Lockyer and Hallinan Sue Cookware Company Alleging Illegal High-Pressure Sales Tactics and Improper Financing Schemes for Products

Suit Asks Halt of Door-to-Door Sales Targeting Hispanic Community

Wednesday, February 17, 1999
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Attorney General Bill Lockyer and San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan announced today that they are suing Hy Cite Corporation to halt deceptive advertising and unfair business practices. The Wisconsin-based company sells expensive cookware and water filtration devices in California under the name Royal Prestige.

The complaint filed today in San Francisco Superior Court alleges the company and two of its local distributors have been targeting the Hispanic community using high-pressure door-to-door sales and scare tactics for the purpose of inducing them to purchase expensive pots and pans and water filtration devices. The suit seeks an injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in these practices, full restitution to the victims, and a minimum of $1 million in civil penalties.

The complaint states that Royal Prestige salespeople are using such deceptive sales tactics as posing as health department workers who aggressively question consumers about family health problems or express concerns with lead and other contaminants in the water. The salespeople then proceed to pitch Royal Prestige products as a means for preventing anything from cancer to high blood pressure to high cholesterol.

The salespeople also falsely promote Royal Prestige cookware as a "health system" and tell consumers that whatever cookware they are currently using will cause disease, including cancer and loss of memory. To sell their water filtration devices, Royal Prestige salespeople allegedly tell consumers that their water supply is contaminated with lead or other environmental hazards; and to support baseless claims use a phony chemical test.

The complaint also charges the company with unfair business practices in the financing of the products sold. The complaint states that, once the sale is made, consumers are induced into signing two confusing documents, including a credit agreement designed to hide the fact that a high interest rate of 21% will be charged. In addition, the complaint charges the company with various violations of state law that provides a "cooling-off period" which allows consumers to cancel home-solicitation contracts within three days of the purchase; and with abusive collection practices.

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