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For Immediate Release
May 10, 2007

Media Contact:
Raquel Guillory
rguillory@oag.state.md.us

Attorney General Gansler Settles with BlueHippo


Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that his Consumer Protection Division has entered into a settlement with Baltimore-based BlueHippo Funding, LLC, its subsidiary, BlueHippo Capital, LLC and Joseph Rensin, the owner of both companies. The settlement resolves allegations that BlueHippo and Rensin engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices by selling computers, televisions, and other goods to consumers for two or more times their retail price, and then placing undisclosed conditions on delivery of the items that prevented many consumers from ever receiving their purchased items. Under the settlement agreement, BlueHippo and Rensin will pay restitution to consumers who did not receive their purchased goods or who the Division alleges were overcharged for their purchases, cease the practices that the Division alleged violated the Consumer Protection Act, and make a $300,000 payment to the Division.

BlueHippo targets their advertising nationwide to consumers who have poor credit histories, claiming to make these products affordable by financing the purchases and allowing consumers to pay on a weekly or biweekly basis. Despite promises from BlueHippo that consumers would receive their computers “right away” after making a series of payments, many consumers complained that they did not receive their purchased goods within the represented time frames. The Division estimates that as many as two-thirds of BlueHippo’s Maryland customers never received the computers or televisions they ordered. Additionally, when consumers failed to receive the goods and requested to cancel their orders, BlueHippo allegedly refused to refund the consumers’ payments, violating Maryland law.

In addition, the Division alleged that BlueHippo and Rensin illegally deducted payments from consumers’ accounts; hid important terms of the transaction from consumers until after the company had deducted payments from consumers’ bank accounts; charged illegal late fees; misled consumers regarding promised discounts and rebates; failed to disclose conditions related to gifts and promotional items; misrepresented the type of credit being offered to consumers; and failed to disclose important loan terms.

BlueHippo denied that it engaged in any unfair or deceptive trade practices or otherwise violated the law, but agreed to the terms of the settlement.

For consumers outside Maryland, BlueHippo and Rensin agreed to resolve complaints through the Division’s mediation and arbitration programs.

As a result of today’s settlement, BlueHippo and Rensin have agreed to:

  • disclose all material terms and conditions regarding transactions including pricing, financing, delivery, customer default, quality/features of items offered for sale, free/promotional items and any rights consumers are purportedly waiving before entering into agreements that purport to bind consumers;
  • provide Maryland customers with written, signed agreements setting forth all of the material terms of the sale before they take any payments from the customer;
  • allow customers to cancel their orders and to receive refunds when required by Maryland lending laws;
  • and stop charging Maryland consumers illegal late fees and comply with the Maryland Merchandise Delivery Law.

“This company has misled customers nationwide and as of today, they have agreed to halt their deceptive business practices,” said Attorney General Gansler. “Maryland is the first state in the country to get BlueHippo to comply with consumer laws and make restitution to their customers.”

Maryland consumers do not need to contact the Division to receive restitution. Consumers who may be entitled to restitution will be identified from BlueHippo’s records.


   

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