Rebate Podcast Transcript


Welcome to the Informed Consumer, providing the latest tips and tools to assist consumers in making informed decisions, from the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch.

Today’s topic: Rebates.

You just purchased three DVDs which promised a $3.00 rebate off the purchase price. You clipped the bar codes from the wrappers, circled each item on the receipt, and mailed them to the designated destination. Then you waited…and waited…and waited…for a rebate that never materialized. 

Be aware that most rebated items are sold at list price, providing the manufacturer with the highest profit margin. Despite this, the manufacturers are slow to pay the fulfillment company with which they contracted to collect and pay out the rebates. Therefore, if you failed to comply with the terms and conditions of the rebate which required that you obtain a separate receipt for each DVD that you purchased, and failed to keep copies of the receipts and bar codes, you may not receive your rebate. 

With an increasing number of companies using rebates to generate sales, it has become more difficult to redeem rebates, and increasingly important to follow a procedure to ensure that you have complied with the terms and conditions. 

Here is a Checklist for a Rebate

  • Always ask the sales clerk for separate sales receipt for each rebate item.
  • Match each sales receipt with the appropriate bar code from the item’s package.
  • Make photocopies of all original receipts and bar codes.
  • Save the rebate instructions with the copies of receipts and bar codes.
  • If the rebate is substantial, you may wish to send it by certified mail which will return a signed receipt as proof that the mail was received.
  • Most companies request your paperwork within 30 days, but some requests can be 7 days.
  • Once received by the company, the check can take 12 weeks to arrive.
  • Federal law states companies are required to send rebates within the time frame promised.  If no time frame is specified, then "reasonable" is interpreted as within 30 days.
  • If the check never arrives file a complaint with the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch at and also with the Federal Trade Commission at

Buyer Beware! 

Some companies are providing rebate gift cards, instead of checks, that are redeemable for products or services only from the issuing company. Some also carry expiration dates or activation fees, or lose value over time because of dormancy fees. If you are given a choice, opt for a check. 

Thanks for listening to the Informed Consumer. For more information on this topic or if you feel that you’ve been a victim of a scam, please contact the Consumer Affairs Branch at 703-222-8435 or visit our web site at Informed Consumer is produced by the Fairfax County, Virginia, government.


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