The Investigators: Redbox rental warning - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Redbox rental warning

By Andy Wise - bio | email

MEMPHIS (WMC TV) - The Chicago Better Business Bureau has revoked the membership of a discount DVD rental company for a pattern of complaints about unauthorized charges to customers' credit and debit cards.

Despite offering refunds to all of the 320 customers who filed complaints in the last three years, redbox (, the name is lower-case by design) lost its BBB membership and earned a "C" rating from the business watchdog.

"People were renting videos, returning them on time, being charged the right fee, and then later being charged an additional fee of $25, $50, sometimes $75," said Nancy Crawford, communications director for the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. "The Better Business Bureau felt like they did not address the underlying cause of the problem that kept causing people to file the same complaint."

Redbox's card-swiping vending machines have carved a niche in the movie rental market. Installed outside of retailers and restaurants, the machines offer $1-a-day rentals of the newest releases. Customers swipe either their credit or debit cards, and redbox bills their accounts.

"It's cheap and easy," said Lindsey Lowrie of Midtown. A former Blockbuster Video member, Lowrie told Action News 5 she has rented movies from redbox exclusively for the last five months.  "I've been very pleased.  (Unauthorized charges) have never shown up on my account."

Allen Barry's experience with redbox hasn't been as pleasing.

Barry told Action News 5's sister station WSMV he puts $20 allowance in his teenage daughter's checking account weekly. He said redbox mistakenly docked her account for two movies it said she didn't return. 

She, in fact, had returned the movies.

But Barry said redbox cleaned out her account and triggered overdraft charges from her bank.

"That $1 (rental) became more like $150," he said.

Barry said redbox refunded his daughter $60 for the extra charges on the movies, but offered no help to cover the bank's overdraft fees.

Redbox spokesperson Christopher Goodrich said the company accepts responsibility for the mistakes made on its customers' accounts. He said redbox wants to make amends, both with its customers and with the Better Business Bureau.

"Redbox has responded to all consumer complaints from the Better Business Bureau and all have had a satisfactory conclusion," said Goodrich in an e-mail to the Action News 5 Investigators.  "In fact, at our request, we met with the Better Business Bureau in person this week to discuss the process and timeline of having our accreditation reinstated. 

"Customer satisfaction is our first priority, and we continuously work to improve our service and policies to ensure we don't just meet, but exceed customer expectations."

Crawford said redbox's service carries a few policies consumers should know:

  • If you keep a movie more than 25 days, you own it.  Your account will be charged either $25 or the retail price of the DVD.
  • If you reserve a rental via redbox's web site, but don't show up at the redbox vendor to claim it, you are still charged for the rental.

The best way to avoid trouble with redbox is to use it the way it was designed to be used. Rent your movie, watch it that night, then return it the next morning. That may help ensure you get the value without the extra charges.

Customers should also try to enter their e-mail addresses on the video screen when prompted.  That is supposed to add them to an e-mail alert system that should let them know if, when and why their accounts have been assessed extra charges.

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