The North Dakota Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division has initiated an investigation into Spa D’Athena in Bismarck.
Investigators have contacted the business about its ability to refund the value of its gift cards as it closes its doors. According to a statement, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is concerned about attempts by Spa D’Athena to limit the claims process and force consumers to waive certain rights.
Spa D'Athena did not respond to emails sent by the Tribune, and phone calls to the spa went unanswered.
A post on the spa's website reads: "By sending in your claim for a gift card refund, you are agreeing to Spa D' Athena's gift card validation process, responding to all mail, emails or phone calls from Spa D' Athena in a timely manner in order to process the information correctly and the time necessary to process a refund of your gift card value. By sending in your claim for a gift card refund, you further agree not to expect Spa D' Athena to honor or redeem your gift card at any location or event as of the date of the email."
In a letter to owner Jill Becker and Operations Director Brent Voorhees, Assistant Attorney General Brent Card said this statement "appears to be an effort by Spa D'Athena to limit consumer claims by the mere act of sending a claim to Spa D'Athena, without regard to whether or not a claim is actually provided. Your language further appears to provide you an 'out' to actually fulfilling a claim by vaguely requiring a consumer to respond in a 'timely manner.' "
It was the intention of Spa D' Athena to remodel or rebuild the business but the vagueness of when or if that might be is what could put the spa in violation of Century Code, said Parrell Grossman of the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division.
"Spa D' Athena's plans for renovation and construction have been put on hold and, as of Oct. 27, 2017, will be closing with no set date to reopen at this time," according to the website statement.
The spa is also selling fixtures, furniture and spa equipment, allowing customers to use gift cards toward these items.
State law prohibits limiting gift cards to a time frame of less than six years and from taking money for services that the business knew it would not be able to honor. Potential violation of these two sections of law is what concerns Consumer Protection, Grossman said. He said if the spa had a set date and were indeed to reopen, that would be taken into account by investigators, but the owners have been unclear and difficult to get in touch with.
Stenehjem encourages those with gift cards to file a consumer complaint to track the value of unredeemed gift cards.