The state of New Jersey has filed suit against Jennifer Convertibles Inc. charging it with selling defective merchandise and improperly billing customers. The state is seeking an order barring the company from violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and ordering it to pay up to $7,500 for each violation.

The suit also names Jennifer Leather retail stores. New Jersey authorities said they opened an investigation after receiving more than 100 consumer complaints.

The suit, filed in Union County Superior Court, alleges that the company sold damaged and substantially damaged furniture. It also says Jennifer violated state consumer protection laws by failing to disclose the former price range and the actual price reduction of sale items in its advertising.

Undercover consumer affairs agents said they were unable to find advertised sale items in any of the New Jersey Jennifer showrooms they visited.

The state also charges that Jennifer improperly billed consumers, failed to return deposits, failed to make refunds on canceled orders and failed to respond to consumer reports of damaged or defective merchandise.

"These practices cannot and will not go unpunished," Michael Herr, director of New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs, said.

In neighboring New York, the Attorney General's office said it mediated 15 complaints against Jennifer this year. In 1998, the New York Attorney General entered into a consent decree with the company, enjoining it from engaging in any deceptive, fraudulent or illegal activity.