- Associated Press - Friday, November 28, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday he is seeking an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into the pricing practices of outlet stores, contending many bargain hunters may not be getting the deals they think they’re getting.

The Connecticut Democrat made a similar request in January, but said the agency claimed it hadn’t received enough complaints. Since then, 11 class-action lawsuits have been filed against seven retailers alleging they’ve engaged in deceptive pricing.

“I have written them again this month, urging that there be an investigation of outlet mall and outlet store pricing. The FTC has a responsibility to protect consumers, especially in this area where they are likely not to know because comparison shopping is so difficult,” Blumenthal said at a news conference held on Black Friday, when retailers across the country, including outlet stores, offered special sales.

Blumenthal said he’s working with fellow senators to collect complaints from their constituents, in hopes of pressuring the FTC to take action.

Voice mail messages for FTC spokesmen referred reporters to contact a number that was not operating on Friday.

Blumenthal said many shoppers don’t realize at least 85 percent of the merchandise at outlet malls is made specifically for the store and can be of lesser quality. Also, he said the supposed original prices are often inflated, based on some multiple of the wholesale price.

“This potential deceptive pricing and misleading advertising is real and ongoing,” said the senator, who urged consumers to ask staff at stores whether the goods were manufactured specifically for that store.

Blumenthal visited the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets to talk with shoppers about the issue on Friday. Simon Premium Outlets, which owns the Clinton complex, issued a written statement expressing disappointment with the senator’s comments.

“We have utmost respect for Senator Blumenthal but his claims on this matter are inaccurate and disappointing. Our leases require discounting from retailers at our shopping centers,” the statement said. “The Senator has never spoken with us before today and as big contributors to the tax rolls and a major source of employment, we are dismayed by this approach.”

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