Washington State Attorney General Files Suit Against Microworkz

The attorney general of Washington state filed a lawsuit last week against Microworkz.com Inc., accusing the low-cost computer maker of violating consumer protection laws by failing to deliver computers to its customers.

"This company generated lots of excitement when it offered a bare-bones, low-cost personal computer, but that quickly turned sour when they failed to deliver what they promised," Attorney General Christine Gregorie said.

The lawsuit was filed Oct. 4 in King County Superior Court in Lynnwood-based Microworkz's (www.microworkz.com) home state of Washington. It claims that the company failed to deliver computer equipment, honor warranties, issue refunds or respond to customer inquiries and complaints. The suit names Richard Latman, Microworkz's chairman, as a defendant.

The lawsuit asks the court for a permanent injunction to stop the firm's alleged unlawful conduct and to provide restitution for consumers and other costs and fees. The goal of the lawsuit isn't to put Microworkz out of business, but to force the company to mend its ways, said Janice Marich, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.

The atttorney general's office said it has received 95 complaints against Microworkz since the start of the year. The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission also have received complaints. Bob Rowe, a deputy fire chief who lives in Auburn, Wash., said he paid $1,493 on May 3 for one of Microworkz's higher-end computer systems. Rowe said he was attracted to the company after he heard Latman being interviewed on a local radio station and by the firm's low prices.

When he still hadn't received his computer on July 21, Rowe said he called the company and canceled his order. Despite being promised a refund within 30 days, he still hasn't gotten his money back.

"My main fear is they will file for bankruptcy," Rowe said, adding he plans to file a claim in small claims court in a bid to recover his money.

The attorney general's lawsuit raises broader issues for consumers about the potential risk of buying goods from newly established computer companies that have emerged along with the Internet's rapid growth, Marich said. Such firms often have no proven track record, she said, and may not have a physical presence to which consumers can turn if their orders aren't fulfilled.

-- James Niccolai IDG News Service, San Francisco Bureau.

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