May 12, 2010

Sunrise Herbal Remedies, Inc. and its owner Valerie Hawk-Hoffman will make full refunds to Coninecticut consumers -- a total of $88,000 -- settling a state lawsuit alleging unwanted deliveries and abusive collection practices.

Connecticut Attorney Genral Richard Blumenthal sued the company and Hawk-Hoffman in 2007 on behalf of Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr. More than 370 consumers have filed complaints about Sunrise Herbal -- also known as Sage Advice, Inc. and Herbs and Teas -- with Blumenthals office and DCP.

Hawk-Hoffman and her company agreed to a settlement ensuring full restitution to all consumers who complained to DCP and Blumenthals office. She and her company denied any wrongdoing in the settlement.

This settlement guarantees full restitution -- 100 cents on the dollar -- for as many as 400 consumers who allege Ms. Hawk-Hoffman and her company sent and billed them for products they never ordered, Blumenthal said. Some consumers who placed a single order alleged they instead received monthly shipments. Others complained of signing up for once monthly deliveries only to be sent products two or three times a month. Still others complained of difficulties in canceling orders, as well as allegedly abusive collection practices for moneys they said they did not owe.

Sunrise Herbal and Hawk-Hoffman sold herbal products at seminars, over the phone and on the Internet, saying the items provided a wide range of benefits, including increased energy, stress relief and an improved love life.

The herbal packages cost $40 to $129 each. A majority of consumers told Blumenthals office and DCP they believed they were buying one order, only to be signed up for regular shipments. The average consumer estimated their loss at about $200.