It’s a digital spin on an old-school business: an online service that offers to pay “top dollar” for consumers’ used smartphones, laptops, or tablets. The technology may be trending, but according to the FTC and the State of Georgia, Nevada-based Laptop & Desktop Repair engaged in a classic 20th century bait-and-switch – and bilked consumers out of millions in the process.
To get an “instant quote,” consumers went to sites like cashforiphones.com, cashforlaptops.com, sell-your-cell.com, and smartphonetraders.com, entered the make and model of their device, and completed a short checklist about the condition. According to the complaint, the defendants represented that consumers would get the amount of the instant quote. The defendants claimed, “Customers can expect to receive the exact amount we quote in the shortest time possible,” consumers will “[r]eceive the cash promised in your quote,” and Laptop & Desktop Repair “will pay you as soon as we confirm the condition of your [device] and payout amount.
They made it look this easy:
So consumers popped their gear in the mail and waited for the defendants to make good on their offer. But once the company had consumers’ equipment in hand, they dropped their buyback price to as little as pennies on the dollar – sometimes just 3%-10% of the original quote.
And the questionable practices didn’t end there. Consumers typically had only a few days to accept or reject the cut-rate offer, and the FTC and Georgia say the defendants didn’t make it easy to cancel. According to the complaint, the company ignored email requests, hung up on consumers or kept them on hold, and often didn’t return their devices.
The complaint also alleges that the company “incentivizes its employees, with bonuses or threats of termination, to follow these guidelines and to keep Company’s payouts far below the quoted amount and returns to a minimum.”
The lawsuit, which names Laptop & Desktop Repair, LLC and owner Vadim Olegovich Kruchinin, alleges violations of the FTC Act and the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act. A federal judge in Atlanta issued an ex parte temporary restraining order and appointed a receiver.
Even at this preliminary stage, the complaint offers a reminder to the growing online “We’ll buy your stuff” industry that established truth-in-advertising principles apply. Furthermore, the joint FTC-Georgia filing is just the latest example of the close, cooperative relationship among consumer protection law enforcers.