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Vacuum Cleaner Distributor Must Pay Restitution for Unfair Practices

November 04, 1998|NICK GREEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Checks ranging from $50 to $1,475 are on their way to 27 Ventura County residents as part of a successful civil action that alleged unfair and deceptive business practices against a company that sold vacuum cleaners door to door.

The 27 residents are among 84 in the state who will recover more than 90% of their money lost after lengthy, high-pressure sales pitches by distributors of TriStar vacuum cleaners, said Mitchell Disney, who prosecuted the case on behalf of the Ventura County district attorney's office.

"It really is rewarding people for being vigilant in their reporting of being victimized by an unfair business practice," said Disney, a deputy district attorney in the office's Consumer and Environmental Protection Division.

"It's important to get the information out, so if other people are exposed to questionable practices or practices that are downright fraudulent, they should get hold of the district attorney's office and let us know about it," he added. "The majority of our cases that we prosecute are generated by consumer complaints."

The $75,000 in restitution statewide stems from a civil action used to stop unlawful business practices by corporations, originally filed almost two years ago. A $350,000 settlement was announced in May.

The action alleged that salespeople representing the vacuum-cleaner manufacturer and its distributors used deceptive and worthless prize incentives as an inducement to get inside people's homes.

Once there, the salesperson used heavy-handed tactics to sell vacuum cleaners that cost as much as $3,353.

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