Attorney General James Secures $300,000 from Cookware Company for Misleading Consumers about Their Refund Policy
Royal Prestige Cookware and other Hy Cite Brands Targeted
Latino Communities and Refused to Let them Return Expensive Products
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today secured $300,000 from a cookware company, Hy Cite Enterprises, LLC (Hy Cite), for failing to clearly disclose their refund policies in their contracts with thousands of consumers in predominantly Spanish-speaking communities throughout the state. Hy Cite, which owns the brands Royal Prestige and Kitchen Charm and uses door-to-door marketing, told customers they only had three business days to return products when they tried to make returns. However, the Door-to-Door Sales Protection Act requires companies that do not have a refund policy to give consumers 20 days to make a return on door-to-door sales. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Hy Cite’s contracts failed to clearly disclose any refund policy and did not allow consumers to make returns within the 20-day timeframe. As a result of today’s agreement, Hy Cite must pay a $300,000 penalty and offer refunds to eligible customers who were previously denied a cancellation when they tried to make a return within 20 days of their purchase.
“Hy Cite misled consumers to beef up their profits and today they are paying for their wrongdoing,” said Attorney General James. “They targeted Spanish-speaking communities and refused to let them return products after they were pressured into buying them. I urge eligible consumers who tried to return a product within 20 days of making a purchase, but were denied, to contact my office. We will continue to use the full force of our office to protect New Yorkers’ wallets from companies that disregard the law.”
Hy Cite sold pots, pans, and other kitchen-related goods through door-to-door marketing by distributors in predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, including Bushwick, Marble Hill, Highbridge, East Tremont, Kingsbridge Heights, and Concourse. The OAG opened an investigation into Hy Cite after receiving complaints from New Yorkers who were unable to return purchased products.
The OAG found that Hy Cite did not have any stated refund policy and instead only told consumers they have three business days to cancel their purchase, a violation of the Door-to-Door Sales Protection Act. The law requires companies to have a refund policy and a three-day notice of cancellation. Companies that do not have a refund policy are required to allow consumers 20 days to return their products.
Today’s agreement requires Hy Cite to allow eligible consumers, who purchased goods between August 1, 2018 and October 31, 2022, and who had wanted to return their products within 20 days of purchase, to return them for either a cash refund or exchange for new products, depending on the condition of the products returned. In addition, the agreement requires Hy Cite to include a 20-day refund policy on its New York sales order forms for at least three years and requires Hy Cite, not its distributors, to collect consumer payments. Hy Cite must also pay $300,000 in penalties to the state.
Individuals who purchased goods between August 1, 2018 and October 31, 2022, and who were denied a refund within 20 days of purchase should file a complaint online with OAG’s Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau or call 1-800-771-7755. Hy Cite is also required under the settlement to review its records and notify eligible consumers by January 30, 2023.
“Make the Road New York applauds Attorney General James for going after Hy Cite for their deceptive practices against low-income consumers,” said Elizabeth Jordan, Deputy Legal Director, Make the Road New York. “Several of our members were induced through high-pressure sales tactics to purchase expensive Royal Prestige products and enter into disadvantageous sales contracts that were difficult to understand. Later, many found they were unable to return the products, even when they turned out to be defective. This settlement by the Attorney General’s office will help alleviate some of the extreme financial burden that our members and other low-income community members face as a result of Hy Cite's practices, and we hope will deter Hy Cite and other predatory schemes in the future.”
“My son and I bought juicers, but when they arrived, one was missing a piece. It didn't work, but we were not able to return it because they didn’t have an adequate return policy,” said Juana García, an impacted customer and member of Make the Road New York. “My son ended up paying for the whole thing plus a lot more because of the very high interest he was charged. I'm glad to hear that the Attorney General’s office has reached this agreement to hold this company accountable for what they did to families like mine.”
“I applaud Attorney General James on successfully holding Hy Cite Enterprises accountable for its failure to clearly disclose the company’s refund policies and offer refunds to eligible customers,” said U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat. “Today’s effort is a victory for consumers and reaffirms our commitment to ensuring residents, especially those in minority and Spanish-speaking communities, are not victimized by predatory business practices in the name of profit.”
“Companies have a responsibility to disclose their refund policies to their customers and it is clear Hy Cite Enterprises failed to do so,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “Thank you to Attorney General James and her team for taking immediate action to ensure consumers’ rights are protected and that vulnerable New Yorkers receive the compensation that they deserve.”
“I commend Attorney General Letitia James for protecting Spanish-speaking communities throughout New York state from unscrupulous business practices,” said New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera. “Enforcement actions like this are critical to ensure that consumer and worker protection laws are working as intended.”
“Preying on vulnerable communities for profit has no place in New York City,” said New York City Council Member Pierina Sanchez. “Specifically targeting predominantly Spanish-speaking communities in the Bronx with misleading information and failing to disclose an abusive refund policy for corporate gains is unacceptable. I commend the investigative work of the Attorney General’s Office, whose commitment to upending predatory practices against New York City’s Latinx community continues to remain a priority.”
“I’m grateful to Attorney General Letitia James for her work to ensure that those targeted by Hy Cite will be able to receive refunds as per New York state law,” said New York City Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez. “I am disappointed, but sadly not surprised, to see Spanish-speaking communities and consumers targeted and defrauded by bad actors. But I will not stand idly by when vulnerable members of the community are subjected to fraud and abuse — my office is here to support anyone seeking the refund they’re entitled to, as well as help in addressing any other consumer issue.”
“Companies who target vulnerable consumers deserve to be held accountable,” said New York City Council Member Sandy Nurse. “I applaud Attorney General Letitia James for securing this penalty against Hy Cite, and encourage residents in my district and throughout the state to be wary of unscrupulous salespeople and reach out to the Attorney General's office if they believe they are being misled or defrauded.”
This investigation was handled by Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth M. Lynch, formerly of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau and now Co-Director of OAG’s HAF Mortgage Enforcement Unit, and Assistant Attorneys General Dami Obaro and Christopher L. Filburn, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine and Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia. The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Economic Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.