Marketer Of “As Seen On TV” Products To Pay $550K For Allegedly Forcing Customers To Pay For Stuff They Didn’t Order

One of the products marketed by New Jersey-based Telebrands.

One of the products marketed by New Jersey-based Telebrands.

In 2014, the state of New Jersey accused Telebrands, a company that markets “As Seen on TV” products like the Pocket Hose and Instabulbs, of forcing customers to pay for items they did not want or order. Yesterday, the company agreed to pay more than half a million dollars to settle the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contended that Telebrands’ interactive phone ordering system and business practices violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act by aggressively upselling products; subjecting consumers to a lengthy ordering process; failing to provide a means for consumers to decline offers for additional products; failing to provide consumers with an opportunity to confirm the merchandise order prior to authorizing charges; shipping and billing for additional products that consumers declined to purchase; failing to provide consumers with the total cost of their orders; and failing to provide consumers with an opportunity to speak with a live customer service representative when ordering on the phone.

According to the final consent order [PDF], Telebrands must revise its phone system and websites to, among other things, inform consumers of the cost of their merchandise order, including any shipping and handling charges, prior to consumers authorizing payment. Phone customers must be given the option to speak with a live customer service representative when an order is placed, and they must have a way to decline solicitations for additional merchandise.

In addition to the $550,000 penalty, Telebrands must train its employees on how to not violate the law and pay for a Consumer Affairs Liaison who will be responsible for monitoring the company’s compliance with the settlement terms and applicable laws. The liaison, who must be approved by the state (so don’t just hire your cousin), is also expected to facilitate resolution of consumer complaints and provide quarterly reports to prosecutors.

“We’ve put consumers back in control of the ordering and payment process, through these revisions to Telebrands’ business practices,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman about the settlement. “No longer will consumers find themselves subjected to an onslaught of solicitations for products that they have no interest in, with no way to end the merciless upselling.”