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Ohio attorney general sues OfficeMax



Published: Sat, January 15, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Cleveland Better Business Bureau has rated store as 'unsatisfactory.'

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Attorney General Jim Petro sued office supply company OfficeMax Inc. on Friday, saying it responded to more than 100 customer complaints only after the state intervened.

The suit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, accuses the company of unfair and deceptive business practices by failing to honor rainchecks and rebate requests. The attorney general's office said it handled more than 100 complaints in the past two years from customers who said they had no luck getting rebates or rainchecks to buy out-of-stock items at advertised sale prices.

The suit asks that OfficeMax pay unspecified damages to customers who did not receive rainchecks and that it honor all advertisements and rebates in compliance with state law.

"The continual pattern of complaints that we got showed us that they were not fixing the problem. They were only fixing the problem when we stepped in," attorney general spokeswoman Michelle Gatchell said.

OfficeMax spokesman Bill Bonner had not heard of the suit and said he couldn't comment on it.

Numerous complaints

Other problems have plagued the company over the past several weeks. The president of the company's retail division, Gary Peterson, resigned last week, and this week it announced its chief financial officer is leaving after two months on the job.

The Better Business Bureau has processed 718 complaints against OfficeMax stores nationwide over the past three years, according to its Web site. OfficeMax has an unsatisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau in Cleveland, where the company was based before Boise Cascade Corp., now known as OfficeMax, bought it in December 2002 for $1.2 billion on cash and stock. OfficeMax is based in Illinois.

OfficeMax reduced its forecast for fiscal 2004 operating income three weeks ago, citing poor holiday sales, a day after announcing the investigation into a vendor's allegations that some employees demanded promotional payments and falsified documents.

The vendor's claims that some of OfficeMax's employees fabricated supporting documentation for about $3.3 million in claims billed to OfficeMax in 2003 and 2004 were confirmed by an ongoing investigation by the audit committee of its board of directors.

OfficeMax reported $3.65 billion in sales through the first three quarters of 2004, when it was listed as Boise Cascade. Shares rose 36 cents to close at $29.00 Friday in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.




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