Department Of Consumer Affairs Files Lawsuit Against Furniture Store Chain For Deceptive Sales Tactics Targeting Low-Income And Immigrant New Yorkers
NEW YORK, NY — NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced a lawsuit against Maddy’s Home Furniture, a chain of furniture stores with six New York City locations that are also known as Dubai Furniture, Furniture Saving, Burnside Furniture, La Reina Furniture, and El Rey Furniture and are located in Manhattan, The Bronx, and Queens. DCA’s lawsuit, which has been filed in New York County Supreme Court, charges Maddy’s and its owner with using deceptive practices to profit from vulnerable low-income and immigrant consumers. DCA’s lawsuit alleges that Maddy’s regularly lures consumers to their stores with deceptive advertising that misleads consumers into believing that they can finance their purchase with no money down and without a credit check. Maddy’s consumers receive used, damaged, and defective furniture and sometimes receive no furniture at all and Maddy’s refuses to provide refunds or make repairs. The announcement was made in in front of Dubai Furniture in Jamaica, Queens as part of City Hall in Your Borough: Queens.
“Consumers in the United States spend close to $100 billion annually at furniture stores. It’s not a small investment and when you do go shopping for furniture, you expect what you pick out at the store to be what is delivered,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “Unfortunately, at Maddy’s Home Furniture’s stores there’s a good chance that—unless you take the furniture out of the store the day that you pay for it—you will not get what you paid for…if you receive anything at all. The City will not tolerate businesses like this who prey on immigrant and low-income New Yorkers. I encourage New Yorkers who were victims to come forward and for anyone who experiences similar practices at another furniture store to file a complaint with us.”
DCA’s lawsuit, which was prompted by over 100 consumer complaints and seeks civil penalties and restitution, alleges numerous violations of the NYC Consumer Protection Law, including:
- Maddy’s uses deceptive advertising to lure low-income consumers to their stores.
Maddy’s uses deceptive advertising about financing, inventory, and discounts in-store and on their website and social media, including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Examples of ads include, “NO CREDIT? BAD CREDIT? NO PROBLEM YOURE APPROVED!!!,” “24 MONTHS ZERO INTEREST – NO CREDIT CHECK,” and “3 DAYS DELIVERY” with no conditions or limitations.” None of the consumers DCA interviewed received offers like those that are advertised.
- Maddy’s deceives consumers about financing and layaway options.
Once consumers are lured into the store, they are deceived into signing agreements with third-party financing companies, sometimes without their knowledge. In one instance, Maddy’s created a fake email account for a consumer to use on their financing application to conceal the terms until after the transaction was complete.
Maddy’s also fails to provide consumers with required disclosures about the duration of their layaway plan, payment deadlines, and the location of the items on layaway. Some consumers completed payment on layaway plans, then never received the furniture purchased, or received different or defective goods.
- Maddy’s delivers used or damaged furniture, delays delivery, or does not deliver merchandise at all.
DCA’s investigation found that Maddy’s often fails to deliver the furniture or delays the delivery of furniture for months, despite promises of fast delivery. If the merchandise is delivered, it often arrives damaged, defective, or used instead of the new item that the consumer saw in the store.
- Maddy’s relies on an illegal store policy to deny refunds and repairs and provides consumers with deceptive receipts.
When consumers complain about damaged goods or the fact that their merchandise was not delivered, Maddy’s refers to the illegal store policy printed on their order forms, which does not include specifics about delivery dates and refund options, to deny refunds and pressure consumers to buy a new item or to exchange it for a more expensive model—and to pay the difference
Additionally, Maddy’s gives consumers receipts that list the name of the storefront—Dubai Furniture, El Rey, Furniture Saving and La Reina—all of which are simply Maddy’s store locations and none of which are independent legal entities. Disguising who the consumer made the purchase with may make it difficult for consumers to enforce their rights.
“People go into furniture stores for reasons of aesthetics, comfort, and sometimes even medical necessity," said Council Member Rafael Espinal. "No matter what the reason, there is no excuse for defrauding customers and delivering faulty products. Last year, I introduced legislation requiring furniture stores to be licensed by DCA, and strengthening consumer protection measures for customers. As this lawsuit shows, there is more work to do, and I am proud to be a partner with DCA in this effort."
"Maddy's Home Furniture preyed on its customers, particularly low-income New Yorkers and immigrants, with deceptive advertising and defective products in a shameful attempt to boost its bottom line, “said Council Member Rory Lancman. “I commend the Department of Consumer Affairs for taking legal action today to hold those responsible accountable and protect consumers who have been victimized."
“I commend the leadership at the Department of Consumer Affairs for protecting consumers from unscrupulous, deceptive and predatory actors—particularly in the area of fundamental and necessary home furnishings,” said State Senator Leroy Comrie. “It is unconscionable that any company would seek to actively prey on vulnerable New Yorkers who are simply trying to provide comfort for their families. I hope that DCA’s action today sends a resounding and unmistakable message to these bad actors that there is no place in our economy for such thievery.”
In New York City, there are an estimated 700 to 800 furniture stores. DCA does not license furniture stores but the industry is consistently one of the top complaint categories with an average of nearly 820 complaints between Fiscal Years 2016 and 2018. The top three complaints are about exchange of goods, non-delivery of goods and damaged goods. DCA encourages consumers to get its tips for buying furniture and, if they have a problem, to file a complaint at nyc.gov/dca or by calling 311.
DCA’s case is being handled by Staff Counsel Daniel DuBois, under the supervision of Associate General Counsel Nicole Arrindell, of the General Counsel Division, which is led by General Counsel Tamala Boyd and Deputy General Counsel Michael Tiger.
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCA licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCA protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCA empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCA also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCA and its work, call 311 or visit DCA at nyc.gov/dca or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Gloria Chin / Christine Gianakis
Department of Consumer Affairs
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Before You Go Shopping
- Know your rights. These tips will help you know many of your rights when shopping for furniture.
- Determine your budget. It’s best to go shopping knowing exactly how much you can spend so you aren’t tempted to spend more, or to sign up for a store credit card, or to arrange financing like a loan or a payment plan. Don’t forget about the tax and delivery costs, and the cost of an extended warranty if you want one. If you need help creating a budget so you can determine how much you can afford to spend or build savings before you buy, visit an NYC Financial Empowerment Center for free, one-on-one financial counseling. New Yorkers can book a free and confidential appointment with a professional financial counselor by calling 311, visiting nyc.gov/dca, or texting TalkMoney to 42033 (message and data rates may apply; check with your service provider).
- Research what to look for in furniture. Learn how to tell if what you’re buying is high-quality or not. Features to consider include the item’s materials and the construction or how it’s made. Think about what style of furniture you like so you know what you want when you go shopping. You may have to pay for return shipping and/or a re-stocking fee if the item doesn’t fit or you decide you don’t like it.
- Research the stores. Read reviews of the stores where you plan to shop and call 311 to check on a furniture store’s complaint history with DCA.
- Measure your space. Write down the measurements of your space, including the doorways and narrow stairwells or elevators. Take the measurements and a tape measure to the store. Consider using a free space planning tool to see how the furniture will look and if it will fit.
- Compare prices and check for discounts. Some stores offer similar furniture at different prices so shop around to compare prices and look for discounts. Some stores offer free delivery or zero percent financing, but may instead add the delivery fee or interest costs to the price of the furniture.
Furniture Store Payment Options
Be informed before you consider financing (a loan from the furniture store), rent-to-own plans, a layaway plan, or a store credit card.
Remember, you can get free financial counseling at an NYC Financial Empowerment Center to create a budget that will help you save for your furniture purchase (see more under “Before You Go Shopping”).
- Store Financing: Many furniture stores offer “interest-free financing.” This is often “deferred interest,” which means the loan is free but, if you don’t pay the loan off entirely during the free period, you pay retroactive interest for the entire period of the loan. The interest rates for furniture stores are often 20 – 30 percent. For example, if you buy a $3,000 couch and get 24 months “deferred interest” and pay the bill in full before 24 months, there’s no interest. But if you pay the bill in month 25, and you might owe close to $1,000 in interest.
- You have the right to decline financing or a loan through the store.
- You have the right to know the details of your financing agreement before you sign anything. Some stores might try to enroll you in a financing agreement without you understanding all the details or without our consent at all so be careful.
- Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com and correct any errors.
- Rent-to-own and Lease-to-own:
- In a rent-to-own or lease-to-own transaction you don’t own the furniture. Instead, you are borrowing the item from the furniture store and making regular monthly payments that allow you to keep using the item. The item only becomes legally yours at the end of your rental contract.
- If you fall behind on monthly payments, the store can repossess, or take back, the furniture.
- In many cases, the total price of a rent-to-own or lease-to-own arrangement is higher than the price you would pay to buy the item outright.
- Learn more about New York State rent-to-own regulations at ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/rent-own.
- Layaway Plans: A “layaway plan” is an installment payment plan that requires at least four payments for an item costing more than $50. A store must disclose in writing the terms of the layaway plan, including:
- Full description and total cost of item and the tax;
- Additional charges, if any, for delivery, layaway plan use, and cancellation;
- Duration of the plan; payment schedule and any late charges or penalties for missed payments;
- The store’s refund policy; and
- Where and for how long merchandise will be held for the consumer (e.g. at the store, at a warehouse, at the manufacturer).
- Store Credit Cards:
- Store credit cards often have higher interest rates than other credit cards. Depending on your credit score, you may be able to get a better deal on a credit card elsewhere.
- If you have had problems with credit in the past, it’s a good idea to be wary of store credit cards. Store credit cards are sometimes available without a credit check. But just because you can get a credit card doesn’t mean you should. An NYC Financial Empowerment Center counselor can help you budget for a purchase and choose the best option for building your credit.
- Some store credit cards can only be used at the store or chain that issued the card. If you want to be able to use your credit card at other retailers, make sure to ask about the terms of the store credit card you’re considering.
At the Store
- Don’t rush and don’t let the salesperson rush you. Buying furniture can be expensive and you should be able to take the time to make sure you’re buying what you want and are paying a fair price. Some stores will negotiate the price with you if you ask.
- Check if the furniture is used. Stores must clearly disclose if an item is not new by saying if it is used, antique, floor model, demonstrator, remodeled, or rebuilt in any advertisement.
- Check the refund, cancellation, and damage policies. Stores are required to post their refund policy and any conditions that may apply. If the policy is not posted, a refund must be made within 30 days of purchase. Make sure you can cancel the order for a full refund if the furniture isn’t delivered on time or is damaged.
- Get a receipt and save it. Stores are required to give you a receipt for purchases of $20 or more. All receipts must include the total amount paid, date, business name and address, and the make and model of the items you bought.
- Get a delivery date in writing and don’t pay the full amount before delivery. Stores selling furniture (and major appliances), must give you a written estimated delivery date or a range of dates on your receipt or contract. A deposit of one-third to one-half before delivery is standard. Be suspicious of any retailer who demands full payment before delivery.
- Be extra careful shopping online. Be sure to only purchase from a reputable business and check the URL for the page—it should start with https (not http) to indicate that it is a secure website.
- Check for damage before you sign. If the furniture is damaged, you do not have to—and should not—accept or sign for the delivery. Once the delivery is refused for damaged furniture, you will not be responsible for payment.
- What do you do if your delivery is delayed? If the delivery is delayed, the store must notify you immediately in writing, provide a new delivery date or range of dates, and explain your options if the delivery is not made by that date.
- What do you do if your furniture is not delivered? If the furniture is not delivered by the delivery date, you have a right to the following (unless the item is custom-made or the failure to deliver was caused by you – e.g. you were not home):
- Cancel with a full refund or store credit, which must be given within two weeks;
- Get a new delivery date; or
- Select different furniture.
- File a complaint with DCA. If you have a problem with a furniture store, file a complaint with DCA at nyc.gov/dca or by calling 311.