Paying for a product or service, then not receiving it, is one of the oldest, and most common consumer complaints. In New Jersey, consumer authorities have sued a North Jersey custom draperies and blinds maker, alleging that customers paid deposits for items that they either did not receive or were not as ordered.

The state's six-count Complaint, filed in State Superior Court in Newark, seeks consumer restitution from defendant Mitchell Poller, who has conducted business under many different names, including American Draperies and Blinds, American Draperies and Blind Company, Countrywide Draperies and Blinds, Country Wide Draperies and Blinds, Affordable Draperies and Blinds, Affordable Drapery and Blind Company, and The Drapery and Blind Company. Poller's most recent business was located on Main Street in Hackensack.

The complaint alleges that the defendant violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act, Home Improvement Contractors' Registration Act and related regulations, as well as the Furniture Delivery regulations. In addition to consumer restitution, the state is seeking civil penalties, compliance with the applicable state laws and regulations, and reimbursement of attorneys' fees and investigative costs.

Not delivered

"Consumers paid thousands of dollars for merchandise that was not as ordered and, in some cases, never delivered. Home furnishings are high-cost items, and we're taking this action to hold the defendant accountable for defrauding consumers," said New Jersey Attorney General Paula T. Dow.

In addition to selling draperies, blinds, and other home furnishings, Poller also offered cleaning and repair of window treatments and upholstered furniture. The state's complaint alleges that some items taken for cleaning were never returned to consumers, nor were their deposits returned.

Some consumers filed civil lawsuits against Poller, which resulted in default judgments that remain unpaid.

"Having your property essentially hijacked when you pay to have it cleaned is not acceptable. We're going to end what we allege to be a pattern of lies, deceit, and fraud perpetrated by Mr. Poller and through this action, make him return consumers' property and deposits," said Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs.

Unconscionable

The state's complaint alleges that the defendant engaged in unconscionable commercial practices and made false promises and/or misrepresentations. The defendant did not use required consumer protection language in customer contracts, failed to adhere to furniture delivery requirements, and did not register with the Division as a Home Improvement Contractor.

Consumers purchasing home improvements should first make certain that the contractor is registered with the state before agreeing to any work.