I help prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future?  

Consumer Ed says:

If your father is in fact mentally incompetent, then there may be an issue as to his capacity to enter a legally binding agreement.  Whether the business actually understood your father’s condition at the time it sold your father the extended warranty isn’t clear, but if his condition is obvious, or there are other ways you can prove that the business knew or should have known this at the time of the transaction, then the business may have been acting in an unfair or deceptive manner in violation of Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act (“FBPA”). If you believe this is the case, you should seek the assistance of an attorney.  Additionally, you may file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Division at www.consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600.

As far as your options for preventing this type of situation going forward, you may want to consider becoming your father’s guardian in some capacity.  The Division of Aging Services within the Georgia Department of Health and Human Services has compiled a summary of guardianship law in Georgia that you may find helpful.  You can contact them at www.aging.georgia.gov or by calling 404-657-5258 (toll-free at 1-866-552-4464).

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