Luskin's Inc., the popular appliance retailer in the Washington and Baltimore markets, has been accused by the Maryland Attorney General's office of attracting customers into its 12 Maryland stores with advertisements of name-brand products and then trying to sell them something else.

The lawsuit, filed in Howard County Court late Tuesday, accused Luskin's of bait-and-switch tactics, a charge that the company denied. The lawsuit alleges that Luskins advertised certain products when company officials knew only a limited number of those items were in stock.

When customers went to the store, Luskin's salespeople "made little or no effort to sell advertised appliances" and "disparaged or made false statements about the advertised appliances and attempted to step up customers to other non-advertised appliances," the lawsuit said.

The company failed to keep enough of the advertised products on hand to satisfy "reasonably expected public demand" and sometimes failed to say in advertisements that only a limited supply of the particular item was in stock, the state alleged.

The company, which often bills itself as the "cheapest guy in town," also was accused of failing to honor claims in ads that it sold appliances at prices lower than its competitors, the lawsuit said.

Company President Jack Luskin and his son Cary Luskin were named in the suit. "Our position is that the attorney general is wrong about Luskin's," Jack Luskin said yesterday. "We have not broken the law. While we fight in court to vindicate our good name, we'll keep on giving our customers the same great prices and great service we've given them for 33 years."

The lawsuit also contends the firm's repair subsidiary, Peace of Mind Service Co., didn't repair some appliances, including those covered by warranties, and required many customers to wait for months before their appliances were repaired and returned. Other customers had to make several trips to Peace of Mind before repairs were made, the lawsuit alleges.