Hardware Store Finds Safe Harbor

Nails, by pixabay user ShortSword, licensed by Creative Commons.

Hammer time.

A popular hardware store has settled a class action lawsuit after some tooling around with their sales process. Harbor Freight, which has locations across the United States, agreed that they may have misstated discounts and coupon offers over a 4 year period. The settlement reads that anyone who purchased a product from Harbor Freight between April 8 2011 and Dec 15 2016 are now eligible to a reward. Customers will have their choice of 20% of the purchased product’s amount in cash, or 30% in Harbor Freight gift cards. The lawsuit, Beck v Harbor Freight, was filed at the Court of Common Pleas in Lake County, OH.

The main issue here was the wording to Harbor Freight customers about options to claim their discounts. Some items were shown to be on “sale” and used “compare at” prices in their marketing efforts to move products off the shelves. It turns out that some of those seemingly discounted items may have not actually been sold at those prices, making any markdowns or “sales” completely false. Harbor Freight is acknowledging their error and even opening their refund / coupon offer up to those people who can not find their original receipt or bank statement, but are at least willing to claim legally that they did shop at the store. The deadline to submit a claim will come a few months down the line in the late summer.

It seems unlikely that there is any ill intentions here by Harbor Freight. A popular brand with contractors, carpenters, mechanics, and other “do-it-yourself” folks, their willingness to be open about refunds and claims is quite refreshing. This seems to be the product of some misleading advertising language which, unfortunately for the hardware store, found its way into the stores and printed on the receipts as evidence. It is always important to carefully review any legal terms or advertising phrasing with a fine toothed comb. An expensive lesson for Harbor Freight to learn, but not likely repeated. Hopefully they’ve put the final nail in this one.

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