Harris Jewelry will pay $800,000 in restitution as part of a settlement related to “its unlawful credit services business and deceptive and misleading representations related to that business,” according to Tennessee’s attorney general.
The state says the company, which operates 20 stores nationwide near military installations, violated the Credit Services Business Act and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
“Instead of serving our Tennessee men and women in the armed forces, as advertised, Harris Jewelers set out to take advantage of them,” said Tennessee Attorney General Herbert. H. Slatery III. “This settlement holds them accountable for breaking the law and provides relief to those who were harmed by their actions.”
The company stated in the settlement document that it “neither admits nor denies any of the state’s allegations.”
The Tennessee store is located at the Governor’s Square Mall in Clarksville, near Fort Campbell.
The company promoted a financing plan called the “Harris Program,” according to a press release from the attorney general’s office. Active duty servicemembers were allegedly sold on the program as an opportunity to establish or repair their credit.
“Then, customers were encouraged to select expensive jewelry to maximize the amount of credit extended which Harris determined based on their branch of service and time remaining on active duty,” according to the release. “The convoluted payment plans made it nearly impossible to calculate or understand the total cost of a transaction; the ‘retail’ prices bore little resemblance to the amount paid at the end of the financing contract.”
Harris Jewelry also sold in-house warranties or protection plans financed through the Harris Program. In 2016, protection plans were added to over 90 percent of products eligible for the protection plan, according to the release.
Under the terms of the settlement:
- Harris shall not engage in any conduct that would constitute a “credit services business.”
- Harris is required to pay $800,000 in debt relief and refunds to all consumers who made a purchase at the store in Clarksville between Jan. 1, 2016, and March 1, 2019.
- Harris can no longer base credit eligibility solely on a customer’s remaining military service.
- Harris cannot represent in advertising that consumers may be automatically approved for credit.
- Warranty products may only be provided on a clearly disclosed opt-in basis.
- Defendants will pay $306,000 to the state if they default on any part of the judgment.