Blue Hippo Takes Your Payments, Doesn't Send Your Merchandise

Blue Hippo is one of those “no credit check” computer-buying companies. The basic idea is that you start making payments to Blue Hippo in order to “establish your credit history,” then, after 9 weeks, they send you a computer. You continue to make payments on the computer for a year, after which it is yours.

Sounds shady to begin with, but it gets worse. Blue Hippo was sued by the Maryland Attorney General for “unfair and deceptive trade practices by selling computers, televisions, and other goods to consumers for two or more times their retail price, and then placing undisclosed conditions on delivery of the items that prevented many consumers from ever receiving their purchased items.”

Delightful! In a settlement with the Maryland Attorney General, Blue Hippo agreed to pay restitution to the customers they’d scammed, as well as change their practices and pay $300,000 to the state of Maryland. More lawsuits are pending in West Virginia and Illinois.

Here are some of Blue Hippo’s unfair business practices, according to the Maryland Attorney General:

  • Promised customers that they would receive their computers “right away,” but didn’t send them within the specified time frame.
  • 2/3 of Blue Hippo’s Maryland customers didn’t receive a computer at all.
  • When customers complained about not receiving their computers, Blue Hippo refused to refund their payments.
  • Blue Hippo illegally debited money from customer’s accounts, hid important contract terms, charged illegal late fees, misled customers about discounts and rebates, failed to disclose conditions related to gifts and promotional items; misrepresented the type of credit being offered to consumers; and failed to disclose important loan terms.

Blue Hippo denies wrongdoing.

Attorney General Gansler Settles With Blue Hippo [Maryland Attorney General's Office via US PIRG]

BlueHippo

Comments

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  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Thats one money hungry hungry hippo!

  2. socksbb says:

    The link is bad… you forgot the “h” in http

    Just FYI

  3. CumaeanSibyl says:

    So this is why it’s important to have a credit rating.

  4. FatLynn says:

    Wasn’t this the premise of an episode of Full House?

  5. andros says:

    What actually unsettles me the most about the whole situation:

    In a settlement with the Maryland Attorney General…

    A settlement? For such a blatant, obviously non-accidental, repeated and wanton violation of so many laws? Why didn’t AG simply a) order Blue Hippo’s assets to be liquidated, with customers’ refunds and damages paid from proceeds and b) BoD of Blue Hippo brought before him in chains for a cute little vacation in PMITA resort?

    I might be a delusional European, but US legislative institutions really seem far more interested in ‘settling for money’ than actually meting out justice and punishment where they’re due.

  6. Black Bellamy says:

    In America, justice comes with a bucketload of greenbacks, or it ain’t justice!

  7. andros says:

    Pray notice, there’s a way to get the said bucketload, and still get justice. Seizure of assets, auction of the same, distribution of goods… achieves 2 goals: produces bucketloads of presidential portraits for fines, damages etc, and substantally punishes the culprit by, among other things, denying him access to the tools of his criminal trade.

  8. chrisgoh says:

    I always thought this was a huge scam. Their products had an extreme markup. You made 9 weekly payments before they shipped the item and then continued for a total of 52 payments. Problem was, by the time you’d made 9 payments, you already paid the true cost of the product.

    Even if they were totally legit, this is a no risk scenario for Blue Hippo since you’ve already paid the cost of the product in the first 9 payments before they gave you anything. The remaining 43 payments were pure profit and they could rake you over the coals if you missed any of those payments.

    Even if you had 0 credit, you’d get the product faster and cheaper by just putting the weekly payment under your mattress and buying it outright after nine weeks.

  9. Squeezer99 says:

    can’t say i’m not suprized. they usd to advertise heavily on the radio here up till a couple of months ago

  10. B says:

    @andros: I’m not a constitutional expert, but I am pretty sure the AG can’t go around seizing assets without some kind of, you know, jury trial and conviction.

  11. Meg Marco says:

    @socksbb: Bad paste, sorry about that.

  12. andros says:

    @B:

    I was oversimplifying, obviously… but with all the blatant misdeeds (crimes?) commited by BlueHippo over time, I can’t see what could possibly be extenuating circumstances or arguments that could diminish BlueHippo’s culpability in court. From there on, it is simply a matter of pushing for a certain sentence.

    Seriously. If BlueHippo was a single person, and if he materially damaged, financially abused and definitely conned so many people, he’d be serving a jolly long time in prison. Why is BlueHippo entitled to a financial slap on the wrist that, in effect, buys it a ‘get out of jail free’ card?

  13. 300sd says:

    Why does anyone bother to rob a bank anymore when you can just rob individuals? When they catch you, you just close down shop and start over again under a new name. Isn’t America great!

  14. huadpe says:

    @andros: The question is whether the AG can get a conviction at all. If Blue Hippo hires an expensive attorney and actually gets acquitted the damages are a full zero. If you think you don’t have enough evidence or resources to go to trial, you will often go for a settlement. Also, if Blue Hippo sees the trial going downhill they can either lease all their assets out or send them overseas, leaving only debt to be collected on. Trials take long enough for that to be possible.

  15. Tombfyre says:

    I saw these guys advertised on the TV one day, and I just knew that it would come to this. Their whole operation seemed shady to begin with, not to mention the potential for blatant theft. Hopefully everyone gets their money back.

  16. tvh2k says:

    Blue Hippo is a scam. They charge over $2000 for a $400 computer and maybe $300 of freebies (if you’re lucky).

  17. Youthier says:

    @FatLynn: I thought that was a rhino – maybe the hippo thing was Fresh Prince.

  18. banned says:

    Not blaming the victims but I would not make 9 payments on anything before receiving the item. Even rent to own stores charge about the same and give you the computer the same day. I would have been suspicious from day one.

  19. bnosach says:

    I’m wondering if Consumerist can post the similar story about Bestpricecameras.com scam. Someone has to investigate all those online scammy photo retailers (above mentioned one and their affilates) located in Brooklyn, NY.

  20. Jasmo says:

    @tvh2k: Really! Can you point us to an article about them??

  21. ungsunghero says:

    @Jasmo:

    Just go to ripoffreport.com and search for Blue Hippo.

  22. Hawk07 says:

    @bnosach:

    Some of them have very competitive prices, but you just have to make sure they’re willing to sell you only the camera and not $500 worth of accessories.

  23. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I noticed that they always run the Blue Hippo ads during mid-day and late at night along with the ambulance-chaser lawyer ads, trying to scam what they can off of out-of-work people who can least afford it already. Look! A Pentium II computer with a 17″ CRT monitor for only 52 easy weekly payments of $39! No credit required!

    I’m guessing they’ll happily sell you a $400 computer for $2000 (whether they’ll actually send it to you seems to be a point of contention).

    Scam-O-Rama.

  24. chatterboxwriting says:

    @HeyHermano: You’re thinking about the Rigby the Rhino episode of Full House. Michelle was pissed because her action Rigby was a stupid plastic toy about 2 inches tall, so her and Joey and her little friend Denise (Little Richard’s niece, if you remember the episode where Joey is running for PTA president) go down to the mall and protest. Rigby ends up coming to the Tanner House and giving Michelle and Denise stuffed Rigby toys that are a lot bigger.

    Working from home is really bad…not only do I know the details of those two episodes, I also know the Tanner’s address and Uncle Jesse’s real name (Hermes) since ABC Family and Nick at Nite play the show all the time. *Sigh*

  25. Thrust says:

    Now people who fall for these kind of scams do seem to deserve it. I don’t condone the scam, but I’m not going to cry when someone sells their common sense then gets ripped off repeatedly.

  26. appleface says:

    @HeyHermano: Blue Rhino is propane for your gas grill.

  27. erica.blog says:

    @Jasmo: [www.consumeraffairs.com]
    Long article, lots of documentation, takes a while to read but it boils down to “Blue Hippo Is A Scam” :P Pretty nasty company.

  28. nequam says:

    @andros: State AGs’ settlements typically involve the company agreeing to change their practices and pay fines to fund pro-consumer causes. “Settlement” doesn’t necessarily mean only a payment of $$ or a payment of $$ at all. It simply means that the company has agreed to abide by decisions without requiring a full on judicial procedure to get it done.

    BTW, the AG’s office is an executive institution, not a legislative one. just sayin’

  29. asherchang says:

    die, hipp, die!!!

  30. Jesse in Japan says:

    Jesus, I don’t get why something like this is even necessary. You can get a low-end computer for a couple hundred bucks these days. And if you don’t mind something that’s used, you can get one for next to nothing. People just outright throw away computers that are just a few years old.

  31. chefmatty says:

    That’s the last time I trust a large blue mammal for my computing needs!!

    Seriously, this always seemed like a scam, I’m just surprised it took this long foe the feds to catch on. And 300K doesn’t seem like enough of a fine for defrauding some many people for so long.

  32. create says:

    Just FYI, i looked into this company a year or so ago, and they are charging in excess of $2000 for a machine that could be built from scratch for a couple hundred dollars.

  33. goodkitty says:

    This is no worse than the usual ‘Rent-A-Center’ type stuff. When you’re poor, you are no longer a person. You eat banquet “manufactured food” dinners for $1, get payday loans, and pay $2,000 for a 27″ TV from a rental place. This is America, where the rich get richer, and the poor pay for it.

  34. lestat730 says:

    I don’t understand why people even resort to using a company like this in order to obtain a computer. Right now you can get a new HP desktop + 17 inch CRT monitor for $350. While it may not be the ultimate gaming PC or anything, it would be 100% perfect for most people. Easily capable of web browsing, email, looking at photos, word processing, etc.. And thats for a HP! you could definitely find something similar for even less. While I understand some folks may not be able to afford to buy it instantly. After saving up for a little while you would have your new PC and wouldn’t end up paying several times over the price of a computer to companies like Blue Hippo.

  35. TVarmy says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: Why not just pay all at once for a computer? A budget one isn’t so expensive, and if you’re in the market for a top-of-the-line model, why not set up a savings account and set a goal for the price of the computer you want? By the time you reach that amount, better computers will be on the market, and you’ll feel better about not getting a computer with features and speed that only recently came out. Plus, owning something 100% for real is nice. Granted, you only have licenses for the software, including open source software, but you can only own so much.

    I hate to blame the victim, but whenever you want to finance something, pull out a calculator and do the math to see how much financing costs compared to the regular price. Otherwise, you’re just begging to be screwed. But that doesn’t make what Blue Hippo did ethical. Price gouging is evil, no ifs, ands or buts.

  36. mrrbob says:

    Sadly the bottom line is this: The world is filled with idiots and with an almost equal number of scam artist with no code of ethics who willingly take advantage of said group of idiots. I am a business owner and was visiting a fellow business owner the other day and in walks an elderly gentleman who knew my friend. In his hand was a letter from publishers clearing house stating someone in our town with this elderly gentleman’s initials was going to win 10 mil. This old guy stated he wanted my friend’s help to find out why he was having trouble contacting publishers clearing house and why they had not sent him his 10 mil yet because after all he had repeatedly done everything their letters had asked him to do – order multiple numbers of magazine subscriptions. At first I thought the old guy was “kidding” but as the conversation progressed I realized he was dead serious. It was really sad listening to this. After he finally left I got a chance to discuss this with my friend and how sad it was to realize that this old guy was getting scammed out of hundreds of dollars by this fine upstanding company who had obviously designed their marketing campaign to target people just like this and make them believe they really were about to win if they only do what is expected of them. Sad. I never gave this much thought when I got stuff from this company, I just thought they were sort of joking and doing this advertising tongue-in-cheek. Now I realize they know exactly what they are doing targeting people who actually beleave they are going to win.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Blue Hippo is the biggest scam.. I have been paying on my computer for 10 months. All I get is the run around, they said in July it was being order, in Sept they said the they were putting an immediate order, in Oct nobody could tell me anything. I owe less than $200 and all I get is the run around. I have threaten getting the Atty General’s office involved that still doesn’t get their attention.

  38. laxitive says:

    Complain to Dateline@NBCUNI.com and see if we can get them featured on an episode, or even write CNN and see if they will cover it. This scam has to be stopped before more people lose money. Just tonight I saw an add on TV for Blue Hippo. They MUST be stopped before something bad happends.