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Santa Monica Cites Two Businesses in Consumer Protection Violations

May 28, 1987|BARBARA BAIRD | Times Staff Writer

In a continuing crackdown on violations of consumer protection laws, Santa Monica has filed lawsuits against two local businesses, alleging false advertising and unfair business practices.

Santa Monica has a very aggressive consumer protection program for a city its size, said Deputy City Atty. Jeffrey W. Holtzman, and files an average of 250 consumer complaints a year. The two most recent suits are against a discount electronics firm and a service station that conducts vehicle smog inspections.

Unfulfilled Claims

In one suit, the city claims that an electronics company called Video and Audio Center refused to honor its advertised claim that it would "beat all competitors' prices" or pay customers $50. When customers tried to take the firm up on its offer, the company imposed "unreasonable and unpublished conditions as a prerequisite to such payment," according to the suit filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The suit claims that the electronics company, which has three store locations including 619 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, advertised prices without disclosing they were available only with cash purchases.

The lawsuit also claims that the company illegally imposed a surcharge for items purchased with credit cards.

The lawsuit, filed with the consent of Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, seeks $200,000 in fines.

Suit 'Totally Unfair'

Owner Mayer Akhtarzad said Wednesday that the lawsuit is "totally unfair." He said items are clearly marked with cash prices and credit card prices. He said that his company has not had to follow through on its $50 offer because if a buyer shows that another store offers a lower price, he will lower his price to beat the competition.

In an unrelated case, City Atty. Robert M. Myers this month filed suit against Milad's Union Service station, 1402 Santa Monica Blvd.

The suit claims that owner Milad Bebawi and mechanic Raymond T. Nelson issued smog inspection certificates to vehicles that failed to meet minimum legal standards of emission control. The state requires vehicle owners to obtain certification every two years showing that exhaust emissions comply with legal limits. The certificate is needed to register the vehicle.

The suit, filed in Santa Monica Superior Court, seeks $2,500 for each of 26 alleged violations, plus expenses and attorneys' fees.

Ed Bebawi, son of the owner, said Wednesday they did not wish to comment on the case.

In a similar case filed in July, 1986, the city reached a settlement agreement with Sung S. Chon, owner of Chon's Shell Service, 1866 Lincoln Blvd. The agreement resolves the city lawsuit claiming that Chon issued smog certificates to vehicles that did not meet state standards.

Chon, without admitting guilt or liability, agreed to pay $2,500 to the city's consumer affairs program, $2,000 in costs to the California Bureau of Automotive Repair and $1,500 to be split equally between the city of Santa Monica and the county of Los Angeles.

Under the settlement agreement, Chon must post at his service station a notice offering a free smog re-testing to customers who had their vehicles tested there within the past year.

Also, Chon will be required to complete the first available training class in smog inspection techniques offered by the state Bureau of Automotive Repair.

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