Maine good at protecting consumers

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DEAR SUN SPOTS: I am writing because you are always so good at helping people.

One year ago last May I ordered a deal from Dish network, a two-year commitment with a $100 gift card as bonus. One had to go online to get the gift card and have the payment taken out of your bank account.

My son went online for me and did as directed to get the gift card, but nothing ever came in the mail.

I called twice and was told go online. I tried to get the address, but it was nowhere to be found. One day I saw an address and wrote — nothing. I wrote again — nothing.

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Please help if you can. — Frustrated in Auburn

ANSWER: Sun Spots often has poor luck with big, national companies — they do not seem to be impressed by her clout — and she did not have any better luck with Dish.

However, you do have recourse. Maine has very strong consumer protection laws, which are enforced by the Consumer Protection Department in the Maine Attorney General’s Office. They should be able to help you get your $50.

You can call them at 800-436-2131 (9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday), email consumer.mediation@maine.gov or write to the Attorney General’s Consumer Division, 6 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.

Details of this protection may be found at www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/index.shtml.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I have been trying to find out about a thing called YouTube. You plug it into your TV and get all kinds of free channels — no cable or satellite to pay.

It can be bought at Walmart or Best Buy; Radio Shack doesn’t have it. These are free government programs.

Thanks for all you do. — No Name, Lewiston

ANSWER: YouTube is not a device. It is a website where anyone can send their own videos that others can then watch. The variety is staggering. There is government content, as well as clips from TV shows, music videos, celebrity interviews, cats playing the piano and how-to videos, among thousands of other options.

You can watch YouTube on your TV, but you will need any one of a variety of different devices as well as Internet access. This means you would have to pay a monthly fee for broadband Internet from either your cable company or the phone company (DSL). Costs vary but you can expect to pay about $30 to $35 a month for access.

Then you would need to have some other equipment — an Internet-enabled TV or some sort of box that allows you to stream Internet content.

There are people you can hire to set up that kind of system, such as Best Buy’s Geek Squad, but it won’t be cheap. So if your goal was to save money, this probably isn’t an option.

You can save money if you are willing to give up cable or satellite television altogether and go online only. Many young people (and some older ones, like Sun Spots) have done so and consume all their media via the Internet using website applications such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, etc.

The problem with doing that for some people is the lack of sports coverage online. Sports is the big money-maker for cable and satellite TV because people don’t want to wait to see the event. This means they are less likely to record the program and watch it later, skipping the commercials.

So commercial air time for sports is more valuable than, say, for dramas or movies, which are readily available online.

Technology analysts have been predicting for a while that TV and the Internet will eventually merge. Already some of the premium stations (such as HBO) have applications that allow online viewing.

Meanwhile, cable companies are seeing the number of people who subscribe for television decline even though more people are signing up with the cable companies for broadband Internet access.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be emailed to sunspots@sunjournal.com.

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