High Tech Pet and its owner, Nick Bonge, have agreed to settle charges filed by the Ventura County, Calif. district attorney that they used deceptive sales and advertising practices to sell pet-care accessories.

High Tech agreed to a Final Judgment that includes a court order that his (Bonge) business will not violate California consumer laws, including laws relating to the sale of consumer products over the Internet, Ernesto Acosta, senior deputy district attorney, wrote in an e-mail.

High Tech also agreed, pursuant to the Final Judgment, to investigate outstanding warranty claims and to either: 1. refund the customers money, or 2. repair/fix the defective product or 3. replace the defective product, Acosta continued.

District attorney Gregory Totten filed the lawsuit after his office and the local Better Business Bureau received a number of complaints, Acosta wrote.

The lawsuit alleged that consumers who received defective or non-complying products and who tried to return a defective or non-complying product to the defendants were denied timely replacement products or refunds as represented or as required by law, according to the district attorneys website.

No Comment

After a month of not returning phone calls from ConsumerAffairs.com, Bonge wrote in an e-mail yesterday that his legal counsel is preventing him from commenting on the district attorney's case against him.

I am tempted to speak with you (ConsumerAffairs.com) in an attempt to get the truth out, Bonge wrote.However, I can't do so unless cleared by legal council (sic).

Dozens of Complaints

ConsumerAffairs.com has received dozens of complaints from consumers whose High Tech Pet products failed and who then could not get a refund or a replacement.

I purchased an automatic pet door in July of 2006, wrote Richard of San Diego, Calif. I installed the door and it appeared to work as advertised. Upon returning the next day from work, I found one of my dogs trapped outside in 100 degree heat without water. The door would not open normally.

I tried to contact the company by email without success. I finally managed to speak to a person on the phone, explained the situation and was told to mail the door back to them at my own expense for a replacement, Richard continued.

After waiting three weeks without receiving a new door, I called and was told that the door I had sent never reached them, so they had not sent a replacement. When I gave them the tracking info on my return, and the name of their employee that had signed for the door, they admitted that they had in fact received my door three weeks ago. They told me that they would send a new door immediately.

I waited another three weeks and still had not received a replacement door. At that point, I called them again and told them I had waited long enough and wanted my money refunded. They agreed to refund me the money I had spent. To date, I am still waiting for my refund.

For many consumers it is the automatic dog door that breaks down and like Richard, while waiting for a replacement that many times seems to never arrive, there is a gaping hole in their house where the door used to be.

I now have a hole in my wall, Jeri of Dexter, Iowa, wrote after High Tech Pet wouldnt replace his defective dog door. I have put up the plastic wrap that you use to cover your windows in the winter but it won't stay adhered to the wall. So I have put up a piece of plywood as well.

The complaint alleged that the companies promised customers that every item listed on the website was currently available and ready for immediate delivery and that customers would have the benefit of a 60 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE return policy, according to the district attorneys website.

The complaint alleged that both claims were misleading. In fact, the complaint alleged that consumers' credit cards were charged immediately upon placing an order and that many consumers experienced significant delays in receiving products that had been advertised on the website as being 'available.'

I ordered the Power-Pet2 from (High Tech Pet) on February 15, wrote Michael of Scottsdale, Ariz. I received an e-mail from their customer service a couple days later stating it would be four to six weeks for delivery. I was a little shocked since their web site claims that all items listed were IN STOCK!

Almost every complainant has written that getting a refund, or even a representative to talk to, is next to impossible.

I returned a product for warranty replacement, wrote Fred of Scotts Valley, Calif. It has been two months and nothing. There is no way to contact them, no refund, no warranty replacement, nothing... It's a black hole at the other end.

What To Do

Individuals with outstanding warranty complaints against High Tech should contact High Tech directly, Acosta wrote. They should document all their dealings with High Tech. If that does not yield results, then they should contact the BBB.

Consumers should also submit complaints to ConsumerAffairs.com.

Bonge's Plans

High Tech owner Bonge has been running advertisements and posting statements on his site for months saying that he plans to "file a federal patent infringement lawsuit" against ConsumerAffairs.com."

"Well, we don't make doggie doors or electronic collars for pets so it's hard for me to figure out how High-Tech Pets thinks we've infringed any patents they might have," said ConsumerAffairs.com President James R. Hood.

"More significantly, we have more than 80 complaints from consumers who are unhappy with High Tech's products, service and return policies, so maybe they ought to spend a little time mending their own fences."

"High Tech has been running advertisements calling us a 'scam,' which is a little hard to figure out since all of our services are free to readers," Hood said. "It might be a good idea for Bonge to take a look at the libel laws."