THE CONSUMER CONNECTION
Pay on time, or pay dearly
Wait a minute! That bill just arrived, policies: American Express, 20 days; Costco
and it’s due in just a few days!? Am credit card, 23 days.
I imagining things?
I am hearing that outcry from Thanks, Johnny
angry consumers across the country, and Who would have ever thought that
they’re not imagining things. More and more, Johnny Carson was a closet-case consumer
account holders are opening their credit-card advocate who, deep down, wanted to go after
bills to find their new payment rip-off artists and expose them
is due in a matter of days. And if for the frauds they are?
it’s paid late, it could mean a Well, it’s true! For the 10
costly penalty. years I appeared as a guest on his
For the past several years, show, the “King of Late Night”
card issuers have been reducing was fascinated by consumer is-the grace period between the sues. And, with his special brand
time a statement is printed and of humor, Johnny helped me ex-when the payment is due. Five pose villains in the marketplace,
years ago, the industry average test questionable products and
was about 25 to 30 days to pay educate people about their con-a bill. Now, it’s closer to 20 days, sumer rights.
and gradually shrinking. David Horowitz Carson, who passed away in
“That must be illegal!” we cry. Unfor- January, was instrumental in helping me build
tunately, it’s not: Federal law requires only a my career as a consumer reporter by constantly
14-day window from a bill’s print date to its joking about my crusades in his monologues,
due date. even when I wasn’t on the show. If he dis-
What’s the rush? One bank analyst from cussed some ridiculous scam, as an aside he
Bankrate.com explains, “Time is money. They would often throw in a quip like “I am going
shorten that grace period and they get their to tell David Horowitz on them!”— invoking
money back a little quicker. When you’re talk- a popular slogan being used by the network.
ing about billions of dollars, a few days’ dif- But he was often at the height of comedy
ference can be big for the issuers’ bottom line.” when he impersonated me on his Mighty
This is important news for consumers. Carson Art Players as “David Howitzer—the
The shorter turnaround means that bills Big Gun of the Consumer Movement.” He
really have to be opened, examined and paid used the character to take shots at scams, cons
as they arrive, instead of the once- or twice- and ridiculous product advertising.
monthly ritual maintained by many people. He went so far as to borrow suits and ties
If you miss a bill payment date it could out of my wardrobe at NBC Studios in Bur-
mean a hefty penalty that averages around bank, where I taped my Fight Back! with David
$30. In some cases it can be more. Horowitz show and where he also taped The
But there are simple ways to avoid late- Tonight Show. He even had my makeup artist
payment penalties. The key is to stay on top construct a look-alike wig. Johnny made sure
of your finances. the skits were true comedy, yet he poked real
■ Open your billing statements as soon fun at how people ripped themselves off by
as they arrive. Mark the payment deadline not reading labels and not questioning things
on the outside of the envelope. that were too good to be true.
■ Make sure you keep the bills in Johnny would introduce me as “Read-
order, arranging them by date. The next Those-Labels Horowitz.” Doc Severinsen’s
one due should be on the top of the pile orchestra played my show’s musical theme,
or in the front. and then the musicians would end the tune
■ Check the bills and due dates every shouting “Fight Back!”
few days, to make sure nothing is missed. Through comedy, he educated people to
■ Payments should be mailed with be aware and informed, and I am grateful to
enough lead time for processing before the him for letting me be a part of it. C
Ask David Horowitz
Our condo association denied our
request to install a satellite dish,
even though two other condos have a
dish installed on that side on the same
street. Isn’t there a law that prevents
them from denying the installation?
Brick, New Jersey
John, a person has the right to
install a satellite dish on properties
or areas of properties that they own,
lease or rent. This includes single-family homes, condos, co-ops and
townhomes. However, this does not
hold true for common areas, such as
the roof or exterior walls of a multi-ple-dwelling unit.
Read these regulations carefully
to see if your situation applies. If so,
then I suggest you resubmit a written
proposal to your condo association,
with a printout of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. If they refuse again, request a
written explanation of their decision.
You may learn they are within their
right to refuse you if the installation
point is located on a common area.
If the condo association cannot
justify its decision, I suggest you file
a formal complaint with the FCC.
The regulation can be found on
the FCC Web site at
■ Explore your options with online bill David Horowitz’s national radio program airs
payment. It can make paying on time less Sundays on Talk Radio Network. Check the
stressful. Many banks now offer free or low- radio page at
www.fightback.com for times.
cost, secure online bill-payment systems.
Editor’s note: The two credit card programs accepted at Costco have the following
To ask David Horowitz a question,
log on to
and “Ask David.” He will personally
respond to your problem if you follow
the instructions printed on his Web
site. (Costco members receive a
rebate off the normal fee.)
Questions and answers of the greatest interest to Costco members will
be used in this column with the permission of the contributor, and will
be posted on