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New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Files Complaint Against 'As Seen on TV' Company

Cynthia Cumming

Saturday, August 16, 2014 • 1:12am

FAIRFIELD, NJ - The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has filed a complaint against the popular "As Seen On TV" company, Telebrands, for violations of the Consumer Fraud Act.

According to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, the Fairfield-based company is accused of "aggressively upselling products through its automated phone system and websites, failing to provide means for consumers to opt out of the ordering process, shipping and billing for products not ordered by consumers, and using misleading advertisements, among other violations."

“As demonstrated by its alleged actions, Telebrands cannot be trusted to do right by its customers or to even honor its own 2001 pledge to follow our consumer protection laws,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "We are bringing this action to end the abusive business practices that Telebrands allegedly is inflicting upon consumers.”

The five-count complaint was filed by the state in Essex County Superior Court by the Division of Law and also claims Telebrands "violated the terms of a 2001 Final Consent Judgment and Order that resolved prior litigation with the state and, among other things, required the company to comply with the Consumer Fraud Act. "

Between 2012 and July, 2014, 340 consumer complaints regarding Telebrands' business practices. The OAG and Division of Consumer Affairs launched an undercover investigation, posing as consumers purchasing "As Seen on TV" products.

Over several months, Division of Consumer Affairs investigators made undercover purchases of "As Seen on TV" Telebrands products including "Instabulbs," "Olde Brooklyn Lantern," and the "Pocket Hose." Purchases were made via several Telebrands websites and toll-free numbers featured on TV commercials and infomercials.

What followed, according to investigators, was a telephone ordering process lasting a half-hour or more; aggressive upselling; failure to provide information on purchase, cancellation, and return policies; and the inability to speak to a customer service representative.

Investigators also reported that they were charged for products they did not order and online ordering did not provide the ability to edit a shopping cart, causing additional products to be ordered while a review of the order was unavailable before purchase.

“This action against Telebrands alleges that consumers were repeatedly pressured through gimmickry misrepresentations, and high-pressure sales tactics to buy products they didn’t want,” Acting Consumer Affairs Director Steve Lee said.  “What’s just as unconscionable is that when consumers attempted to return unwanted products and obtain refunds, they allegedly couldn’t reach actual customer service representatives and were subjected to return policies that differed from what was represented in ads and on the company’s web site.”

An investigator that purchased a "Pocket Hose" provided an email address and automatically enrolled in the "Everyday Family Savings” program at $19.95, and was told he had to call that day to cancel or it would renew each month.

The company responded in a statement saying "customer satisfaction is important."

"We take pride that for more than three decades, tens of millions of consumers have trusted Telebrands for delivering innovative products," said A.J. Khubani, president of Telebrands. "Consumer satisfaction is always our top priority. We are confident that this matter with the state of New Jersey will be resolved in short order."

To read the OAG press release in its entirety, go to: http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/press/08132014.htm.

Consumers can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or (973) 504-6200 if they believe they have been a victim of any type of consumer abuse.

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