California Attorney General Jerry Brown on Friday announced a settlement with a company that claimed -- mostly to Spanish-speaking customers in Los Angeles -- that its cookware could help cure diabetes, heart disease and other ailments.
The state's more than $600,000 settlement with Washington state-based Rena Ware International, Inc. will go to customer refunds and state fees, Brown's office announced in a statement.
"This company made fraudulent and unethical claims that its products cured serious diseases," Brown said. "Their illegal, high-pressure sales tactics preyed on the fears of vulnerable Californians."
Brown's office called the cookware "high-priced" and stated that the company specifically targeted Spanish-speaking immigrants through its marketing. Sales people for the company went door-to-door and claimed incredible health benefits while warning that residents' current pots and pans could cause disease, the office stated.
The company offered financing at a credit-card like rate of 21 percent or more a year, according to Brown.
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Customers who didn't pay up were "sent consumers harassing debt collection notices purportedly signed by an attorney, but no attorney had signed the notices or seen customers' files to verify whether the debts were actually owed," Brown's office states.
"The purpose of the notices was sheer intimidation."
In one typical case a woman was persuaded to buy $1,500 with of cookware on credit, with "hidden" interest set at 21.5 percent, according to Brown.
Anyone who believed they were victimized by Rena Ware was asked to call the Attorney General's Public Inquiry Unit at 800-952-5225.