Pennsylvania attorney general Jerry Pappert on Aug. 24 settled a lawsuit on behalf of the state’s Bureau of Consumer Protection against Taylor Gifts. In filing a court-approved consent petition, the state demands reforms in the way the Paoli, PA-based novelties and housewares cataloger receives and fulfills orders.
Pappert had filed the seven-count suit in February, accusing Taylor Gifts of failing to deliver the products consumers ordered, of delivering incorrect items to consumers, and of shipping orders well beyond the advertised delivery time or period allowed by law. The Federal Trade Commission’s Mail Order Rule requires fulfillment within 30 days unless the company notifies customers of possible backorders.
The settlement calls for Taylor, which owns the Kitchen & Much More and Get Organized catalogs in addition to its flagship book, to pay $20,000 in civil penalties and $5,000 for the costs of investigation. Taylor will also have to reimburse any customer who files a “valid” complaint with Pappert’s office, and it must staff a toll-free national hotline to assist consumers in obtaining reimbursements.
In addition, Taylor Gifts must refrain from charging customers’ credit cards until an order is processed and fulfilled. The marketer also has to switch its 45-day return policy to a “satisfaction guaranteed” policy regardless of when the product is returned, and it must provide customers with prompt refunds if their credit cards have been charged and they haven’t received products they ordered.
As part of the settlement, Taylor has agreed to register Kitchen & Much More and Get Organized with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The state’s Fictitious Names Act requires companies to register all corporate names; although it has mailed the Get Organized catalog for more than 20 years, Taylor had never registered the name. Taylor also never registered Kitchen & Much More, which it stopped mailing this past January, only a year after launching it, though the brand remains active on the Web.
The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office had filed the suit in response to more than 80 consumer complaints against the cataloger. “Over several months we saw a spike in complaints,” says deputy press secretary Barbara Petito. “Getting a few complaints here or there isn’t unusual. But when we got dozens over a short period of time, that was a red flag of a bigger problem.”
Taylor’s attorney, Larry Shtasel of Philadelphia-based law firm Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley, did not return calls by press time.