TOPEKA – (July 26, 2022) – Kansas has reached a settlement on behalf of more than 1,300 Kansas consumers, primarily military and veterans, who were defrauded by national jewelry retailer Harris Jewelry, said today Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
The settlement was part of a nationwide effort involving 18 states, including Kansas, and the Federal Trade Commission, resulting in the recovery of $34.2 million for more than 46,000 service members and veterans nationwide.
Schmidt said the New York-based jewelry company used deceptive marketing tactics to lure active-duty service members into their finance program, falsely claiming that investing in the program would improve their credit scores. Instead, servicemen were tricked into getting high-interest loans on overpriced, shoddy jewelry that left servicemen thousands of dollars in debt and damaged their credit. Harris Jewelry operated retail stores near and on military installations nationwide, including in Manhattan near Fort Riley. The Kansas location was closed pending investigation.
Under the terms of the settlement, Harris Jewelry will stop collecting debt payments, totaling $293,857.03, and reimburse $342,905.58 for protection plan costs, for approximately 1,350 Kansas consumers, including the large majority were soldiers or their families. Harris Jewelry is also required to correct poor consumer credit ratings and dissolve all of its businesses.
Harris Jewelry’s business model was designed to primarily target and serve the military. A previous multi-state investigation found that local military members were lured into retail stores through a marketing program, dubbed “Operation Teddy Bear,” in which Harris Jewelry advertised teddy bears in military uniforms with charitable pledges. Investigators found that no legal contract had been signed between Harris Jewelry and the charity it claimed to support, and consumers often received varying and conflicting information about the amount donated to the charity.
Schmidt said Harris Jewelry then used this charitable connection as a marketing tactic to lure the military into deceptive and costly in-house finance deals for very expensive jewelry, which included finance deals with hidden fees and directly linked payments. on military paydays.
The filings allege that Harris Jewelry violated the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, the FTC Act, the Truth in Lending Act, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, the Military Loans Act, the Rule owner and the laws of other states relating to the sale and financing of jewelry. to members of the military.
Consumers who took out a predatory finance loan with Harris Jewelry between January 2014 and July 2022 will be eligible for a refund to the extent they paid for the collateral. An independent monitor will be installed to supervise the emergency services and contact consumers. Eligible consumers will receive an email and letter in the post informing them of this agreement and their eligibility, consumers will then need to claim their refund.
A copy of the consent judgment approved on July 21 by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York can be viewed at http://www.inyourcornerkansas.org/judgments.
More information about protecting against scams is available on the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection website at www.InYourCornerKansas.org. If you suspect a scam or fraud, you can file a complaint with our Consumer Protection Division online at the aforementioned website or by calling (800) 432-2310.