CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office recently entered into a nearly $1.65 million Assurance of Discontinuance with Blue World Pools Inc. to resolve allegations that the company’s business practices violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.
“A settlement of this nature is a significant victory for consumers in the Mountain State,” Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement. “It includes debt cancellation for customers who were misled into buying pools from Blue World, as well as a $1 million payment from the company.”
The assurance stems from an investigation by the office into whether Atlanta-based Blue World was engaging in unfair or deceptive practices in connection with the sale and financing of pools to West Virginia consumers between 2008 and 2012. The office accused the company of using a national advertising campaign offering $399 above-ground pools to attract potential customers, then persuading those customers to buy Blue World’s Classic 52-inch wall pool with an average sales price of more than $14,000.
According to the investigation, Blue World sold 110 pools to consumers in the state, 35 of which were cash sales and the remaining 75 were initially financed by Blue World. The company secured all of its finance agreements by recording a deed of trust against the consumer’s property and named itself as the trustee.
In 18 sales, the finance agreements were sold to Community Home Financial Services Inc., a national consumer finance company based in Mississippi.
The office alleged Blue World engaged in the practice of making mortgage loans without a license and, in some cases, did not disclose all finance charges that would be applied to the loans, including the fact that the annual percentage rates exceeded limits allowed in the state. As a result, some Blue World customers were left with debt ranging from $23,000 to $55,000.
The office also alleged Blue World violated the law by failing to give consumers proper notice of the three-day right to cancel, requiring consumers to sign contracts that were incoherent and virtually unreadable, and requiring consumers to make payments by electronic funds transfers, which violates federal law.
Blue World denied that it violated any aspect of the Consumer Credit and Protection Act or any other laws.
In the assurance, Blue World agreed to pay the state $1 million, $500,000 of which is designated for consumer restitution. The company also agreed to cancel $647,477.57 in consumer debt.
“Our office is constantly working on the front lines to protect consumers from businesses who may engage in unscrupulous or unfair business practices,” Morrisey said. “We urge consumers to do their homework before entering into any contract and to not be afraid to say no to deals that seem too-good-to-be-true.
"Consumers also should be wary if a salesperson asks them to use their home as security for a loan or ask for their deed, even if the salesperson assures them the deed is only needed to verify who owns the property."