Avas Flowers Agrees to Pay $60,000 Penalty & Resolve Consumer Complaints
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Gema de las Heras
NEWARK – As flower shops prepare to take orders for Mother’s Day floral arrangements, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced a settlement with a Bergen County-based online florist for allegedly failing to compensate customers when it delivered flowers that were wilting, or otherwise different from the arrangements pictured on the company’s website.
Flower Tech Center, Inc. d/b/a Avas Flowers, located in Mahwah but accepting orders to deliver nationwide, has agreed to improve its business practices and make a settlement payment of $60,000, following a Division of Consumer Affairs investigation into alleged violations of the Consumer Fraud Act and its accompanying regulations. In addition, the company agreed to the submission of any pending consumer complaints, and any filed with the Division within the next year, for binding arbitration by the Division’s Alternative Resolution Unit if the consumers choose that option.
“Whether it’s for a wedding, Mother’s Day, or another occasion, consumers making online purchases should get what they pay for,” said Attorney General Grewal. “This settlement demonstrates our commitment to enforce the laws to protect consumers and ensure fairness and transparency in the marketplace.”
According to the Consent Order filed today, the Division’s investigation into Avas Flowers was prompted by consumer complaints which alleged the company misrepresented its location; failed to notify customers of substitutions or give them the option to cancel their orders for a full refund when making substitutions; and failed to offer every option available to consumers, including re-delivery, merchandise credit, or a full refund when orders were delivered late or simply not delivered.
Under the Consent Order, Avas Flowers has also agreed to change how it does business by, among other things:
- Clearly and conspicuously displaying a link to its complete policy concerning cancellation, substitution, refund and return on the home page of the company’s website, on any page where merchandise can be ordered, and on the check-out page prior to purchase.
- Clearly and conspicuously describing its policies on cancellations, substitutions, refunds and returns.
- Accepting order cancellations submitted in the manner and within the time frame specified in the cancellation policy.
- Refraining from guaranteeing delivery at a specific time where the time of delivery is beyond its control.
- Offering customers the choice of re-delivery of the merchandise ordered, store credit, or a full refund if the merchandise is not delivered, or is defective or differs in quality or characteristics from the merchandise the customer ordered.
- Providing all customers with copies of itemized invoices following purchases.
- Clearly and conspicuously disclosing its main business address.
The total settlement includes $46,238.23 in civil penalties, $5,594.27 in investigative costs, and $8,167.50 in attorneys’ fees.
Deputy Attorney General Monisha A. Kumar of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group represented the State in the matter. Investigator Kristen Higgins of the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.
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The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.