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AGO lawsuit returns approximately $120K to over 11,000 consumers for purchase of worthless food handler certificates
SEATTLE — A Washington State Attorney General’s Office lawsuit has stopped deceptive business practices and will return money to over 11,000 Washington state consumers. These consumers purchased worthless food handler certificates from eFoodhandlers, Inc. that do not comply with Washington state law.
“Consumers paid for a worthless piece of paper,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “eFoodhandlers’ deceptive practices made it difficult for food service workers to keep a job and businesses to stay open. My office will not tolerate deceptive business practices.”
Some food service workers reported they first discovered their certificates were worthless from their employers or by health department inspectors. Those workers were required to take the examination again and obtain valid documentation from an authorized source.
In some instances, food service establishments reported being temporarily shut down or had points docked by health department inspectors for hiring employees who had purchased eFoodhandlers’ useless certificates.
Overview of allegations against eFoodhandlers
eFoodhandlers is an Oregon-based internet company that offers online training and “certification” to food service workers.
The state requires all food service workers to obtain a food worker card from their local health department.
The only entity approved by the Washington State Department of Health to provide online training and certification for food handling is the Tacoma-Pierce County Public Health Department, www.foodworkercard.wa.gov.
The AGO alleged eFoodhandlers’ website, www.wafoodhandlers.com, misled workers into believing eFoodhandlers’ “certification” satisfied the Washington state food handling requirements. It does not.
eFoodhandlers charged $10 to issue a certificate, and added on extra fees for additional services. More than 23,000 Washington consumers obtained training from eFoodhandlers, and more than 11,000 of those consumers paid for inadequate certificates.
AGO action results in restitution for consumers, stops deceptive business practices
The AGO alleged eFoodhandlers’ actions violated the Consumer Protection Act.
eFoodhandlers has agreed to a Consent Decree that:
Requires eFoodhandlers to pay full restitution of approximately $120,000 to more than 11,000 consumers who paid for the services;
Prohibits “certification” by eFoodhandlers’ website and requires removal of any implied or explicit references in compliance with Washington laws; and
Requires eFoodhandlers to pay the AGO $40,000 for attorney fees and costs.
Method of consumer refunds
eFoodhandlers will mail checks to affected consumers’ last known address.
The refund amount each consumer will receive is based on the total amount they originally paid to eFoodhandlers. Most payments will be under $20.
Consumers should receive a refund by Sept. 1, 2015.
More information on how to obtain a food safety card can be found on Department of Health’s website.
Senior Counsel Paula Selis was lead on this case.