Becerra secures $10.5 million settlement with retailer Curacao in SoCal
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced a partial $10.5 million settlement with the Southland Curacao retailer, resolving multiple allegations that the chain deceived and illegally profited of its predominantly Latin clientele.
Curacao owns and operates nine department stores in Southern California and actively markets to low-income immigrant Latino consumers. The settlement includes $10 million in debt relief for consumers who were harmed by Curacao’s alleged conduct. It also includes additional debt forgiveness for customers who are still paying Curacao for illegal small claims judgments, as well as $500,000 in civil penalties.
The settlement includes injunctive terms requiring Curacao to comply with California law and treat its customers fairly and ethically.
“Curacao claimed to be part of the Latino community in Southern California,” Becerra said. “He then proceeded to scam low-income people, Spanish speakers and immigrants with little or no experience into long-term finance deals. This company robbed its own loyal customers who simply walked into its department store looking for a decent deal. Curaçao will now have to pay for its bad practices and obey a court order that will force the company to treat its customers fairly.”
Settlement with Adir International, Curacao’s parent company, and its owner Ron Azarkman resolves allegations that Curacao systematically violated California consumer protection laws when it lured consumers into its stores with interest rates deceptively low and “sale” items out of stock. , refused to sell items at advertised prices and packaged customer contracts with accessories, warranties and installation services without customers’ knowledge or consent.
The settlement also resolves allegations that Curacao sold illegal collateral and garnished customers’ wages after winning fraudulent default judgments against them in small claims court.
“Immigrants to Los Angeles County, especially those whose primary language is other than English, face significant challenges every day,” said Rafael Carbajal, director of Los Angeles County’s consumer and business affairs department. Angeles. “The least they can expect is to be treated fairly and legally by companies that serve and market them in the language of their choice. We are pleased that the Attorney General has secured help for consumers who need it most and that we have been able to play our part in helping to maintain market fairness for consumers and businesses that follow the law properly. ”
Becerra sued Curaçao in October 2017 following an investigation conducted in partnership with the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. The lawsuit alleged that Curacao lured customers by advertising low prices and easy credit, then informed those consumers that they could only buy at the advertised price after purchasing ancillary accessories, warranties or installation services. . In other cases, Curaçao added elements to payment contracts without the knowledge of its customers.
Curaçao reportedly failed to inform customers of important contract terms before asking them to sign and, in some cases, gave customers contracts in English even though they only spoke Spanish. When customers tried to return items to the store, they were often told that Curacao’s return policy – which had not previously been disclosed to them – prevented Curacao from accepting the return or resulted in Curacao charging a return fee. undisclosed “replenishment”. The lawsuit also alleged that Curaçao harassed clients, as well as their family members and employers, with repeated debt collection calls and letters.
The settlement also requires Curaçao to provide further assistance to consumers affected by illegally obtained small claims judgments. When consumers fell behind in their payments and their accounts became delinquent, Curaçao sued them in small claims court, but often failed to serve their former customers with the lawsuits as required by law. Small claims courts then imposed default judgments against consumers, who were often unaware that they were being sued.
The settlement is a stipulated judgment that resolves part of the state’s lawsuit against Curacao. Unresolved claims related to Curacao’s allegedly illegal payment protection plans and insurance practices will be adjudicated in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Those who believe they have been the victim of illegal practices by a company were urged to contact DCBA at 800-593-8222 or file a complaint online at dcba.lacounty.gov. The DCBA provides free one-on-one assistance to all Los Angeles County residents and Los Angeles County business customers.
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