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MALDONADO v. COLLECTIBLES INT'L

July 7, 1997

JOSE MALDONADO, Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs of the City of New York, Plaintiff, against COLLECTIBLES INTERNATIONAL, INC., NICHOLAS DIPAOLO and STEVE YEAGER, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KAPLAN

 LEWIS A. KAPLAN, District Judge.

 Facts

 The facts as alleged in the complaint are as follows. Nicholas DiPaolo, the principal of Collectibles International, Inc. ("Collectibles"), a sports collectibles company, ran ads in major New York newspapers and distributed promotional literature and videos seeking to entice the public to become sports card brokers. *fn1" Steve Yeager, a former professional baseball player and a celebrity endorser for Collectibles, was featured in the ads and videos and made personal telephone follow up calls to interested consumers.

 Collectibles, in return for a "deposit" of approximately $ 3,000, claimed it would provide customer "leads," viz. names of buyers of sports collectibles, as well as training and training materials and sports cards at deeply discounted prices for personal collections. The DCA has received upward of 60 consumer complaints to the effect that the literature and videos were replete with factual inaccuracies, the training was practically non-existent, consumers *fn2" lost their "deposits," the leads were worthless and unauthorized charges were made on consumers' credit cards. As witnessed by the handwritten consumer complaints, the victims of the alleged scam, for the most part, were unsophisticated consumers with an interest in sports who were looking for a job.

 Relevant Statutory Provisions

 Section 20-700 of the Consumer Protection Law states:

 
"No person shall engage in any deceptive or unconscionable trade practice in the sale, lease, rental, or loan or in the offering for sale, lease, rental, or loan of any consumer goods or services, or in the collection of consumer debts."

 "Consumer goods and services" are defined as goods and services "used primarily for personal, household, or family purposes." N.Y.C. ADMIN. CODE § 20-701 (d).

 Discussion

 Yeager contends that the defendants' offerings were not "consumer goods or services" within the meaning of the statute. The Court concludes that the customer leads, vocational training and materials and sports cards defendants offered all qualify as consumer goods and services. Accordingly, the motion is dismiss is denied.

 "Generally, statutes promoting the public good are liberally construed." N.Y. STAT. § 341 (McKinney 1971). The New York City Consumer Protection Law seeks to protect the public from deceptive and unconscionable trade practices and should be interpreted broadly. See 23 Realty Assocs. v. Teigman, 213 A.D.2d 306, 624 N.Y.S.2d 155 (1st Dep't 1995) (residential leases qualify as consumer goods under Consumer Protection Law). The Court of Appeals has stated that a court interpreting the statute should look to "the vast multitude which the statute[ was] enacted to safeguard including the ignorant, the unthinking and the credulous who, in making purchases, do not stop to analyze but are governed by appearances and general impressions." Guggenheimer v. Ginzburg, 43 N.Y.2d 268, 273, 401 N.Y.S.2d 182, 184, 372 N.E.2d 17 (1977) (citations omitted).

 The defendants here purportedly offered their prospects "business" training, sales leads and sports cards for their personal collections. The cards obviously were consumer goods by any definition of the term. *fn3" The only question of any ...


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