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'Federal Notice' ad called deceptive

State authorities launch a review

A North Easton company is trying to lure customers to an auction by suggesting in its advertising that the event is a liquidation sale being run by a federal agency.

 

The four-page direct mail ads feature the words "Federal Notice" across the top in big type, along with a flag-draped logo of the "Auction Department Agency." The ad says the Oriental rugs and other items being sold were confiscated and are to be auctioned for 15 to 25 cents on the dollar.

In tiny type on the fourth page is this disclaimer: "Auction is not conducted by or for US Customs. Auction to be conducted by United Rug Auctioneers."

"They're trying to indicate it's some form of government sale. These are just deceptive ads," said Charles Carroll, deputy director of the state Division of Standards, which licenses auctioneers.

Carroll said he has referred the ad and others like it to Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly's office. He said he expected some action to be forthcoming.

Alice Moore, chief of Reilly's Public Protection Bureau, said a review is under way. She declined to comment further.

A woman who answered the phone at United Rug Auctioneers said the company was not trying to mislead anyone. She said all sale items pass through Customs, and customers are offered very low prices.

When asked why the company tries to make it seem as if a government agency is conducting the auction, she said that was not true. She said Federal Express uses the word federal, and no one complains that the firm is passing itself off as a government agency.

The woman then put a Globe reporter on hold and eventually disconnected the call. A message subsequently left on the company's answering machine was not acknowledged.

The ad, promoting an auction on Sunday at 180 Blue Hill Ave. in Milton, did not display the license number of the auctioneer, as state regulations require. Carroll said he called United Rug Auctioneers about the omission and was told it was an inadvertent error.

Even though the ad describes the auction as a forced liquidation, it also indicates nearly $2 million worth of handmade Persian rugs had come from such varied sources as Pakistan International Airlines, estates, bankruptcies, wholesalers, retailers, and department stores.

Carroll said United Rug Auctioneers has a valid license, which lists as its officers Joseph and Ronen Drory of Canton and North Easton, respectively.

Bruce Mohl can be reached at mohl@globe.com.

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