Harry Gross: Gritting teeth over dentist's credit rule

Posted: September 05, 2012

DEAR HARRY: For a number of reasons, I changed dentists last month. Since I'm a new patient, his secretary insisted that I present my credit card for an "open bill" to protect the dentist from having collection problems. I hesitated, but ultimately did it because I was told he would not even see me without it. Since I have never been asked to do this, I contacted Visa to see if it was OK. The lady I spoke with said that they do not permit such things. But the dentist has the paper I signed. What's the score here, Harry?

WHAT HARRY SAYS: Having preauthorized or open credit-card charges is common among hotels and car-rental companies. There is apparently no way Visa, MasterCard, etc., can prevent it. There are no consumer-protection laws that I'm aware of that prohibit it. In any such case, your regular examination of the bills from the card issuers is the way to make sure you haven't been erroneously charged. If you have, the issuers are very diligent in getting rid of bad charges. Too many people do not examine their statements carefully and wind up paying more than they should. I think, as you must, that it's highly unprofessional. My guess is that your dentist got burned once or twice for large amounts.


Email Harry Gross at harrygross@phillynews.com or write to him at Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, Box 8263 Philadelphia, PA 19101. Harry urges all his readers to give blood - contact the American Red Cross at 800-Red Cross.

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