An Arkansas business owner may be fined $1.5 million plus be required to make payments of about $81,000 in restitution to 155 customers in 40 states and Canada that he is alleged to have cheated, according to a lawsuit filed by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and reported by Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Rutledge sued Jerry Wayne Collins, 49, of Plumerville and his company, NuCold Refrigeration Inc., in December 2016 under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practice Act.
NuCold, at 220 Sardis Road in Morrilton, sold, remanufactured and repaired ammonia cooling units for refrigerators in recreational vehicles. Customers were required to pay in advance before any work was done or any unit was shipped. The units cost between $400 and $1,000. The company has also been known as RV Fridge House and RV Icebox.
The aggrieved customers in the lawsuit, who were from 40 states and Canada, either didn’t get the equipment they paid for or were sold defective products with warranties that NuCold refused to honor, the lawsuit states.
The company also made it difficult for customers to get their money back when it did pay out refunds, according to the suit. About two dozen of the 155 customers listed in the lawsuit – about 15 percent – got refunds.
“In nearly all cases reported to the State, NuCold repeatedly evaded attempts by consumers to request a refund or obtain the paid-for good or service. NuCold failed to respond to communications from consumers, including phone calls, text messages, emails, and letters,” the suit states.
“Some consumers who contacted the State were able to obtain refunds, but only after repeated and consistent attempts by the State to resolve the consumer complaints. In many cases, even the State’s efforts were not enough to compel NuCold to provide refunds to consumers.”
NuCold has also engaged in false advertising, misled consumers about the quality of its products and services, and evaded customers who tried to get their money back – all violations of the deceptive-trade law, the suit states.
Neither Collins nor NuCold responded to the lawsuit, and the judge granted a default judgment in January. In pleadings filed this week by Assistant Attorney General Johnathan Carter, Rutledge asks the judge to impose the maximum fine allowed by law, $10,000 per violation, and require Collins and NuCold to pay $81,454 in restitution.
Customers are due refunds ranging from $42 to $4,940, according to the petition.