SEATTLE – Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced a settlement with Thesaurus Fine Arts, an Asian antiquities dealer that sold merchandise over eBay and in a downtown Seattle store. The proposed order, which does not contain an admission or finding of wrongdoing, would prohibit Thesaurus from selling Chinese antiques in Washington or misrepresenting the age of any Chinese antiquity.
The settlement was submitted today to King County Superior Court for approval. It requires Thesaurus to refund customers who purchased and still own ceramic, pottery and porcelain items. The company must also pay the state $200,000 in civil penalties, of which $150,000 is suspended contingent on compliance with the injunction, and $300,000 in attorneys’ costs.
“Today’s settlement sets clear standards for representing the age and authenticity of art, collectables and antiques, and serves as notice to all sellers that misrepresentation of such goods is unlawful,” Attorney General Rob McKenna said. “It is also a reminder for consumers to be careful and do their homework when buying such items, especially over Internet auctions. Buyers should look to trusted dealers and consider obtaining second opinions or appraisals from well-qualified independent experts before making a purchase.”
The Attorney General’s Office sued Thesaurus Fine Arts in February 2004. The complaint alleged that between March 1, 1998, and February 28, 2003, Thesaurus misrepresented the age, authenticity and value of ceramic and pottery items sold on eBay and its storefront, formerly located in Seattle’s antiques and art gallery district in Pioneer Square.
Consumers known to have purchased ceramic or pottery items will be directly notified by mail in the next couple of weeks and provided with information on submitting a refund claim. Any consumers who bought ceramic items from Thesaurus but have not received notification in that timeframe may request a claim form by calling the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-551-4636 or writing to Thesaurus Fine Arts at 815 First Ave., Box 377, Seattle, WA 98104.
The Attorney General’s Office estimates that consumers may be eligible for refunds totaling $100,000 to $200,000.
“This is the first civil law enforcement case to bring Washington’s Consumer Protection Act directly to bear on the antiquities marketplace,” McKenna said. “Assistant Attorneys General Bob Lipson, Cheryl Kringle, Doug Walsh and members of the Consumer Protection division litigation team are to be commended for their hard work on this case.”
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