ANNAPOLIS -- The Court of Special Appeals today gave the Maryland attorney general permission to seek refunds for some of the 43,000 state residents who were lured to a Pennsylvania campsite by deceptive notices they received by mail.
The decision gives the attorney general's consumer protection division authority to seek refunds from Outdoor World Corp. for state residents who traveled to Pennsylvania and Virginia after receiving the deceptive notices.
The mailings promised free prizes -- ranging from $10,000 in cash to new automobiles -- to smaller prizes to recipients who traveled to the sites to claim their prizes.
Many people who went to the site complained that when they arrived, the company's sales representatives talked for hours to persuade them to buy memberships entitling them to campsites. The memberships cost as much as $9,000.
They later were told they had to to pay "redemption fees" to claim their prizes, which usually were items of far less value than the cash or cars.
The attorney general's office had received numerous complaints and ordered the company to refund the money, but the firm won an appeal in Baltimore Circuit Court. The opinion by Chief Judge Alan M. Wilner today threw out the circuit court's ruling.
However, the court did not order all the refunds sought by the attorney general's office, saying the $60 million it sought was too broad.
On May 31, 1989, the company was charged with false and misleading solicitation and unfair and deceptive sales practices.
"This record shows no evidence, or even the likelihood of evidence, that anyone from Maryland actually purchased a campsite membership in reliance on the offending notice," Judge Wilner said in the decision.
The court said the state could seek refunds for people who were led to believe they could claim their prize simply by appearing at the campsite.