'As Seen On TV' company accused of fraud

NEW YORK - The company that put the Ped Egg, the Pocket Hose and the Olde Brooklyn Lantern on TV is in trouble with officials in New Jersey.

Telebrands, the "As Seen On TV" products company, is accused of violating consumer protection laws. State officials say the company trapped customers in an automated phone and online ordering system that forced them to buy products they didn't want.

The state's complaint also says Telebrands violated the terms of a 2001 agreement to abide by consumer protection laws, part of a settlement of a previous lawsuit.

"Telebrands cannot be trusted to do right by its customers or to even honor its own 2001 pledge to follow our consumer protection laws," said acting Attorney General John Hoffman, in a statement.

In response, Telebrands said it takes pride in its record for delivering "innovative products" and is confident that the state's allegations will be resolved "in short order," according to a statement from president A.J. Khubani.

"Consumer satisfaction is always our top priority," the statement said.

The state claims that Telebrands' automated phone ordering system prompted customers to buy items other than the ones they sought, but gave no way for them to opt out. As a result, customers often ended up paying for and receiving items they did not want.

The company's website also made it difficult for customers to know what they were ordering and paying for, according to the complaint.

New Jersey said it received 340 consumer complaints on Telebrands over the past two years. It also conducted undercover investigations to build its case, according to the complaint.

In one example, an investigator tried to return an Olde Brooklyn Lantern using Telebrands' 800 number.

The investigator was disconnected twice and put on hold once before reaching a company representative, who said the investigator would need to call a separate phone number. The investigator was then told that a refund could not be processed without a credit card number, despite Telebrands' stated policy of not needing a credit card number to return merchandise.

Most of the "As Seen On TV" products can also be purchased in stores.

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