Eagle Ads Deceptive, Ernst Says
Ernst Home Centers, the Seattle-based home improvement chain, is battling newcomer Eagle Hardware and Garden in the courts, and in the court of public opinion.
Ernst has filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court accusing the four-store Eagle chain of unfair competition and violation of the state's Consumer Protection Act, claiming Eagle's comparison of prices for various products in some newspaper advertisements were false and deceptive.
Ernst also made the allegation in full-page advertisements in Sunday editions of The Seattle Times, The Bremerton Sun and The Spokane Spokesman Review.
Eagle officials refused to comment on Ernst's complaints yesterday.
In its suit, Ernst said that Eagle's price comparison advertisements are unfair because they compare items that are different in quality or grade but are implied to be identical.
Both the complaint and Sunday's ad point to a June 21 Eagle advertising supplement that listed its price for a single-bulb, 11-inch, flush-mount ceiling light at $25.97, compared with Ernst's price of $36.92. But the Ernst model, which is not shown or described, is a 13-inch unit that uses two lower-watt bulbs.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Eagle inaccurately quoted the supply of items at other stores and unfairly claimed to offer services unique to Eagle.
Ernst said in the complaint that it asked Eagle in April to cease its unfair or deceptive advertising but that Eagle refused.
The suit seeks damages to be determined at trial, triple damages up to $10,000, an injunction against Eagle and Eagle agents from practicing unlawful advertising, and attorney's fees and other costs.
Ernst is not the only competitor to complain about Eagle's advertising. Jerry Bass, executive vice president for Lamps Plus, a West Coast chain of lighting retail stores, said Eagle has made unfair comparisons with Lamps Plus products.
Comparisons with items sold by Pay 'N Pak were also deceptive and confusing to consumers, said John Markley, chief executive officer.
Washington state Assistant Attorney General Rob Manifeld said he was not aware of any complaints filed against Eagle with his office.
Mike Lemke, classified advertising manager for The Seattle Times, which published both Eagle's and Ernst's advertisements, said the paper requires substantiation and documentation of price claims from businesses that want to include price comparisons in their advertisements.
He added The Times will continue to accept Eagle's advertisements as long as it meets policy requirements.
Mike Stevens, advertising director for The Bremerton Sun, which also printed both Eagle's and Ernst's advertisements, said the paper requires similar documentation, including affidavits, from businesses interested in advertising price comparisons.
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