Blue Hippo Angers Florida's Attorney General

Blue Hippo, the notoriously scammy computer layaway service, has annoyed Florida’s attorney general.

The story is always the same: Consumers sign up and begin paying their monthly payments but the computer never arrives. Blue Hippo says they don’t offer refunds.

Earlier this year Blue Hippo was recently sued and settled with 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.”

According to Tampa Bay 10, the Florida AG is now warning people to stay away from Blue Hippo. Here’s a piece of the transcript:

Chris Day, Bought from BlueHippo:
“I just said, ‘Give me the $418 you took out of my account and we’ll call it even.’ They wouldn’t do it.”
The company’s website indicates there are no cash refunds. The only option for customers is to pick a different product from the website.

Bill McCollum, Florida Attorney General
“We think that overall, this is a very deceptive trade practice.”
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is also investigating allegations the company fails to disclose the true cost of computers, overcharging consumers.

Bill McCollum, Florida Attorney General
“It really is too good to be true. In the case of the BlueHippo Financing, we’re finding complaints that are real, that they are selling their products and that they’re paying a lot more for them than in a retail store.”
The Federal Trade Commission has launched its own investigation after accumulating more than 8,000 pages of complaints. The Better Business Bureau has logged more than 1400 grievances stemming from all 50 states.

BlueHippo says it’s working to resolve the issues saying:

“BlueHippo Funding is committed to providing clear and accurate information to consumers and continues to provide outstanding customer support.”

Um, yeah sure you are. Stay away from Blue Hippo. Tell a friend.

AG cautioning consumers about BlueHippo [Tampa Bay 10] (Thanks, Sean!)

Comments

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  1. gibsonic says:

    Even cash advance companies think Blue Hippo is ripping people off!

  2. gatopeligroso says:

    @gibsonic: You are dead on. How F**ked up is your business model that other shady companies are saying “that’s too low for even us”

  3. dbeahn says:

    I’ve seen the commercials, and I still can’t believe ANYONE would pay those prices for that crap.

    Still, what does it say about our values as a society that people will pay twice the price to have it right now, rather than saving up for a few months?

  4. ChaosMotor says:

    And our political system is so spineless and beholden to their corporate masters that this company will NEVER, EVER be forcibly shut down, no matter how many condemnations, resolutions, findings, and judgments there may be. Spineless fucking government, beg and scrape for your Lords and Masters.

  5. scoopy says:

    @ChaosMotor: First of all, it probably will be shut down eventually. Secondly, if you’d like a government that likes to step in and CONTROL EVERYTHING move to China you idiot. There you will find your real Lords and Masters.

  6. c26nyc says:

    Doesn’t Rent-A-Center do the same thing? Selling (or “renting out”) products for double the retail price?

  7. Freedomboy says:

    Our political system WANTS this to be a new tier inthe food chain / success ladder. Just look atthe explosion of check cashing scams, odd lot type food and sundries vendors, WalMart crappy vending, blocking real wage growth. I makes it easy for those with money to create more money by passingthe whole “make something and sell it” version of the world we grew up in and changing it to a world where every penny you COULD

  8. rsr26 says:

    I am not sure who is worse- Blue Hippo or the dolts that buy from them.

  9. Freedomboy says:

    Lost the posting window there,…COULD use to become a powerful threat, read middle class, is diluted into just staying alive.

  10. Egakino says:

    @dbeahn: Only problem with that is that in the best situation (ie. when they do what they say) it is supposed to arrive several months later after you have a couple payments under your belt. Basically you pay for the item, they send it, and then you pay more. You don’t even get it early >< . FFS using a massive high interest credit card, on which you pay the minimum only, is better than this. At least then you get a computer right away.

  11. Egakino says:

    @c26nyc: yeah but they actually give you an item right away.

  12. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @dbeahn: But they’re not even paying that price to get it “right now” — they know when they sign up that they have to make payments for like two months before they even get anything.

    I think BlueHippo bills itself not only as a computer retailer but as a credit-fixer: “here, make payments to us for a year and it’ll look good on your credit report!” I wonder if you could do that legitimately without promising the computer…

  13. Amelie says:

    I checked out the Blue Hippo website, out of curiosity, and it appears your username is your SS#.

  14. Amelie says:

    Not only do they violate every common sense policy for security by having the user name be your SOC, but they apparently can do whatever they want with it, and any other information you provide: All information transmitted, printed or otherwise submitted via this Website as well as any Information that you provide to us directly by phone (including any phone number displayed via caller ID), text or SMS message, U.S. mail or through any other written or oral communication with us shall be deemed to be our property and we shall be free to use such information for any lawful purpose as detailed herein.

  15. gibsonic says:

    @zouxou:

    F! THAT! $100 says the idiots who do business with BH are the same ones that are now struggling with their sub-prime loan.

  16. Amelie says:

    @gibsonic: GDIAF.
    God, I wish this site had an ignore feature.

  17. AnnieGetYourFun says:

    Aw, but their spokesanimal is so cute! You sure I shouldn’t order something from them? Just one eensy teevee?

  18. Starfury says:

    I took a look at their website. They want all your info up front. Then the laptop (craptop) will end up costing $2180 when it’s worth 1/3 of that price.

    Too much of the “get it now, pay later” mentality in this country anymore.

  19. gibsonic says:

    @zouxou:

    bad company. yes.
    bad consumer. yes.

    it’s not always one or the other. this time it’s both.

  20. Scuba Steve says:

    I bet they take customer satisfaction “very seriously”.

  21. asphaltdase says:

    @zouxou:
    Not only do you have your SSN as a username, Wikipedia also says- “For at least 6 months, their website claimed to implement SSL security for online payments while no such security was actually in place; it is still optional, and not the default.”

  22. nequam says:

    @gibsonic: I think you’re on to something.

  23. chili_dog says:

    I still don;t get why this is so unbelievable to anyone?? They are merely selling products at an unusual mark-up and focusing upon the idiots in this society. Come on, does anyone not remember Rent-a-center and their $2000 25″ tube TV’s of the 1990’s? And the receiving a product right away has no bearing. I’ve entered into contracts that didn;t give me the item in question for years.

    Fact is that the only thing Blue Hippo is doing wrong is not delivering the overpriced item at all.

  24. Jon Parker says:

    @c26nyc: Not that I thought I’d ever be defending rent-to-own businesses, but there are some fundamental differences.

    One, with rent-to-own, the company is taking some risk that you will take off with the merchandise unpaid for. Blue Hippo makes you essentially pay what the merchandise is worth up front before receiving it.

    Also, with rent-to-own, you can return the merch at any time. With Blue Hippo, you still owe them money unless your outrageous contract is paid up. Not that rent-to-own isn’t a scam, but it’s worlds better than Blue Hippo.

  25. drjayphd says:

    @zouxou: GDIAF? That’s a new one. Care to explain?

  26. Dibbler says:

    hose computers are last YEARS! models and cost way more than they are worth. These things are clearence models! So $49.99 a week for 52 weeks but if you make the first 6 payments ontime and give them a set-up fee then they’ll finance the rest of the year. I’m guessing they’ll finance the remainder at 30% APR? How the hell did this company even get started? I’m not being very PC but they must target retarded people cuz no one else could possibly be that dumb…

  27. ShadowFalls says:

    Wow, what a rip-off. $21.99 a week for 52 weeks for a desktop computer comes to $1143.48 for a computer that is worth about $200.

    They sell a Mac which is $1,199 straight from Apple, buy is $1975.48 from them.

    Some of the laptops end up three times their worth, and since these are old models, they likely got these at a discount.

    If your credit is this bad, you don’t need to be purchasing large ticket items. Purchasing the stuff elsewhere on a credit card with a high interest rate wouldn’t even be close to this bad.

    Even a place like Rent-A-Center doesn’t rip people off this badly, and at least they get to use their stuff immediately…

    Also, using your SSN as a username? wtf? That is just asking for identity theft.

    The fact that they say any information you provide is considered their property and they want people to provide their social security numbers, makes you wonder if they aren’t selling those lists on the side also.

  28. Raziya says:

    @drjayphd: I am pretty sure that means “Go die in a fire”. :D

  29. laddibugg says:

    @zouxou:

    I have to agree with gibsonic. The same people fall prey to both types of schemes. Why not save your money for a few months and buy a computer that’s actually worth what you paid for it? But, as with the sub-prime loans, people want what they can’t afford and are easily swayed by what seems like a good deal. What makes you think that the same people attracted to ARMs and interest only payments would NOT be drawn to someplace like Blue Hippo?

  30. f3rg says:

    If people are willing–either through ignorance or stupidity–to pay three times the price for merchandise so they can have it now, then that’s their call. Bluehippo has low morals, but that isn’t fraudulent. The only act of fraud is not giving the customer the product they paid for, and possibly selling their private information, though that’s just speculative (I’d bet a few bucks they are though).

    The government should get involved to make sure their customers are given what they pay for, but they should have nothing to say about the prices customers are charged and are obviously willing to pay. Last winter, 16″ of snow was dropped on my town, I have 3 shovels, and neighbors with none. Had I chosen to sell them for $100 a pop when the stores were all sold out for a month, the gub’ment wouldn’t have had a right to tell me I couldn’t.

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  32. wow…taken straight from their “about us page”

    Customer Service

    It starts with our employees….
    Since it’s founding, BlueHippo’s customer service system has evolved to become the best in the industry. Before any transaction takes place, BlueHippo sales representatives undergo an intense multi-day training and evaluation session to ensure they will meet the highest quality standards. BlueHippo employees also undergo periodic retraining to reinforce the company’s policies and procedures.

    ends with our customers.

  33. phobs says:

    Unless BlueHippo has changed, their business model basically takes no risk and reaps huge profits. I read about them a year or two ago.

    They force you to “establish a credit” with them before they actually mail you a product. The whole “establishing a credit” business is a scam. You basically pay for the real market cost of the product. Then they mail it to you and you have the honor of paying more. Even for people who are exceptionally lazy or demand instant gratification I still cant see any benefit. Its really just suckering the poor and the stupid. Its sad really.

    That said, I’m surprised anyone who could run a business that successfully charges people 2-3x real prices without any real risk would put their business under scrutiny by failing to deliver the overpriced junk.

  34. RvLeshrac says:

    @phobs:

    Easy! If you don’t deliver the product, you have infinite profit margins!

    Same reason that most businesses die, whether slowly or quickly – the people at the top are all idiots.

  35. TMurphy says:

    @F3RG:

    While it isn’t technically illegal to have shady business practices, I think it makes perfect sense to have extreme cases handled by the government. If they stay hands off, problems like the sub-prime meltdown will go unchecked. While Blue Hippo isn’t going to cause such a noticeable impact on the economy, having the poor put their money into businesses like this isn’t helping the economy improve.

    Anyways, if you really want directly legal grounds for shutting down Blue Hippo, I’m sure an investigation of their customer info use will turn up a lot of evidence.

  36. kmblegal says:

    The Tampa Bay 10 article accurately describes some of BlueHippo’s business practices. However, the most egregious aspect of the BlueHippo scam is that the company delivers merchandise to only around one third of the customers who pay hundreds of dollars each for computers, televisions, etc. The other two thirds receive nothing whatsoever for the money they have paid.
    This fact is derived from information that BlueHippo provided to the Florida attorney general.
    My law firm, Katz Marshall & Banks LLP in Washington, D.C.(www.kmblegal.com), represents consumers in class-action lawsuits against BlueHippo. We are attempting to force the company to cease taking money from unwitting consumers, and to obtain refunds for consumers who have already been duped.

  37. uricmu says:

    Is this really different from payday loans or subprime mortgage or any of those things?

    If you don’t have a credit card or a way to establish a line of credit with a reputable company for a reasonable APR (e.g., Dell, NewEgg, etc.), you end up buying something for a much higher APR and lots of setup fees from soneone who doesn’t do the credit check?

    I am guessing that for some people, anything they can get immediately and never pay for is “free money” (see the great Daily Show skit on the subprime issue) because they never intend to pay it back. The only problem with Blue Hippo is that they realize it and simply don’t ship you the product until you’ve covered it’s actualy cost so they carry no risk ?

    Given the APR on some of the credit card offers I receive, I’m not sure the president of BlueHippo should go to a worse jail than the president of Visa.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Yup — i am another blue hippo dupe. When i realized just how much the cost would be i cancelled and figured that I had an edge because I never actually signed their paperwork.

    No, I did not get my money back, “store credit only”. When I attempted to purchase an item well under what Blue Hippo had accumulated (in an effort to cover all costs) — no you can’t do that — you can only use the store credit towards the base price — sales tax and shipping must be paid by money order only. Not only that lead time on the receipt of the item once Blue Hippo gets that money order is 10-13 weeks.

    Additionally, trying to get thru to customer service is appalling. You most likely will be put on hold for 20-45 min at a time and when you get a sales person they will put you only hold for another associated for an extended amount of time. i really think they just want you to give up.