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Consumer News Release

For immediate release - June 30, 2004.
Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699.

Meat Seller Must Make Refunds

Attorney General alleged "All American Foods" of Wisconsin misrepresented meat, and violated Iowa's Door-to-Door Sales Act.

Charles City. "All American Foods," a Wisconsin-based door-to-door meat selling company operating in north Iowa, has been ordered to make refunds to customers and not to violate Iowa's Consumer Fraud and Door-to-Door Sales laws.

The Attorney General's Office filed a lawsuit on May 14 naming Country Manor Distributors, Inc., of Hudson, WI, doing business in Iowa as "All American Foods," and James Leis, owner and operator of All American Foods. The suit alleged the defendants gave false information to consumers and violated the Door-to-Door Sales Act.

Floyd County District Court Judge Bryan H. McKinley's order resolving the lawsuit requires All American Foods to make full and complete restitution totaling $2332 to seven customers who already filed complaints - and to make refunds to any other customers who file complaints with the Attorney General. [See A.G. contact information below.] The company must provide right-to-cancel notices and tell the price-per-pound of meat, and it is prohibited from misrepresentations - including that products were "excess" and had been intended for delivery to other destinations.

"The suit alleged All American 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. They also failed to give the price-per-pound, which is required for meat, and they failed to give consumers the required right-to-cancel information," Miller said.

Judge McKinley also ordered a civil penalty of $40,000, but made it payable to the state if the defendants violate his order in the future.

All American customers in Iowa who would like a refund must file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General's Office within 120 days of the Court order, which was entered last week. The court order does not require buyers to return unused meat. Send email to consumer@ag.state.ia.us, or write to the Consumer Protection Division, Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Phone 515-281-5926. The web site is www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org

Background:

"Consumers need to be cautious and skeptical of door-to-door sales of meat or seafood," Miller said of the matter. "We've seen scams for many 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 their price per pound. Finally, consumers have a very hard time canceling and getting a refund," Miller said.

According to affidavits filed with the lawsuit, consumers who complained to the Attorney General's Office paid amounts ranging from $169 to $525 to All American Foods. Door-to-door salesmen gave various reasons for the purported "savings" people would obtain - because of unexpected loss of sales to a restaurant or wholesaler, and in one instance because the local VFW had purchased less than expected. In that instance, the Howard County consumer called the VFW and found the VFW had not purchased any meat from All American.

A Bancroft, Iowa, couple who weighed the meat they bought determined that the cost of the meat added up to $8-9 per pound. In each case, meat was not weighed or priced per pound, so as to allow for fair market comparison, as required by Iowa law.

The suit was filed in Floyd County, home of a Nora Springs couple that purchased meat from All American. All American agreed to the Consent Judgment and order resolving the matter.

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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