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.
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.