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Can a four-year-old get a discount on wine? What about a 104-year-old?

A typo on a rebate form is turning out to be the crux of a dispute over an unpaid discount, that has led an Illinois man to file a proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of any consumer who may have had a similar rebate submission denied.

New court documents are shedding new light on the case that Brent Holmes of Mattoon, Illinois first filed against rebate processor Inmar Intelligence back in March, which was transferred to federal court last month. Holmes’ submission for a $9 rebate on the purchase of six bottles of Yellow Tail wine was rejected by Inmar on behalf of its client, even though he claimed to have “complied with all of the terms of the rebate offer” in filling out and mailing in his form. Instead, he said Inmar deceptively promoted rebates it had no intention of honoring, by “concealing” from consumers that “if Inmar discovered a typographical error or mistake was made on the rebate form, that the rebate would not be paid.”

He didn’t elaborate on the “typographical error” that apparently prompted his submission to be rejected. But in a response filed with the court, Inmar did.

“Holmes filled out an invalid date of birth — that of September 12, 2015 — far below the required 21 years of age,” Inmar explained, as it provided a copy of Holmes’ signed form to the court (see the image above). “As a result, his rebate request was denied.” Simple as that.

“There is nothing remotely deceptive about Inmar’s conduct or the rebate terms, and Holmes’ allegations of deceptive conduct simply are not plausible,” Inmar went on. “Moreover, it is apparent on the face of the rebate form that Holmes did not comply with all of the terms of the rebate offer, by entering an invalid (and incorrect) date of birth.”

Anyone who’s ever mailed in a rebate request knows that it’s important to comply with all of the terms and read all the requirements carefully.

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But Holmes says it’s not as simple as that. In his newly-filed response to Inmar’s argument, he argues that “the written terms of the rebate offer do not state that the consumer must provide a date of birth.” Instead, he says he complied with the terms of the rebate offer by signing the statement reading “I certify that I am 21 years of age or older and agree to the terms.” Besides, he says, his age was a given because he couldn’t even have purchased wine unless he was 21 or older.

“It is disingenuous to suggest that Holmes is disqualified from receiving the rebate” just because he wrote down an incorrect date of birth, Holmes’ response continues. If his year of birth was really 2015, then at the time of his 2019 purchase, “Holmes must have been a very precocious 4-year-old, able to print, fill out and mail a rebate form at that tender age,” Holmes’ response goes on. “In addition, he must have looked far older than his chronological age, so much so that he was able to trick a cashier into selling him six bottles of Yellow Tail wine.”

Besides, he points out, “the year ’15’ could instead refer to 1915, in which case Holmes clearly would have been old enough to purchase wine.”

After his submission was rejected, Holmes said he tried resolving the issue over the phone, but by that time he was told the rebate offer had expired and there was nothing he could do to get his $9. So he decided to turn to the courts.

Holmes’ original lawsuit suggested that he also had an issue receiving a rebate for the purchase of St. James wine, but Inmar points out that it doesn’t even handle rebates for that company.

So was Inmar presumptuous in concluding that Holmes was not actually a 104-year-old wine enthusiast? Or was Inmar too strict in holding Holmes to his accidental claim of being four years old? Or is Holmes the one who’s at fault for not filling out his form more carefully?

It could be up to a jury to decide. And then we’ll learn whether not following the rules – or creating rules that are just too strict – turns out to be more costly in the end.

Image source: Yellow Tail

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