New Jersey is suing Comfort Direct, Inc. for allegedly violating the state's Consumer Fraud Act and regulations. At issue is the company's Internet advertisement and sale of the "Self-Adjusting Technology" mattress and other bedding products.

The New Jersey Attorney General's Office and Division of Consumer Affairs charge the New Brunswick-based company used unauthorized and fabricated testimonials from hospitals and individuals on its Web site.

They say the company also discouraged returns and refunds by making unreasonable and costly demands regarding how consumers must ship merchandise back to Comfort Direct.

"We allege that Comfort Direct made false and unauthorized claims that its product was used and endorsed by prominent medical institutions, doctors and other individuals," said Attorney General Zulima V. Farber. "It's illegal to deceive consumers with fabricated testimonials."

The state charges Comfort Direct used unauthorized and/or fabricated testimonials and endorsements from hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and government agencies, including the following based in New Jersey:

• Bayonne Medical Center, Bayonne;
• Health South Rehabilitation Hospital, Toms River;
• Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, Chester;
• Saint Clare's Hospital, Dover; and
• N.J. Dept. Of Human Services, Division of Disability Services.

Comfort Direct allegedly ignored demands to remove testimonials and endorsements when contacted by the individual or institution involved.

The company, which sells the SAT Mattress and other mattresses and bedding products, offered consumers a "90-Day Trial" of its mattresses. If consumers wished to return the mattresses, however, New Jersey officials say Comfort Direct required returns to be shipped in the original delivery boxes and at the consumer's expense.

The company allegedly required consumers who did not have the original boxes to buy boxes from Comfort Direct at inflated prices and to pay for shipment of the empty boxes to the consumer.

Comfort Direct also allegedly required consumers to obtain a "Return Authorization Number" in order to return mattresses for a refund, and made it extremely difficult to obtain one. The company also allegedly persuaded consumers to accept alternative or replacement parts and "fixes" to unsatisfactory merchandise, during which time the 90-Day Trial period expired.

"Consumers who thought these mattresses would help relieve back and neck pain encountered another type of pain when they wanted to return the mattresses and get refunds," Consumer Affairs Director Kimberly Ricketts said. "We allege Comfort Direct made the return process so inconvenient and costly that its actions discouraged consumers from returning merchandise and obtaining refunds."

New Jersey's Consumer Affairs office says it has received 33 consumer complaints against Comfort Direct from mid-2002 to date. The state's five-count Complaint, filed in Superior Court in New Brunswick, seeks restitution for these consumers, the assessment of civil penalties, reimbursement of the state's investigative and legal costs and future compliance with all applicable state regulations.