Court prohibits misrepresentation of meat or violations of Door-to-Door Sales Act - and orders "Farmer's Pride Meat Company" to make refunds.
DES MOINES. The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division filed a lawsuit alleging that Farmer's Pride Meat Company, Inc., misrepresented meat it was selling door-to-door in Iowa. The company agreed to change its practices, and Jasper County District Court Judge Darrell J. Goodhue issued a consent judgment last week ordering Farmer's Pride to make a full and complete refund to Iowa consumers who request it.
"We alleged that Farmer's Pride gave false information to consumers," said Attorney General Tom Miller. "For example, sales persons claimed they had been unable to sell the meat to a nearby restaurant or store for which the meat was intended. That created a false impression that the meat was being sold at a bargain price right then, and that the potential buyer needed to make a snap-decision whether or not to buy," he said.
"Farmer's Pride also failed to give the price-per-pound, which is required for meat," Miller said. "And they failed to give consumers their right-to-cancel information as required by Iowa law."
Farmer's Pride is based in Blaine, MN, just north of Minneapolis.
Judge Goodhue's order last Thursday requires Farmer's Pride to comply with Iowa's Door-to-Door Sales Act - which gives consumers a right to cancel a purchase made at their home within three business days and receive a full refund. He also ordered Farmer's Pride to provide the price-per-pound of meat products, as required by Iowa law - and not to misrepresent the meat products.
"Be very cautious and skeptical of door-to-door sales of meat or seafood," Miller said. "Scams have been around for years. The classic misrepresentation is that the meat is available at cut-rate prices because it is left over from another delivery, or because the sales person was unable to complete an expected sale to a nearby restaurant or retailer," he said.
"In reality, the price usually turns out to be very high, although consumers can't tell that at first because there is no itemized list of cuts and the price per pound. Finally, consumers have a very hard time canceling and getting a refund," Miller said.
Sometimes the quality of the meat is inferior, Miller added. Minnesota officials reportedly confirmed a link between Farmer's Pride beef products and an outbreak of E.coli last May and June.
Farmer's Pride customers in Iowa who would like a refund must file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General's Office within 120 days. (The court order does not require buyers to return unused meat.) Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to the Consumer Protection Division, Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Phone 515-281-5926. The web site is www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org.
Judge Goodhue's order, which was issued Thursday at Jasper County District Court in Newton, also imposed a civil penalty of $40,000, but made it payable to the state if Farmer's Pride violates his order in the future.
Iowa's Door-to-Door Sales Act (Ch. 555A):
Iowa's Door-to-Door Sales Act protects consumers for purchases of $25 or more made at a place other than the seller's normal place of business -- at a consumer's door, for example, or at a tent sale, hotel conference, fair grounds, etc. (The law does not apply to sales at stores.)
Buyers have a right to cancel within three business days and receive a full refund within ten business days of the business receiving the cancellation notice.
Sellers also must orally inform buyers of their right to cancel at the time of the sale, must provide two copies of the notice of the buyer's right to cancel, and must provide a receipt or copy of any contract pertaining to a door-to-door sale.
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