SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — A $13 “Disney Princess” jewelry kit left the mother of a 6-year-old girl unhappy when it was found to be half-empty.
Now a New Jersey company that marketed the kit in California will find its wallet $250,000 lighter.
The company must pay $225,000 in costs and penalties for distributing deceptively packaged jewelry-making kits marketed to California children, city and county officials announced Thursday.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis filed a consumer protection case with the San Diego Superior Court against Horizon Group USA Inc. of Warren, NJ, after the City Attorney’s Office received a complaint from a woman who bought the “Disney Princess” kit for her daughter, 6, later to find that half the package was empty.
Stickers covered empty compartments and only those filled were visible.
“I can’t even imagine the disappointment of … probably a young lady who picks up one of these things expecting to have a full box of beads and things to play with, and really the fact of the matter is they're just getting gypped,” Dumanis said.
More than 16,000 of the $13 kits were delivered to California Target, Walmart, Toys “R” Us and Michaels stores and were sold online.
They have been taken off the market, said Assistant City Attorney Tricia Pummill.
The city attorney’s Consumer & Environmental Unit investigated the complaint then joined with the District Attorney’s Office for action.
“It’s our responsibility to protect consumers and this was misleading, aimed at children and its not going to happen in San Diego, or for that matter California,” Goldsmith said.
Prosecutors alleged in the civil complaint that the kits “were packaged in containers that were constructed or filled as to facilitate the perpetration of fraud, in violation of state consumer protection laws.”
Horizon cooperated with prosecutors and stipulated to the entry of a judgment without admitting wrongdoing. Judge Judith F. Hayes signed a stipulated final judgment that required the company to pay $225,000 in costs and penalties and prohibits similar future violations within the state.
Disney was not part of the case.
Dumanis said the judgment was a warning that companies “will be held accountable for deceptive business practices that violate the law.”
Deputy District Attorney Tom Papageorge said consumer fraud was preventable by a well-educated populace.
He advised consumers to do research to make sure a product was not too good to be true, ask a salesperson what was included in the package and ask about return policies.
A Better Business Bureau website gave Horizon Group an A-plus rating.
The site said: “BBB has determined that Horizon Group USA Inc. meets BBB accreditation standards, which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. BBB Accredited Businesses pay a fee for accreditation review/monitoring and for support of BBB services to the public.”
—City News Service contributed to this report.