The Federal Trade Commission today announced that a federal court has entered a final judgment against Worldwide Wallcoverings and Blinds, Inc., an Illinois corporation based in Northbrook. Last September the FTC obtained a federal court order halting the operations of Worldwide. The FTC had charged that Worldwide, which advertised discount wallpaper and blinds and promised delivery within two to three days, had defrauded thousands of consumers by, in many instances, simply pocketing their money and not shipping any merchandise at all.
The final judgment, which was entered by default when the company failed to defend the charges against it, prohibits Worldwide from misrepresenting when it will deliver ordered items or any other fact material to a consumer’s decision to purchase from it, and from violating the Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule. The judgment also requires Worldwide to pay the Commission a total $437,643.00 for consumer redress. It is unlikely, however, that there will be any funds available to pay the judgment, the FTC said. The Commission previously settled charges against Bruce Sears, Worldwide’s owner, and Martha Kazak, its President.
Worldwide’s headquarters are at 333 Skokie Boulevard, Suite 101, Northbrook, Illinois.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Worldwide had advertised in national magazines, offering wall coverings and blinds at discounted rates and free shipping within two or three days. From 1995 until September 1996, when the FTC obtained a court order temporarily halting the operation, Worldwide allegedly had failed to deliver the merchandise to most of its customers and also had failed to issue refunds. The Better Business Bureau of Chicago had received an unprecedented 1,500 consumer complaints about Worldwide in its last two years of operation.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office received as many as 700 consumer complaints. Thousands of consumers have paid the company on average $250 each, with purchases ranging between $12 and $6,000 each for wall coverings and blinds, and either never received the items purchased or never received refunds, the FTC alleged.
A federal district court for the Northern District of Illinois issued the temporary restraining order, which stopped the challenged practices, appointed a receiver, and froze the defendants’ assets. The court entered a preliminary injunction continuing the asset freeze and conduct restrictions. Worldwide Wallcoverings remains under the control of the receiver.
A free FTC brochure for consumers, titled "Shopping by Phone or Mail," provides information about consumers’ rights for goods ordered by mail, telephone, computer, and fax machine. Copies are available at the address below.
Copies of the judgment, as well as the FTC brochure, titled "Shopping by Phone or Mail," are available from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov (no period).
(Civil Action No. 96C6138)
(FTC File No. X96 0096)