Legal question--obliged to return an "accidental" refund?

I recently purchased a computer, and somehow the company “accidentaly” refunded the full amount of the purchase price to my credit card. Now they’ve sent me a form letter demanding authorization from me for them to charge my credit card once again.

Two questions: do I have to pay them once again, since I have a receipt for the original purchase?

Can they screw with my credit rating if I don’t choose to pay them back, or delay payment while I argue with them about this?

I know that morally I may be obliged to agree to their request. I’d just like to know exactly where I stand on the issue as I chew them out about this.

Zarathustra, I don’t have an answer for you, but your question immediately reminded me of The $95,093.35 Check. Warning: You’ll need a chunk of free time to read the whole thing, but it’s worth the effort!

Assuming you do eventually reconcile yourself to re-paying them, bear in mind that their mistake has probably cost you money: eg transaction fees on your account; possibly tax liability. You’re perfectly entitled to deduct those expenses, and the cost of your time, from your re-payment. But first get them to acknowledge the reduction. You might then also find it easier to pay by cheque rather than authorising another credit card debit: eliminates the possibility of them “accidentally” debiting the full amount.

That 95K link was one of the more amusing things I have read since Scylla’s goat story.

Why do you feel obliged to chew them out and argue? To what end? You have received the PC and are obliged to pay for it regardless of the companies clerical error which they have acknowledged, and are trying in good faith, to correct. They can sue you (and probably win) in court and if they get a judgement against you, can effectively nuke your credit rating if you don’t pay.

The law has relatively little patience for people trying to be cute this way. If you’ve received the merchandise just pay the bill. Why be a PITA about it. If you screw up someday and are trying in good faith to correct the error would you like someone to jerk you around?

If you are fully aware that the computer purchase has NOT been finalized, i.e., pay in the computer in full, you HAVE to pay up. Of course, if you can prove that you have already paid for the computer and they are trying to paid a second time around, that’s another story.

Curious,what is/are your point(s) of argument? Aside from trying to get a “free” computer, what are you arguing? “I paid you and you rejected my payment, so the computer is mine and I won’t pay for your mistake” is that your argument? I just cannot see how that would hold up in court.

“Chew them out” about what? Since you know you are morally obliged to do so, I am not sure what you are chewing them out for.


If I had exhibited certain bad business practices the way this company has, which I have not mentioned in this post, I would hardly hope that my customers would be so nice to me as I am being to them. These additional factors make it not at all certain that they would win any suit, if it came to it. But of course, it wouldn’t. When I say “chew them out”, it’s mainly these other problems that I’m thinking of; this accidental refund is only the last in a whole string of problems. I just want to make sure that I have their full attention ($3,000+ isn’t chump change), and knowing what my exact legal obligations are under the circumstances couldn’t hurt, could it?

Re astro: this is General Questions. Who the hell asked you for your opinion?

That’s more or less my situation–I already paid in full several months ago, and have a receipt to show it. Several months after this transaction is completed, they inexplicably refund the full purchase price to my credit card and then send me a form letter demanding authorization to charge me once again for a payment I already made. If one day they had just dropped $3,000 in cash into my mailbox, it’s pretty clear that they’d be out of luck, wouldn’t it? (Assuming that I’m not the nice guy that I am.) Is it any different with a credit card?

Pls see above. I didn’t think it was necessary to give a great deal of background on this, since this is just General Questions. Since you’re apparently so worried about it, though, I can assure you that I will pay them once again, though I don’t believe I’m strictly legally obliged to do so. By pointing this out, I’m hoping to draw attention to a couple of issues that concern me about the company and hopefully give them some impetus to shape up their sloppy service.

It’s a bonus sparky!

I am certain that the common law causes of action for money had and received and unjust enrichment are valid in most states. An advanced google search for the exact phrase “money had and received” turned up several references in legal dictionaries, case law synopses, etc. See, for example,

Essentially, you have no right to keep the money if that would be unfair to the computer company.

I have, twice in the last several years, written two checks to my power company for the same bill. My stupidity, but I fully expected them to credit my account. Which they did without me even asking. In fact, I didn’t even realize what I’d done until I saw the credit on my next bill.
Same principal, I think, but I can sympathize with your temptation to try to gain the $3K. :wink:
BTW; astro, as you may have noticed, isn’t exactly anti- big business. I suspect he might just have “aspirations”. :smiley:

quite a bit different, obviously. With the credit card you have knowledge and they have proof where the money came from.

Let me also point out another detail. in my state, there’s a crime called “larceny by conversion” which is where you obtain some one else’s property and by some manner manage to not pay for it (a variety of ways). (your location may call it something else). Basically, even though you did not engineer the ‘refund’, it has been pointed out to you, you have the product, and they do not have your payment.

If you’d paid with a check and the check had been credited by their bank for only a fraction of the cost, even tho it wasn’t their mistake or your mistake, you’d be obligated to pay the full agreed on price.

My suggestion is to pay up pronto. Barring that, I’d start talking to a lawyer who could more fully explain what legal situations you might have.

The IRS for example, if they issue you a refund that you didn’t deserve will take it very seriously if you cash it and refuse to cough it back up once the mistake is found.

There was a case in the UK a few years ago when a shopkeeper making a large purchase in a wholesale warehouse was told his purchase came to something like £98-00. Because of a mistake with the till (missing off the first digit or something) the actual price should have been £198-00. The man payed the lower figure but was later charged by the police for theft. The police said the man must have known the &98-00 was too low and should have pointed this out to the person on the till. He was found guilty.
On the other hand there has been a recent case where an insurance company paid out bonuses to about 200 people who should not have received them. After several months they tried to reclaim this money even when people had spent it. Today , after public pressure, they have decided not to ask for the refunds and have told people they can keep this overpayment