Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon is suing the owners of Hague Quality Water of the Ozarks for repeatedly violating Missouris consumer protection laws in the sale of its water systems.
Nixon is seeking at least $55,000 in restitution for consumers who say representatives of Hague falsely promised them the water treatment system would improve their familys health, save water and give them other benefits. Nixons lawsuit says the misrepresentations violate Missouri law.
"This company pours out promises it knows it will not deliver," Nixon says. "We want an immediate end to this deception, and repayment for all of the families taken by the companys well-rehearsed lines."
Eleven consumers from throughout Missouri have complained to the Attorney General about problems with the defendants. Hague Quality Water has offices in Republic and Joplin, and previously had an office in Columbia.
The suit states that since at least August 2002, Hague Quality Water of the Ozarks has advertised, offered and sold water treatment systems to Missouri consumers. Hague sales representatives go to consumers homes and give presentations that usually last more than two hours.
During the presentation, they "test" the consumers tap water for various conditions including "hardness" and the presence of chlorine. Hagues sales representatives then tell the consumers their tap water is hard and contains chemicals and substances that have been proven hazardous to their health.
The consumers are told the Hague water treatment system, which costs several thousand dollars, will alleviate these problems.
According to the lawsuit, Hague sales representatives gave at least one consumer articles on how the water treatment system would improve the asthma and eczema of the consumers son. The consumer bought the water treatment system based on this information. To date, the consumers son has not experienced any improvement. Nixon says this misrepresentation violates the law.
Another of Hagues deceptive practices involves financing. Hague sales representatives routinely tell consumers they will help them obtain financing to pay for the water treatment system, and if the consumers make payments of $99 a month the system will be paid for in four or five years. The lawsuit says that some customers end up getting financing at an interest rate which does not allow them to pay off the system in four or five years, as they were promised. They do not learn this until they receive their first bill.
According to the lawsuit, Hague also fails to comply with Missouris law that gives buyers a three-day right of rescission. This law states that consumers must be told they have three days to terminate their contract after an in-home sales presentation. Many Hague customers are not told about this. Others are told they have until installation to terminate the transaction. One consumer was told Hague offered a 60-day trial period.
Consumers who tried to cancel the contract based on the time frame specified by Hague employees have been denied cancellation. They were told they were only entitled to a three-day right of rescission, regardless of what was said during the sales presentation.
Nixon is seeking a permanent injunction that bars Hague Quality Water of the Ozarks and its employees from further unlawful, unfair and deceptive acts. The Attorney General is seeking full restitution for all consumers who have been taken by the deceptive practices named in the lawsuit. Nixon also is seeking a civil penalty of $1,000 per violation and payment of court and investigative costs.