Del Sol accused of promising computers while overcharging for perfume, CDs to Hispanic consumers
Raleigh: A fraudulent telemarketer that convinced Hispanic customers they had won a free computer if they bought overpriced compact discs and fake designer perfume has been ordered to stop, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.
“It’s wrong to use the lure of a free prize to trick people into giving up their hard-earned money,” Cooper said. “These fraud artists took advantage of unsuspecting North Carolina consumers, and we must stop them.”
Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning today granted Cooper’s request to bar Del Sol, a telemarketing firm based in Covina, California from calling North Carolina consumers. Cooper’s lawsuit alleges that Del Sol broke state law by telling consumers that they had to make a purchase in order to collect a prize, by misleading customers about the merchandise they purchased, and by failing to register as a telemarketer in North Carolina. In addition to today’s preliminary injunction, Cooper is asking the court to make Del Sol pay refunds to consumers and civil penalties to the state.
According to the lawsuit, Del Sol called hundreds of Hispanic consumers in North Carolina to tell them that they had won a free laptop computer. In order to claim their prize, the scammers said, consumers needed to purchase more than $200 worth of designer perfume, music CD’s, and other items. While consumers who placed orders did receive merchandise such as knock-off perfume and some CDs, none of them received a computer as promised.
The original consumer complaint filed with Cooper’s office about Del Sol came from Honorario Martinez, a minister who preaches at a Spanish-speaking church in Lee County. Based on this complaint, Cooper’s office investigated and discovered that at least 419 Hispanic consumers in North Carolina had been bilked by Del Sol’s phony pitch since May of 2004.
According to Mr. Martinez’s complaint, the bilingual telemarketer who called him said she needed to speak with him urgently. The telemarketer then told him that he had won a computer but had to purchase two watches, 10 religion-based CDs and 10 bottles of name-brand perfume for a total of $229 before he could receive his prize. When the shipment arrived, it included some CDs, perfume and watches but did not include a computer. Instead, Mr. Martinez got a device that could be used to receive Internet access via television but required the purchase of additional equipment in order to work.
“People who are new to our state need to know that our laws protect them when they do business here,” said Cooper. “If you have questions or if you believe you’ve been the victim of fraud, let my office know about it. We’re here to help.”
Cooper also encouraged consumers to add their home and cell phone numbers to the Do Not Call Registry to cut down on unwanted telemarketing calls. Consumers can sign up in either English or Spanish online at www.nocallsnc.com or by calling (888) 382-1222 toll-free from the number the wish to register. To date, more than two million North Carolina phone numbers have been placed on the list. Cooper’s efforts to enforce state and federal Do Not Call laws have forced 19 companies to stop telemarketing illegally in North Carolina.