Colorado attorney general seeks owner of Grand Junction rebate biz
Grand Junction, CO, Colorado
GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado. ” An elderly Grand Junction widow believes she was unfairly denied a $4,000 rebate from National Energy Rebate Fund, a business owned by Tim Stubbs of Grand Junction, Colorado. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office filed a civil lawsuit last week against the company to seek restitution for Elsie Tailleur and others like her.
Michelle and Tim Gossage, also of Grand Junction, did not receive a rebate worth $8,874 despite following detailed rebate application instructions, they said.
The Attorney General’s Office will seek civil penalties against National Energy Rebate Fund for violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.
In 2003, Tailleur bought siding for her house from Elite Home Products, the merchant working with Stubbs’ rebate business. National Energy Rebate Fund, also known as National Energy Rebate and National Renewable Energy Rebate, refused to give Tailleur the $4,000 rebate she was expecting because she sent a required coupon by certified mail as opposed to registered mail, Tailleur said.
A postal office clerk told her it was basically the same, Tailleur said.
“They (NERF) claimed I didn’t send it the way they asked me to send it,” Tailleur said. “But they got the coupon.”
“I have talked to other people who didn’t get (the rebate) either,” she said.
“It made me sick. It was just a mess,” Tailleur said. “Those people are cheaters, and that’s all there is to it.”
Both Colorado’s and Wisconsin’s attorneys general are seeking to recoup money from Stubbs, who apparently has left the country. All of the money recovered would go to pay restitution to alleged victims of the rebate program.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said his office has 75 complaints on file against the company.
“We think clearly there were deceptive trade practices involved,” Suthers said.
Neighbors of Stubbs’ home near Monument and South Camp roads said he moved to Costa Rica in December. Stubbs’ brothers Matt and Mike Stubbs, and Realtor Tom Fee, who is selling Tim Stubbs’ $639,000 house, would not say or said they do not know where Tim Stubbs is.
According to an e-mail sent to the Free Press from the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office, a former defense attorney for the National Rebate Fund said Tim Stubbs might be in Panama.
Suthers said Thursday that if the state can’t find Stubbs and he fails to respond to public notices, they’ll go to court. If the court makes a judgment against the company, the state will go after Stubbs’ assets in order to pay the victims of the alleged rebate scam.
Unlike a criminal case, civil defendants cannot be extradited, Suthers said.
But “we can execute that judgment against any assets we’re able to locate.”
Dozens of people in Wisconsin, Utah and California claim that National Energy Rebate Fund owes them thousands of dollars in rebates.
Stubbs’ brother Matt was an employee of the rebate company. Matt Stubbs agreed this month to pay $20,000 to the state of Wisconsin for his alleged role in marketing the rebates. The state alleged consumers were misled in purchasing products for which they believed they could receive substantial rebates. Consumers were also told they’d be participating in a study to determine the energy efficiency of certain products.
Matt Stubbs, who said he provided computer services for NERF, said he settled with Wisconsin to avoid a more costly court case. The settlement was not an admission of guilt.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Matt Stubbs said. “I got in trouble for doing graphic arts work for marketing materials. I didn’t create or come up with the content.”
Matt Stubbs was not an owner or officer in the company, and he had no authority or responsibility for its actions, he said.
A spokesman from the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office said in an e-mail Wednesday the settlement will not cover what’s allegedly owed to Wisconsin consumers. The e-mail also said that “substantially more” will be sought from Tim Stubbs to reimburse customers.
Former salesman speaks
Michelle and Tim Gossage of Grand Junction signed up for NERF four years ago, after hearing the program advertised on a local radio station, followed by a telephone call and visit by a salesman from Home Elite Products, formerly located at 2379 G Road.
The salesman came to the Gossage home to talk about the windows, the rebate program and what a good deal it was, Michelle Gossage said.
“They said it was a promotion to track how well energy-efficient windows and other products were,” she said. “It sounded really interesting. We needed windows.”
The Gossages spent $11,092 on 12 windows and a sliding glass door, with the promise of an $8,874 rebate in four years if they sent in a valid rebate claim. They were expecting their rebate in December. They’re still waiting.
When reached Wednesday, the salesman ” who asked to not be identified ” said he remembered being uncomfortable at first with the rebate program.
“It seemed too good to be true,” he said.
“I was informed by Tim (Stubbs) that not everyone receives the rebate and to inform people of that,” but that “absolutely everyone who filled out the paperwork properly would get their rebate.
“So after I had a couple of long talks with him I was satisfied he intended to deliver,” the man said. “I’ve been in sales for years. If I ever doubted that people were not getting (their rebates) I would have worked elsewhere.”
The salesman said he remembered Stubbs telling him about four years ago he was planning to close Elite Home Products.
National Energy Rebate Fund and Elite Home Products were two different businesses, but Stubbs had a hand in both, said the former salesman.
The phones at National Energy Rebate Fund Inc., once located at 851 Grand Ave., National Rebate Fund, a business with an address listed at 2500 Broadway, Unit B-253, and Fund Administrators, a division of NERF that was located at 2139 North 12th St., Unit 8, have all been disconnected.
No second chances
According to the company’s Web site, the rebate program depends on “slippage” ” that occurs when people fail to comply with the terms and conditions necessary to collect money owed them at the end of the term of a redemption promotion.
Unclaimed funds from those who forget to claim, or do not file a valid claim, are used to pay those people who do submit a valid claim.
It’s easy to mess up, and there are no second chances.
Consumers had two time frames to meet. First, at the time of purchase, the buyer had to submit an initial registration within 17 days by sending in the check stub. Consumers were required to return all check stubs and rebate check claims separately; rebates could be applied for no earlier than the 47th month after the issue date and no later than the 30th day after; consumers could not be reminded or encouraged by the media or any other reminder service, other than the one reminder notice sent by the company two years after the purchase. If any of the clauses were not met, the claim was invalidated and the consumer did not receive the rebate.
The Better Business Bureau Reliability Report gives the National Rebate Fund LLC a rating of F for failing to respond to complaints, misleading advertising, noncompliance with the law’s licensing or registration requirements, and serious complaint allegations.
The Grand Junction Branch of the BBB of the Southwest began taking complaints against the National Rebate Fund in March 2006, until the company stopped cooperating with the agency in May, said Bureau Manager Holly Miller.
“We’ve been instructed by the company and the Attorney General’s Office to forward all consumer complaints to the attorney general,” Miller said.
People in Utah and California are also looking for Tim Stubbs.
Salt Lake City television reporters drove to Grand Junction a year ago to confront Stubbs in one of his Grand Junction offices. KUTV reporters tried to interview Stubbs about the rebate program after dozens of Utah residents lodged complaints with a consumer protection group there. Stubbs repeatedly put his hand in front of the camera and refused to answer the Utah television crew’s questions.
In San Diego, Utility Consumers’ Action Network has also been following NERF since it started receiving complaints in 2007 against the company.
The National Rebate Fund/National Energy Rebate Fund Web site currently states: “Due to ongoing legal issues we are unable to continue processing. You do not need to mail your claims, unless you want to, but they will most likely be returned as the FA (fund administrator) has resigned and is not accepting mail.”
The money that was set aside in an escrow account to pay the valid claims is still there, said a former NERF employee familiar with the payout procedure, and who asked to not be identified.
Was it a fair program? Or was it designed specifically to trip people up and convince them to buy a product that in some cases may have been priced above market value?
Matt Stubbs said the program was based on an understanding that not everybody would file correctly.
“An important thing to keep in mind, and I had to keep in mind working there, it was a rebate ” a free incentive to do business with a company,” Matt Stubbs said. “It was a free opportunity to redeem something later.
“People, instead of saying, ‘Gee, I messed up,'” decided it was unfair and complained to authorities, he added.
Michelle and Tim Gossage are confident they followed all the clauses correctly. But they never received a response after applying for their rebate four years after buying their windows.
Michelle Gossage said she regrets not only not getting the $8,874 rebate she said she was promised, but also the wasted mental energy of keeping track of the paperwork for four years and complying with the complicated clauses.
“I knew we had all our ducks lined up,” she said. “I’m convinced we did it absolutely right, and they didn’t even respond. It’s designed so people will fail.
“One of the downfalls, for four years I’ve had this in my mind,” Gossage said. “All that mental effort for nothing.”
Reach Sharon Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.