DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) — Officials with the Iowa Department of Justice say a Davenport company that allegedly duped businesses into paying for promotional advertising by misrepresenting ties to local high school sports teams has agreed to shut down its promotions business through an agreement with Attorney General Tom Miller. (Original KWQC TV-6 Investigates story below)
Officials say more than 30 complaints filed with the Consumer Protection Division—largely from small businesses—alleged Champion Posters and/or Varsity Promotions made various misrepresentations in soliciting, producing and distributing sports posters. Consumers alleged company representatives falsely claimed affiliations with high school sports or booster programs, failed to deliver on promised quality and quantities of promotional products, and failed to distribute or misrepresented how they would distribute products.
“Many of those who filed complaints in this case wanted to step up in their local community by sponsoring a high school sports team, and unfortunately they got burned,” Miller said. “If your small business receives a call from any salesperson claiming they’re selling promotional products or services and are connected to a local high school team or chamber of commerce, check things out before placing an order.”
According to Miller’s office, as part of the agreement, the two companies and Shannon agree to stop billing customers for any open accounts.
ORIGINAL REPORT: By Mark Steven
DAVENPORT, Iowa. (KWQC) — The whole point of advertising is to get your message out, but a Davenport business is facing complaints it’s taking money to advertise on high school sports posters, but not delivering. In fact, customers across the country have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and Iowa Attorney General saying they were misled, saying their purchases were never delivered, saying promised refunds never came.
LeClaire Realtor Pam Brammann said “Without my name and face out there, people don’t know who I am.”
Brammann relies on advertising to get her business name out in public.
“If I don’t advertise myself, I don’t have any clients, if I don’t have any clients, I can’t pay my bills,” said Brammann.
Brammann said she got a cold call back in September from a salesperson at Champion Posters.
“They said they go out to high schools and the sports posters with baseball, football, all the kids on it, they print those up and then there’s advertising on the side,” said Brammann.
She says she checked out Champion’s website, felt comfortable, and paid for a $500 ad in three Bettendorf school sports posters.
“They said they’ll get back to me in two weeks for the artwork, and that never happened,” said Brammann.
She called the Bettendorf school district’s athletic director to ask about Champion.
Bramman said, “He confirmed they haven’t done any sports posters for a number of years.”
The athletic director repeated the same information to TV-6 Investigates. Brammann called Champion, she emailed, but she couldn’t get a hold of anybody. It wasn’t until she threatened to get a lawyer involved that someone returned her call.
Brammann said, “They said they’d give me a refund, that was three weeks ago.”
The Iowa Attorney General’s office has received 23 complaints about Champion since 2006. The Better Business Bureau received 16 complaints in the last three years. It gave Champion an “F” rating.
Realtor Felicia Emmons said, “I was trying to think of anything to market myself and thought this was a great way to get my name out there to lots of parents.”
Emmons is a realtor in Fishers, Indiana. She paid for a $200 ad in a football poster back in June.
Emmons said, “A couple weeks went by, I think they said they were going to email me the proofs, never heard anything, and yeah I kind of forgot about it because football season, I didn’t know when the first game was going to be.”
Emmons said Champion was supposed to send her posters and deliver them throughout her town. It wasn’t until her son said he was going to a football game that she realized the posters hadn’t arrived.
Emmons said, “I was initially upset that I was going to receive them late and had missed a game or two, little did I know I wouldn’t ever be receiving anything.”
She called them immediately.
Emmons said, “They said we sent your posters last week, and I said you did, oh, that’s great, when did you send them?”
She said Champion couldn’t provide a specific date. She asked if there was a tracking number.
“Do you have a tracking number for that, we don’t have a tracking number,” said Emmons.
It was already two weeks into Fisher’s football season. She asked for a refund.
Emmons said, “He was pretty much we definitely sent them out, you’re not getting a refund.”
So TV-6 Investigates stopped by Champion to get some answers from the owner Jim Shannon. An employee who met us in the front hallway said Shannon wasn’t available. The employee took our business card and then asked us to stop filming in the business. He said it was private property.
Shannon called TV-6 Investigates later that day. He declined an on camera interview. He told us over the phone that Champion is a legitimate business. He said he’s been in business for ten years and said his business is not a scam. He said if people were promised refunds they would get them. He said he mailed Felicia Emmon’s refund check on November third or fourth. Bramman sent us a text hours later saying Champion told her it would refund her credit card.
Bramman said “I tried to be nice, now I think I just want to warn people.”
Emmons said, “I’m mad, I want my money back.”
Brammann received her refund Friday. Emmons came Monday.
TV-6 Investigates emailed additional questions to the owner Jim Shannon. He didn’t answer them, but sent this response:
“Our company has thousands of customers. We try to work with any unhappy customers, by going above and beyond the industry standard of refunds & credits to accounts. Unfortunately, even with this cooperative stance, some customers make accusations to complaint departments in the hopes of improving their stance, true or not. While we are perfectly happy to accommodate almost everyone, some people have buyers remorse for reasons beyond our control (business closing down, changing agencies, etc..), and expect a refund sometimes months after purchase.
We continue to strive to answer all complaints in a timely manor. (sic) We will continue to strive to improve our product, organization and relationships with customers every day.”