Pennsylvania Sues Computer E-Tailer for Web Shopping Scam

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office filed suit against a brick-and-click computer retailer Thursday for allegedly selling thousands of computer systems to U.S. consumers while failing to deliver the products ordered.

The suit, filed in Commonwealth Court in Pennsylvania, also maintains that Computer Personalities Systems of Buck County and its president George Capel failed to accept returns and refused to honor warranty and rebate claims.

“This company’s alleged pattern of outright fraud and deception is one of the worst that my office has handled,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher said. “Consumers paid for computer systems that they did not receive or received piecemeal months after their initial order. We contend that the promises this outfit made were not kept, and when consumers canceled their orders they were denied refunds.”

Barbara Petito, deputy press secretary of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, told the E-Commerce Times that Computer Personalities Systems shut down its Web site Thursday.

Multitude of Complaints

Petito said that the Attorney General’s office received more than 1,400 complaints against the company, with approximately 10 percent of the complaints coming from Pennsylvania residents. The office believes that many more consumers were defrauded who did not file complaints.

The suit alleges that Computer Personalities Systems, which also owned a brick-and-mortar store named Video Computer Store, advertised and sold computers online and ran a nationwide television campaign. The ads promised consumers complete computer systems for varying prices.

However, Petito said that in many instances, the company failed to deliver merchandise at all, and in other cases, after consumers complained, the company would ship one component and then a few weeks or months later ship another component. Federal law requires companies to deliver merchandise within 30 days or notify the consumer of a delay.

“We allege that the defendants continued to sell computer systems even after it became clear that the defendants were unable or unwilling to fulfill orders,” Fisher said.

No Refunds

Many consumers who received computers on a piecemeal basis requested a refund, but were told, according to Petito, that the 30-day refund period had expired and that they were ineligible for a refund.

“They started the clock on the refund when you received part of the order,” Petito said. “We contend that you cannot start the clock until the consumer receives the complete system.”

According to the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center 22 percent of complaints made to the center during its first six months of operation involved merchandise that was ordered and paid for, but not delivered.

Looking for Justice

The suit also alleges that the defendants misrepresented and did not honor warranties, rebates and guarantees, and that they falsely advertised in-home warranty services.

The Attorney General’s office has asked the Pennsylvania court to permanently bar the defendants from engaging in deceptive and fraudulent conduct, and to pay full restitution to defrauded consumers.

The suit also asks that civil penalties of US$1,000 per violation, and $3,000 for each violation involving a person 60 or older, be assessed.

9 Comments

  • I ordered a system from vcstore in November 99 only received a monitor. Filed suit with Pennsylvania Court. I called FBI. I E-mailed attorney general. I have heard nothing from any of them and AM out over $2000.00.

  • I just happen to run across your web page, I also bought a computer from Computer personalities back in Feb, sent them a check for $1896.00, They cashed it on March 1,01, and went bankrupt March 23,01. I have sent in many forms to the attorney general’s office, along with a copy of my canceled check, I have heard nothing. To have saved this money to get a computer, just to lose it to these people, it pisses me off, I can not get any results, I feel it was just my tough luck. You would think someone would be out there looking after all of us that have gotten into this predicament. but no, NO WORD

  • Biggest mistake of my life, buying my first computer on line. I received everything months after

    every thing separate. First my monitor arrived, then months down the road the tower arrived.

    I didn’t get the scanner nor printer, so I called their worthless customer service line and was on hold

    for an hour. At that time things were still okay, they told they didn’t have a time frame to send me my

    scanner and printer. They offered a refund so I can go buy them on my own. Within the month

    they had sent me a check for $240. I went to buy them myself. Now I have an issue with my CD-RW,

    the system cannot detect one. I know I ordered it, but now there’s no number to call for technical support.

    Do any of you know how I can go about this, do I have to take the computer in somewhere here in town.

    Thank you.

  • I want to add my complaint against the VCS and MBNA. I ordered my PC in Jan. of 2000. Feb. 2000, I received the monitor and scanner. Mar.2000 I received the CPU, late mar.2000 I received the speakers. In April, 2000 I received my printer, which was defective. I know I received the printer because after numerous phone calls to VCS, I decided to contact my local news station who had a program to help consumers with problems, they also got the run-around, but eventally I received the printer. VCS and MBNA committed fraud in my opinion, because they stated $54.00 a month on the tv ad for the PC I ordered only to find out I had to pay $85.00. I Accurred interest but should not have because the tv ad said make no payments until May or June if you purchase in 1/2000. This has been a nightmare. I feel cheated, I feel stupid. I feel I was taken advantage of. My PC cost $1829.0. I have been paying on this PC since last year and my balance is at $1500.00. I pay $100.00 a month. My annual percentage rate is 26.99 percent. If that is not a rip-off I don’t know what is.

  • Hello Anja,

    I’m sorry to hear that you were scamed like that. I work for cardservice international which is the largest credit card processor in the united states. MBNA is a side stream competitor but they do have a very good customer support center. If you haven’t already give them a call and explain what happened. They may be able to implement what’s called a “charge back” against the company.

    Charge backs were created to help consumers from being scamed. Wish you luck

    Scott S.

  • I AM one of the thousands of people who ordered from the VC Store. Guess we were lucky cos we got the entire system. But when we started having problems this January it took numerous telephone conversations with Technicians that didn’t help. That is after hours of being on hold. We finally got a RMA # to send the computer in for repair and got it back the 14th of this month. But it is still not working properly. Now the VC Store is closed and I understand no warranties will be honored etc. What a rip off in general. We got the computer financed thru MBNA and already paid it off, but who is going to help us getting it into proper working order now? I could write on and on about this, but I don’t want to work myself up. But I AM going to be included in a law suit filed by the PA Attorney and I AM also filing with other places.

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