NJ forces store to stop restricting returns from Orthodox Jewish towns
New Jersey 101.5 related video
TRENTON — An online children's clothing website has agreed to end its policy of restricting returns from areas with a heavy Orthodox Jewish population.
Shan and Toad's return policy had offered a full refund "for any reason" to all customers except those coming from Lakewood and Passaic or Monsey, Monroe and Brooklyn in New York. Customers instead were offered store credit or merchandise exchange.
The policy was first reported by the Lakewood Scoop and New Jersey 101.5 last year, and it was a hot topic online and on air. (See Judi's video above.)
Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said that the company had agreed to end the policy after the Division on Civil Rights and the Division of Consumer Affairs informed them that it appeared to be in violation of state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws. Shan and Toad will establish a new return policy that puts restrictions on certain customers.
The retailer's return policy has already been changed and the geographic restrictions removed. The policy now states: "If we identify an unreasonable return pattern, we may restrict or refuse future transactions and returns from such customers." The website now only offers store credit on all returns.
Owner Shana Laub in a statement said that "we have reluctantly agreed to comply with the State of New Jersey’s Office of the Attorney General and impose a universal return policy in which we do not issue refunds, but rather store credit only. It is unfortunate that a stricter return policy needs to be in place for all areas, as I believe it will have an adverse effect on the business. Rather than protecting small business, it seems that the state is more concerned with protecting people that cannot adhere to a store policy or behave like decent human beings.”
Read More: Online retailer drops Lakewood, Passaic no-refund stance after prompt from NJ AG | http://wobm.com/online-retailer-drops-lakewood-passaic-no-refund-stance-after-prompt-from-nj-ag/?trackback=tsmclip
Laub told New Jersey 101.5 in September that the policy was implemented after the business noticed costumers from those areas returning clothes that could not be re-sold. Laub said her policy was not intended to hurt anyone and asked for forgiveness.
"I was merely trying to survive," she said, and said that larger companies such as Amazon and Costco are able to absorb such costs but they even have policies in place against abuse.
“This settlement sends a clear message to on-line and mail-order sellers that red-lining – i.e., treating customers from certain areas less favorably based simply on their address -- is not acceptable in New Jersey when it has the effect of discriminating against people based on their faith or any other protected category,” said Attorney General Porrino.
A $10,000 suspended penalty will be dropped if there are no violations of the settlement.
Under the settlement, Shan and Toad makes no admission of wrongdoing.
When New Jersey 101.5 first asked the state Division of Consumer Affairs about the policy last September, spokeswoman Lisa Coryell said the state's Refund Policy Disclosure Act does not address online sales. The refund law also doesn’t address the issue of discrimination — geographic or otherwise, she said.
“The act requires stores in New Jersey to conspicuously post their refund policy on an item, at the point of sale, in a spot visible to the buyer from a cash register, or at each store entrance used by the public,” Coryell said. The act does not set any parameters for the refund policy itself.”
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com
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