Amish Mill owner fined $23,000
By Aaron Nathans, The News Journal
A hearing examiner has found the owner of the Amish Mill furniture store violated consumer protection laws and must pay $23,000 in fines, the Delaware Department of Justice reported Wednesday.
Last year, Attorney General Beau Biden's Consumer Protection Unit filed an administrative complaint against Michael D. Wharton, owner of the Amish Mill, at 101 Greenbank Road near Prices Corner.
The complaint included allegations Wharton would promise furniture by a certain date but not deliver, and that Wharton would impose additional fees for customers who called to check on the order or complained.
In an opinion signed Monday and released Wednesday, administrative hearing officer Leonard Togman agreed with the allegations in the complaint, and determined Wharton had committed 23 violations of Delaware's Consumer Fraud Act.
"One would expect that a businessman who was having legitimate problems with suppliers to be contrite, offer refunds or in some way accommodate the customer over an item's extreme lateness," the officer wrote.
"Mr. Wharton's anger with customers when they inquired about their items is indicative of someone, who, viewing some customers negatively and with a sense of entitlement, sought to drive them away and keep their money."
In an interview, Wharton said he has not defrauded anyone, and said Biden might be using him to advance his political career. Some customers who were protesting did not come in to pick up their orders deliberately, he said.
"We stick to our moral values, our world of the truth. We're not here to deceive or defraud anybody," Wharton said. He said he has not levied any such extra fees, although he said information about the fees is clearly posted.
Wharton denied he was antagonistic toward customers, but he said some customers come in angry, "and when they don't get their way, it's their way to blame it on somebody else."
The hearing officer also continued a cease-and-desist order originally issued by Biden's office that would penalize Wharton for assessing undisclosed fees, and retaining customer deposits for items he fails to deliver on time.
Several customers have received their long-delayed orders, and others have received refunds, since the Consumer Protection Unit began its investigation, Biden's office reported.