Settlement reached over fraudulent coupons in Maryland‏

Nick Rees Apr. 1, 2010, 2:35pm

Doug Gansler (D)

BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - A settlement has been reached by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler with a Massachusetts-based warehouse club operator that allegedly provided fraudulent coupons to consumers.

BJ's Wholesale Club Inc., which operates nine wholesale clubs in Maryland, was alleged to have provided "Buy One Get One Free" coupons for certain goods to consumers. In the fine print on the coupons, their value was limited to an amount that, in some instances, was less than the cost of the items.

Customers using the "Buy One Get One Free" coupons were then required to pay the difference between the limit of the coupons and the actual cost of the purchased goods.

During late 2008 and early 2009, Gansler's Consumer Protection Division alleges, more than 2,000 Maryland consumers where charged for items that should have been free as a result of the coupons.

"Businesses in Maryland must abide by the law and when they advertise something for free, it is just that – free," Gansler said. "As a result of this agreement, BJ's has agreed to stop these deceptive practices and reimburse customers in Maryland."

Under terms of the settlement, BJ's, which denied violating the Consumer Protection Act, will return all monies charged to consumers in connection with the "Buy One Get One Free" coupons for goods that were meant to be free.

BJ's also agreed, in the future, to not charge consumers money for goods that are supposed to be free. Additionally, the company agreed to pay a $40,000 penalty to the Consumer Protection Division.

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