If a product claims to cure diabetes and heart disease, it probably doesn't. But according to California's Attorney General, representatives of Rena Ware International, Inc. selling high-end cookware were making such claims and pressuring mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants in the Los Angeles area to buy the products.
Earlier this month, the Washington state-based company settled with the attorney general's office, agreeing to pay more than $600,000 in refunds and other fees as well as make changes to its business practices.
In its complaint, the attorney general said representatives for the company told consumers their competitors' cookware posed serious health risks. They told consumers that Rena Ware promoted good health and could cure diseases, claims that the AG says convinced consumers to allow sales reps into their homes.Consumers who agreed to buy the products were offered financing with interest rates as high as 21 percent, the complaint alleges. They also were't told they had a three-day period to cancel their order, which is guaranteed under California law for door-to-door sales.
The attorney general also alleges that some consumers received debt collection notices that looked like they'd been signed by an attorney when they actually hadn't been.
Manuel Valencia, a spokesperson for Rena Ware, emailed Consumer Ally a written statement that explained the company had been in business for more than 65 years and had received few complaints during that time.
He said the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office began its initial investigation of Rena Ware because it was investigating another company in the same industry. Valencia also said that the alleged sales tactics were not in the company's literature.
"Rena Ware, including its employees, officers, and directors, had no knowledge of, and did not condone or authorize, the alleged sales tactics and 'shared' information used by the Independent Sales Consultants," read the statement, which added that the company admitted no wrongdoing. "We will remain vigilant against fraudulent or unethical sales tactics -- methods Rena Ware will not tolerate."
Under the agreement with the state, the company will issue $250,000 in refunds to consumers. The company says it has set new guidelines for its sales reps outlining prohibited practices and modified its sales contract to include a section where customers can sign their initials indicating they've been told about the three-day contract cancellation period.
Consumers who are eligible for refunds will receive notices in the mail but anyone who believes they may have been a victim of Rena Ware or other houseware companies can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Public Inquiry Unit or call 800-952-5225.
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