If you bought cameras or electronics from any of these stores recently you were probably scammed: Best Price Camera, Foto Connection, 1 Way Photo, 86th Street Photo, Broadway Photo, Camera Whiz, and Sonic Photo. Or perhaps you bought something online from one of their astonishing array of alter egos and websites (see full list).
Despite their fancy ads in reputable photography magazines, these Brooklyn-based con artists have been ripping people off for decades: using bait and switch, calling up customers to harass them into buying extra batteries or accessories, leaving threatening voicemails, overcharging credit cards, and charging phony “restocking fees”.
Following a lengthy investigation, the NY Attorney General’s office announced yesterday that it has closed down two stores completely, fined all seven businesses a total of $655,000 plus $100,000 legal fees, forced the remaining stores to overhaul their work practices, and is monitoring the businesses to ensure they comply with the law.
According to the AG’s office:
Once an order was placed, the companies would call consumers and try to sell them additional or “upgraded” merchandise at inflated prices. If the consumer refused to purchase the additional merchandise, the companies would cancel the sale or claim the item was backordered for months. If the consumer did agree to purchase the additional merchandise, the companies would send them lower-quality merchandise than what was promised, or merchandise that the consumer never ordered in the first place. When customers tried to return the items, they would either be denied or be slammed with undisclosed fees.
All of the companies further limited customers’ ability to return merchandise by requiring them to speak to a live customer representative during limited business hours, and then refusing to answer those telephone calls.
If you believe you were ripped off, submit a claim to the New York State Better Business Bureau through December: (212) 533-6200.
Bait and switch: Online electronics stores caught in fraud [cnet] (Thanks to Joel!)