'As Seen on TV' Giant Telebrands Charged with Duping Consumers

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Inventor Mentor
Mike Derer/APTelebrands' A.J. Khubani with an Instabulb.
Following hundreds of complaints and an undercover investigation, one of the biggest names in the as seen on TV business is being sued by New Jersey for allegedly using "unconscionable commercial practices" to dupe consumers.

New Jersey-based Telebrands, whose success was propelled by the Ped Egg, was accused by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and the state attorney general of violating the state's Consumer Fraud Act and engaging in the shifty tactics that has given the industry a bad name. Telebrands, on its websites and through its automated phone ordering system, "aggressively" upsells consumers and doesn't give them a way out of its intense ordering process, sends them items they didn't order, and uses advertisements that mislead customers, the complaint alleges.

Consumer Affairs said that it had fielded 340 complaints about Telebrands' practices between 2012 and last month. In settling a complaint with the state more than a decade ago, the company promised it would abide by New Jersey's business conduct rules or risk greater penalties.

"As demonstrated by its alleged actions, Telebrands cannot be trusted to do right by its customers or to even honor its own 2001 pledge to follow our consumer protection laws," acting N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a statement about the five-count complaint. "We are bringing this action to end the abusive business practices that Telebrands allegedly is inflicting upon consumers."

Live Operators Hard to Reach

Consumer Affairs investigators bought several Telebrands products -- including the Instabulb, the Olde Brooklyn Lantern and the Pocket Hose -- to test the company's purchasing system, advertising claims and return process. Most calls, Consumer Affairs said, are routed to the company's automated system, which continually offers more products and keeps customers locked into calls that can continue for more than 30 minutes. One investigator was offered seven more products when trying to buy an Instabulb. And purchasers can't speak to a real person during theses calls, find out about cancellation or return policies, or even know for sure what they've ordered.

Because Telebrands doesn't make it clear, either online or on the phone, what has been added to a customer's order, consumers can end up buying far more than they intended or thought they had, state officials said.

"This action against Telebrands alleges that consumers were repeatedly pressured through gimmickry, misrepresentations, and high-pressure sales tactics to buy products they didn't want," Steve C. Lee, acting Consumer Affairs director, said in a statement. "What's just as unconscionable is that when consumers attempted to return unwanted products and obtain refunds, they allegedly couldn't reach actual customer service representatives and were subjected to return policies that differed from what was represented in ads and on the company's website."

The state wants restitution for consumers, penalties against Telebrands, and compensation for the cost of its investigation.

"Consumer satisfaction is always our top priority," Telebrands founder and President A.J. Khubani said in a statement. "We are confident that this matter with the state of New Jersey will be resolved in short order."

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Eric

This is news? You have to be braindead to not recognize these "special offers" are scams. Just look at the slick and fast presentations, they are today's equivalent to yesterday's all purpose remedies.

Buy one, get one free....just pay separate process and shipping. Which means they are still making money from the deal, no one gives away anything. S&P will be two or three times it's actual value.

August 21 2014 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jrexmarda

Sorry I don't want to pay $19.95 plus shipping and other fees for something it only took a nickle to make. Direct mail sales are just as bad with the junk they get away selling as quality merchandise. They should all be shut down and made to refund everyone's money. Even though their catalogs go into the garbage they never quit coming. Part of the cost of the item you buy, after they subtract the nickle, goes into sending you more catalogs. Grrrr.

August 20 2014 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dean Sutton

"Telebrands" and numerous others like them consider themselves to be slick and superior to the everyday consumer. I had the same happen to me once; after about 20 minutes, I hung up. and then I contacted my credit card people and they quickly and gladly canceled and changed my card number. The scammers moved fast but I moved faster; recieved items that I had not asked for.( You are not required to return items or pay for what you did not order. ) They contacted with a live operator about my "bad" credit card. They did not get what they wanted.

August 20 2014 at 2:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
sandi

don't buy from telemarketers!!!most are at best barely functionable

August 20 2014 at 1:07 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Manny Sarmiento

Biggest SCAM with these TV products is "Get the Second One Free - Just Pay Shipping and Handling" -- They don't give you a way to pay for just one! With shipping and handling on both items you end up paying a lot more that the original offer! - HUGE SCAM! Wonder why the FTC has fallen asleep on this, as well as the Attorney Generals for each state!

August 20 2014 at 12:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Wood

New gimmick on internet. Order the advertised product, give your credfit card information, then last page shows you over TWICE THE COST OF PRODUCT in shipping and handling. Shutting down the site at that point still "enters" your order and your credit card is charged!!!

August 20 2014 at 9:42 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Wood's comment
Dean Sutton

If you suspect that you are about to get ripped off, do the following quickly; Call your credit card vendor and they will gladly cancel your old number and issue you a new number.
However, you need to contact any business that you do "Auto-pay" with and make arrangements; they usually will work favorable for you because it is possible that some fly-by-night may drain your account and they will not get their payment.

August 20 2014 at 2:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jim DeFeo

Any chance this company could have been criminally charged BEFORE all of these people were victimized ???

August 20 2014 at 9:36 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim DeFeo's comment
turtlemanconnorb

There has to be a victim before there can be a criminal charge, so no.

August 28 2014 at 12:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
z.sharp

Just buy it from a local store when it comes out. Family dollar usually carries them.

August 20 2014 at 9:24 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
ge944

Anyone who falls for their spiel deserves to get taken

August 20 2014 at 9:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
thescot

If you paid with a credit card just inform your credit card company not to pay the bill, that is all you have to do.

August 20 2014 at 9:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply