September 1, 2005
Jefferson City, Mo. — The operators of a consumer promotion that promised rebates — but then added qualifications that were vague and almost impossible for the consumers to meet — will send out new vouchers in response to demands from Attorney General Jay Nixon that the voucher terms be clarified for consumers. Nixon obtained a consent judgment Wednesday (Aug. 31) that also requires the businesses to pay $1,850,000 for consumer restitution and costs to the state.
In February, Nixon sued Consumers Trust, which operates the cashable voucher program; and Consumer Promotions Inc., which marketed the program to merchants in Missouri and other states. Consumers Trust is based in England, and Consumer Promotions is in Lee's Summit, Mo. The lawsuit alleged the businesses violated Missouri consumer protection laws against misleading and deceptive practices.
"With this judgment, I expect Consumers Trust and Consumer Promotions to live up to their obligations to consumers and merchants," Nixon said. "I also expect Consumers Trust to make its obligations clear under the new voucher program. Rules that are intended to mislead have no place in a rebate program."
Nixon said Consumer Promotions markets the voucher program to merchants as a way to increase sales. Consumers have purchased items such as cars, hot tubs, carpeting, swimming pools and even cosmetic surgery in the hopes of getting rebates for the full or a significant portion of the purchase price after three years, if they completely comply with the terms of the voucher.
When the lawsuit was filed, Nixon said the terms of compliance were extremely vague, intimidating and cumbersome, and virtually ensured that consumers' claims would be rejected. In addition, Nixon alleged payment on some valid consumer claims was much less than promised because insufficient money was held back to pay the claims.
Under the consent judgment signed by Jackson County Circuit Judge Sandra Midkiff, an estimated 5,000 Missouri consumers who currently have vouchers will be given the opportunity to exchange them for replacement vouchers. Nixon said he expects Consumers Trust to clarify the terms of compliance in the replacement vouchers. The $1,850,000 obtained through the judgment will be used in satisfying consumer claims and to pay for the costs of bringing the case.