SEATTLE – Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced a lawsuit against an estate property consignment business and its owner for allegedly failing to fully compensate customers for sold items and keeping unsold property. The company is located on the Olympic Peninsula and also does business online.
The Attorney General’s Office filed a suit today in Kitsap County Superior Court, alleging violations of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act by Great Estates, LCC, of Port Orchard, and its owner, Alice Simpson, of Olalla. The company has also done business as Cornucopia Ailisia.
“Businesses that accept goods on consignment and sell items online for consumers have a legal and ethical obligation to pay their customers in a timely fashion,” McKenna said. “Consumers complained to our office that they provided items worth hundreds or thousands of dollars to Alice Simpson with the understanding that she would sell them on their behalf, but they never received payment and the items were not returned to them. Despite our office’s attempts to resolve those complaints through informal mediation, the defendants have been unwilling to provide refunds.”
According to the state’s complaint, the defendants accept goods on consignment including jewelry, furniture, art, collectibles and china. They also assist customers with estate and moving sales and sometimes take unsold items to sell later on the Great Estates Web site, online auction sites and Craigslist.
Simpson takes a commission, generally 35 percent for items sold at an estate sale (with a minimum fee of $500) and 40 percent for items sold online. Customers are provided with a contract outlining these terms. The contract states the defendants will provide an incremental accounting report and payment to consumers every 30 days from the start of the consignment. Full payment will be provided within 90 days, along with a spreadsheet detailing the sale price, commission, and applicable Internet selling fees for each item.
Instead, the state alleges that the defendants fail to provide accounting records or payment within the promised time, do not return unsold items to consumers upon request, and sometimes keep more money than they are entitled to by the contract. Simpson, who is present at the estate sales, places money in her pocket and does not perform a written on-site accounting of which items sold and the sale price, according to the complaint.
The Attorney General’s complaint asks for refunds for consumers, civil penalties and a court order halting the deceptive business practices.
Consumers who have conducted business with Great Estates or Cornucopia Alisia and wish to file a complaint may do so on the Attorney General’s Web site at www.atg.wa.gov or call 1-800-551-4636 to request a complaint form by mail.
Great Estates Complaint
UPDATE: The Attorney General's Office reached a settlement in this case in March 2008. View the consent decree.
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Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432