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Archive for Friday, March 7, 2003

Johnson County lawsuit claims deceptive door-to-door sales

March 7, 2003

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— A lawsuit against two companies that sell magazines door-to-door accuses their employees of dishonest sales pitches.

The civil action, filed Wednesday by Johnson County Dist. Atty. Paul Morrison's office, claims prospective buyers were falsely told that a portion of the subscription price would benefit hospitals or youth sports teams.

The civil lawsuit accuses Ultimate Power Sales Inc. and United Family Circulations Inc., both based in Georgia, of lying to at least 32 customers in August, September and October.

Prosecutors are asking a judge to order the companies to give refunds to customers, pay $10,000 to $20,000 for each alleged violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, and stop doing business in Johnson County.

Attorney Donna Kemp of Norcross, Ga., who represents both companies, was not immediately available for comment.

Kathleen Pauli, who is listed as a victim in the petition, said a young man told her he was raising money for a community soccer team when he knocked on her door in Shawnee. She wrote a check for about $30 for a subscription to Cycle World. She considered the subscription expensive, but the salesman said part of the money would pay for his team's trip.

When she realized later that he did not live in her neighborhood as he had claimed, she canceled the check.

"If it's falsely reported that they're supporting a team, that's not fair," Pauli said. "It hurts the kids who are really supporting fund-raisers."

Under Kansas law, door-to-door salespeople must give customers a form with their supplier's name and address. The form must tell customers that they can cancel the sale within three days, and the salesperson also must mention the cancellation period.

Prosecutors said Ultimate Power Sales and United Family Circulations gave neither the written nor oral notices that the state Consumer Protection Act requires.

Prosecutors are not planning to file charges against the companies' salespeople, Morrison said.

"While we certainly don't condone what they're doing, these kids are in many respects exploited by these companies," he said. "We want to go after the companies that are exploiting consumers and these kids."

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