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Overstock.com to pay $6.8 million in false-advertising case involving Sonoma County

The Internet retailer Overstock.com has been ordered to pay more than $6.8 million after a judge found the company liable for engaging in false advertising and unlawful business practices in Sonoma County and throughout California, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced Thursday.

The case was jointly prosecuted by Ravitch's office and seven other district attorneys throughout the state.

Alameda County Judge Wynne S. Carvill found that Overstock.com created misleading "reference" prices by making comparisons to products that were similar but not the same as the products for sale, therefore giving consumers incorrect information on actual savings. The prices were not based on actual sales prices, but were created by formulas that utilized the highest possible price found in the market.

"We are very pleased with this outcome," said Ravitch, who added that the fine would be split evenly among the eight counties and used to enforce consumer protection laws. "This is exactly what the consumer needs. It allows us to confront more of these kinds of unlawful practices in the future."

In addition to ordering the civil penalty, the final judgment signed Thursday by Carvill requires Overstock.com to more accurately display reference prices and make fuller disclosures to its customers. The court may also require the company to pay court costs.

The seven other counties that took part in the case were Alameda, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Shasta.

You can reach Staff Writer Elizabeth M. Cosin at 521-5276 or elizabeth.cosin@pressdemocrat.com.


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