NY Attorney General Says Jewelry Chain Gave Bogus Deals to Service Members
According to a news release from New York State Attorney General Letitia James and reported by the Associated Press, some members of the military and their families may be due for payback from a jewelry who offered deals and charity contributions that weren't on the up-and-up.
AP reports: A national jewelry retailer that allegedly tricked active-duty service-members into buying overpriced, poor quality jewelry at high interest rates has agreed to reimburse thousands of customers and cease operating under terms of the settlement James announced on July 20.
The suit against Harris Jewelry was filed by 18 states and the Federal Trade Commission.
Harris Jewelry agreed to stop collecting more than $21-million in outstanding debt from more than 13,000 service-members nationwide, and to refund more than $12-million to more than 46,000service-members who paid for lifetime protection plans.
Harris has also agreed to pay a total of $1-million to the 18 states.
James was the lead plaintiff among the state attorneys general.
She says the company offered also had a marketing scheme, dubbed "Operation Teddy Bear" in which Harris Jewelry advertised teddy bears in military uniforms with promises of charitable donations. The investigation found no legal contract was actually signed between the jeweler and the charity it claimed to support, Operation Troop Aid, Inc.
In addition, sometimes customers were told all proceeds were going to charity while other times they were told only a portion of proceeds were donated.
The retailer, based in Hauppauge, New York, operated stores on or near military bases around the country. The company allegedly used predatory lending practices and charged as much as 10 times the wholesale cost for jewelry.
At times, the company charged anywhere from $39.99 to $349.99 for a protection plan. In some instances, the costs of the protection plan exceeded the wholesale cost Harris paid for the item.
Examples of inflated prices, shipping and handling and other fees found customers being charged more than they were initially told. the $799 Mother's Medal of Honor charged &79.99 for a protection plan, taxes and other fees to bring the total to $974.31. Figure in a 14.99% interest rate over ten months and the total amount the service member ended up paying was $1,039.26 for the item.
Meanwhile, customers reported stones falling out, chains breaking and the finish on the jewelry fading.
Harris also allegedly lured customers by asserting the lending contracts would improve their credit scores, when in actuality the credit offered was based on how much time was left on a service-member's enlistment and what type of merchandise they purchased.
The Attorney General's office says people who think they should get a refund will have to file for restitution:
Servicemembers and veterans who entered into a predatory financing loan with Harris Jewelry starting in January 2014 will be eligible for restitution to the extent they paid for warranties. An independent monitor will be installed to oversee the relief and contact eligible servicemembers and veterans. Eligible servicemembers and veterans will receive an email and letter in the mail notifying them of this agreement and their eligibility, servicemembers will then have to claim their restitution. If any individual did not receive a letter but believes they qualify, they should file a claim with the Watertown Regional Office.
In a statement July 20, Associated Press says the company noted it had neither admitted nor denied these allegations and had resolved the matter in the best interests of its stakeholders.
The states joining New York in the lawsuit were: Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington.
CHECK IT OUT: See the 100 most popular brands in America
READ MORE: See 50 remote jobs that can pay well