The California Department of Consumer Affairs said Thursday that it has revoked the license of an Orange County television repair shop owner guilty of consumer fraud.
Margaret Brown, who operated the TV Shop repair businesses in Garden Grove, Brea and Irvine, lost her license to operate them after investigators with the state Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair in Los Angeles determined that there was "a pattern of abuse" in the company's repair practices. The findings included unnecessary replacement of television parts and faulty repair services.
The bureau has also lodged a criminal complaint in Municipal Court in Westminster against a TV technician who worked in one of the shops.
Brown is the fourth person in the state so far this year to have her license revoked. There were seven such revocations in all of 1989, said William J. (Jack) Hayes, chief of the repair bureau. The others were the owners of Car Radio Center Inc. in Garden Grove, Alpha Electronics in Concord and International Refrigeration in Santa Clara.
The state usually revokes between 10 and 12 business licenses each year, Hayes said.
The decision, which was effective Feb. 5, was not disclosed until Thursday because of certain bureau regulations, said Gordon Boranian, assistant bureau chief. Since then, Brown has sold the Brea and Garden Grove shops to her former husband, Charles Brown, and the Irvine shop to an undisclosed party.
The bureau allowed the TV Shops to change owners if certain conditions were met, Boranian said. The Brea shop, for instance, cannot operate as a repair business for a year. The Garden Grove shop was under a 30-day suspension, since expired, prohibiting its accepting new customers. No restrictions were placed on the operation of the Irvine shop, he said.
The number of consumer complaints has been rising in the greater Los Angeles area in recent years, Hayes said, and the state consumer agency has increased its investigative activities because of them.
"I expect (license revocations) this year to be a little above the normal," he said.
In late January, the bureau revoked the license of the former owner of Car Radio Center of Garden Grove after determining that the firm was unnecessarily replacing parts in car stereos brought to the shop for repair.
A series of consumer complaints to the the bureau about a company's repair practices will prompt an investigation, Boranian said. Typically, undercover agents from the bureau will take several working items and cause a particular malfunction in each. The items are then sent to the shop in question to be repaired. After the items are returned from the repair shop, the bureau examines them, comparing the work done with the company invoices.
If it is determined that unnecessary or faulty repairs have been made, or that excessive charges have been levied, the bureau will initiate procedures to revoke the company's business license, Boranian said.
INVESTIGATION OF CONSUMER FRAUD
Here are the procedures typically followed by the state Department of Consumer Affairs in investigating charges of consumer fraud:
Consumers file complaints with the Department of Consumer Affairs.
The department investigates the complaints and compiles evidence.
Findings are filed with the attorney general's office, which lists charges against a company or individual. A notice is sent to the respondent.
The respondent files a motion of defense.
A hearing, which typically lasts one day, is held before an administrative judge at the Office of Administrative Law, a branch of the Department of General Services.
The administrative judge proposes a decision on the case, and the proposal is sent to the director of the Department of Consumer Affairs for approval.
The department director sets an effective date for disciplinary action, which can include revocation or suspension of the firm's business license and compliance with a set of conditions set by the department.
\o7 Source: Department of Consumer Affairs\f7