The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Affairs is suing an Illinois furniture dealer, seeking to recover deposit money paid to the firm by county residents who never received the furniture they ordered and to have fines of up to $500 per violation levied against the company.
The deceptive trade practice suit, filed in the state circuit court in Rockville, charged that Illinois Liquidators Inc. of Chicago and its president, Edwin Freidlin, took advance payments from a number of customers last March and have neither delivered the furniture nor refunded the money, according to the consumer affairs office.
Advertisements in Washington area daily newspapers last March announced a "this weekend only" foreclosure sale of what was described as 18th Century James River reproductions. The ads, placed by Freidlin, said buyers could "save over 50 percent," according to the consumer office.
Freidlin displayed several pieces of furniture in a Bethesda motel suite and took deposits from customers. Late last summer, the Montgomery County consumer office began receiving complaints from residents that they had not received the furniture they ordered and could not get back their deposits, which ranged from $150 to $1,600, said Patricia Faley, a consumer office investigator.
The lawsuit charged that Freidlin and Illinois Liquidators "have refused and failed to provide the furniture as agreed in the contract and as paid for by the consumers" despite "numerous demands."
The Montgomery consumer office has received seven complaints from county residents in the case; two of the buyers have since received refunds from the Illinois company, Faley said.
She said she is "optimistic" that the court action will result in recovering the deposits due to the other customers. In addition, the furniture firm could be fined $500 per violation. The violations "haven't yet been enumerated but there will be at least one per complainant," said Faley.
Similar complaints have been made by several Illinois residents who tried to buy furniture from the Chicago firm, according to Clifford Meacham, an assistant state attorney generl in Illinois. He said he has "had an expression" from the company that "the complaints will be resolved."
"We have been making deliveries and we have been making refunds where we can't make deliveries," Freidlin said in a telephone interview. He added that "we hope in a period of three weeks to have it all cleared up."
He said his records show that "about eight" orders from the Washington metropolitan area have not been filed yet but that approximately 160 Washington area customers have received the furniture they ordered. Freidlin said the "foreclosure" he advertised was of "parts from a furniture factory. We had to get others to finsih it for us and we didn't know it would take so long."
"The lesson to be learned here," said Barbara B. Gregg, director of the Montgomery consumer affairs office, "is to be extremely careful about doing business with salespersons who are in town briefly from an out-of-town establishment and are offering a seemingly exceptional price."