Grave marker refunds ordered

September 14, 1994|By Capital News Service

Consumers who bought grave markers as early as 1990 but whose loved ones still lack memorials have won more than $19,000 in repayments from a Frederick County firm charged with violating Maryland's Consumer Protection Act.

Robert Q. and Lois A. Stover, owners of Robert Stover Memorials, were ordered by a Frederick County court to stop collecting advance payments, to return all money collected for services not completed, and to set aside $3,000 for additional consumers who may have been harmed.

The order, signed Aug. 29, requires the Stovers to sell portions of their property within six months. If they do not, "We can come in and take the property" to make the repayments, said Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

Lois Stover, reached at the couple's Gettysburg, Pa., home, declined to comment.

The 21 Marylanders -- including at least one Carroll County customer -- covered by the decision will each be repaid between $50 and $3,000 for grave marker purchases.

"This type of violation is not widespread [in Maryland] but it has happened before in recent years," Mr. Curran said.

Consumers can protect themselves by following a few steps, he said.

"The best thing is to understand that a modest down payment is acceptable," Mr. Curran said. In addition, he urged purchasers to set a delivery date and, where possible, pay upon delivery.

He encouraged people to call the Consumer Protection Division or the Better Business Bureau before making an investment.

"It is important to know who you are dealing with. We will tell you what we know," Mr. Curran said.

Darlene Hylton of Westminster said she contacted the attorney general's office after giving Robert Stover a $500 deposit for a grave marker for her mother in August 1991.

"We weren't getting anywhere with [Mr.] Stover. We just stopped going up there to see him. Something had to be done," she said.

Those known to be entitled to refunds will be contacted by the Consumer Protection Division. Others may call the Consumer Protection Division in Baltimore at (410) 528-8662.

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