January 26, 2007
Attorney General Corbett announces $25,000 settlement for consumers left with unusable "Dinecheck" restaurant gift certificates
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced that several hundred consumers will receive nearly $25,000 in restitution for "Dinecheck" gift certificates that were no longer honored by restaurants after the company ceased operations in May 2006.
Corbett said the Dinechecks were marketed to consumers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia by Taste America Gifts, of New Stanton, Westmoreland County. They were sold via the company's website and in mall kiosks, in $10 and $25 denominations, and were redeemable for food and beverage purchases at participating restaurants, concentrated mainly in southwestern Pennsylvania.
"The first notice that most consumers received about problems with their Dinechecks was when restaurants starting posting signs that the gift certificates would no longer be accepted," Corbett said. "Hundreds of consumers were left without their money and without their meals, holding gift certificates they could not redeem."
Corbett's Bureau of Consumer Protection today filed an "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance" agreement with Taste America Gifts Inc, formerly of 201 Pennsylvania Ave., Second Floor, New Stanton, Westmoreland County, and its president, Michael Reese.
Today's agreement resolves claims that Taste America Gifts violated Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law by failing to provide refunds to consumers who were left holding valid gift certificates after the company suspended operations on May 26, 2006. To date, nearly 700 complaints have been filed with the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Corbett said that under the terms of the legal agreement, Taste America Gifts is required to pay $24,500 in restitution to consumers who have filed valid complaints with the Attorney General's office. Additionally, it will pay $500 for the Commonwealth's investigation costs and fees.
The agreement also prohibits Reese from owning or operating a similar gift certificate business in Pennsylvania for the next three years.
Corbett noted that consumers holding unredeemed Dinecheck gift certificates have 30 days to file a complaint in order to receive restitution under this agreement. The original, unredeemed Dinechecks must be included with the complaint submitted to the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection. The total number of valid claims submitted to the Attorney General's office by Feb. 24, 2007 will determine the final payment received by consumers.
Consumers should contact the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 for information about filing a complaint. Consumers who have already filed complaints concerning Dinechecks do not need to file a new complaint.
Under the assurance of voluntary compliance, there was no admission of wrongdoing by Reese and Taste America Gifts.
The agreement was filed in Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas. The case is being handled by Deputy Attorney General M. Susan Ruffner of the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection in Pittsburgh.