SOUTH GATE – The Los Angeles, Curacao-based retailer has agreed to pay $ 10.5 million in a settlement for business practices that have unlawfully harmed Spanish-speaking immigrant consumers and their families.
The settlement resolves several allegations included in a 2017 lawsuit filed by the attorney general against Adir International, the Curaçao parent company, and its owner Ron Azarkman.
The lawsuit alleged that Curacao attracted customers by advertising low prices and easy credit, and then informed those consumers that they could only buy at the advertised price after purchasing ancillary accessories, warranties or services. installation.
In other cases, Curacao has added elements to payment contracts without customers knowing.
State investigators have spent hundreds of hours interviewing dozens of clients affected by Curacao, almost all low-income Latino immigrants who communicate primarily in Spanish, to collect and provide evidence to support the trial of the Attorney General and any settlement.
“Immigrants to Los Angeles County, especially those whose primary language is something other than English, face significant challenges every day. The least they can expect is to be treated fairly and legally by the companies that serve and market them in their preferred language, ”said Rafael Carbajal, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs and Business ( DCBA). “We are pleased that the Attorney General has secured relief for consumers who need it most and that we have been able to play our part in helping to maintain market fairness for both consumers and businesses that properly adhere to the law. law.
As part of the settlement, Curacao is to provide $ 10 million in debt relief to consumers who have been harmed by their conduct. The settlement also includes additional debt relief for customers who still pay Curacao for illegal small claims judgments, plus $ 500,000 in civil penalties.
The settlement also includes injunctive terms requiring Curacao to comply with California law and treat its customers fairly and ethically. These terms include:
Stores in Curacao will prominently display a Consumers Bill of Rights;
Curacao must sell the items as advertised and must provide additional information in its advertisement;
Senior management will review Curaçao’s advertising to ensure it complies with the court ruling;
Curacao must fully disclose all important contract terms before asking clients to sign contracts;
Curacao must provide clients with a contract in their language before asking them to sign;
Debt collection efforts will be limited to one phone call per day with delinquent consumers;
Curacao will stop debt collection activities and erase the credit records of consumers who have been subject to default judgments against them in illegal small claims actions;
A business ethics expert will help Curacao create and maintain an effective sales incentive, compliance and ethics program that encourages legal behavior, and which includes annual ethical culture surveys and reviews; and
Curacao will regularly report its compliance to the Attorney General for several years and provide access to its files for review.