Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro has sued two out-of-state consumer promotion firms and their top officers for violating the state's Consumer Sales Practices Act by misrepresenting their "Cashable Voucher Program" to Ohio consumers, engaging in bait advertising, and failing to honor valid consumer claims.
Petro's lawsuit named as defendants Consumer Promotions, Inc. of Lees Summit, Missouri, and The Consumers Trust of New York, New York, and Aaron J. Racine, of Kansas City, Missouri.
They allegedly violated provisions of the Ohio's consumer protection law requiring companies to make the terms of any purchase agreement clear and conspicuous to consumers, according to the lawsuit.
"Many consumers bought goods because they were falsely promised they would later recoup all or part of their money if they submitted a so-called voucher claim," Petro said. "These consumers probably would not have purchased these goods without that fraudulent inducement. The misleading tactics used by the defendants will not be tolerated."
Petro said the companies' primary swindle, the Cashable Voucher Program, works as a "financial memory test" that consumers are expected to fail. Its underlying strategy is an assumption most consumers will forget to redeem their vouchers or fail to follow the complicated procedures to redeem them, Petro said.
According to the state's lawsuit, Consumer Promotions persuaded Ohio merchants to market the Cashable Voucher Program to consumers by claiming that potential consumers will be more likely to buy a merchant's product if they are offered an incentive to later get back all or part of their money through the voucher program.
Merchants were told that the cashable vouchers would eliminate price shopping and give customers an incentive to buy from them.
The Attorney General's Office has received more than 100 consumer complaints against The Consumers Trust alleging that terms and conditions for submitting a claim under the voucher program were difficult to read and understand and that meeting many of the requirements to validate the voucher were beyond the consumer's control.
The defendants told consumers that any error on the consumer's part to meet the requirements was grounds for denial of payment, and this gave the company unfair advantage over the consumer, according to the complaints.
The state's suit seeks a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, restitution for more than 100 consumers who were harmed by the defendants' business practices, and a civil penalty of $25,000 per violation.