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Division of Consumer Affairs
Press Release

Attorney General
Anne Milgram
Division of Consumer Affairs, Director
David Szuchman
   
For Immediate Release:
August 25, 2008
For Further Information Contact:
Jeff Lamm, 973-504-6327
 
State Proposes Settlement for Celebration Studios Clients;
Court Approves Plan for Completion of Photo Albums

NEWARK - On Friday, attorneys for the State Division of Consumer Affairs appeared before Judge Catherine M. Langlois to provide her with a status of the state's efforts to secure impounded merchandise and identify affected consumers, to seek court approval for a plan that would provide for the completion of photo albums and to outline a proposed settlement to distribute wedding photographs and videos to former clients of Celebration Studios, Inc..

The state commenced this action on January 18, 2008, following Celebration Studios' abrupt closure and on January 25th, obtained a Court order to impound the wedding photographs, videos and photo albums located in Celebration Studios' Clifton, New Jersey warehouse. Since that time, Consumer Affairs has inventoried and organized the merchandise belonging to approximately 3,640 consumers whose weddings occurred from July 1997 to January 2008. Since the filing, Consumer Affairs has received 1,643 complaints from affected consumers, 1,346 of whom contracted with Celebration Studios for weddings that occurred prior to the closure of the business and 297 of whom entered into contracts for weddings scheduled to occur after the business closed. Consumer Affairs has identified 70 photographers/videographers who performed work for Celebration Studios and 2 album manufacturers, Capri Album Company, Inc. and Albums Unlimited.

On Friday, Judge Langlois approved the state's motion to have Capri turn over the 18 completed albums currently in Capri's possession, and to permit Capri to directly contact approximately 220 consumers to provide them with the option to complete their photo albums at Capri's wholesale price or to have their loose photographs returned to them.

At that time, the state also outlined a proposed global settlement which provides for distribution of merchandise and includes: (1) the Defendants' assignment to the state of their interest (including copyright) in the merchandise; (2) Consumers who received credit card chargebacks or other refunds will be required to pay the following, appropriate, prior to receiving any merchandise - $500.00 first photographer, $250.00 - second photographer, and $450 - videographer; (3) these payments will be placed into an escrow account to be maintained by Consumer Affairs; and (4) any consumer who contracted with Celebration Studios for a wedding post-January 2008 and who did not receive a credit card chargeback or other refund and any photographer/videographer who performed services for which Celebration Studios failed to make payment, will have the option to submit a claim for payment out of the escrow fund.

The state's attorneys and Jeffrey Herrmann, counsel for Defendants, intend to finalize the settlement documents and present them for Court approval at the next hearing, scheduled for September 26, 2008. In the interim, photographers/videographers who are still in possession of merchandise are prevented from contacting consumers, among other things, to seek direct payment for such merchandise.

Consumers and photographers/videographers who have received the questionnaires are urged to complete and return them to Consumer Affairs. Consumer Affairs is in the process of forwarding a questionnaire to consumers who received no services from Celebration Studios. Any consumer who has not submitted a complaint or otherwise been contacted by Consumer Affairs should complete and return a questionnaire, which forms are posted on the Consumer Affairs' web site, http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov

“Once we obtain the materials held by these third parties, our investigators will catalogue items and move as expeditiously as possible to get these photos and videos to their rightful owners,” Consumer Affairs Director David Szuchman said.

Photographers/videographers who opt into the settlement will be required to relinquish copyright and any other claimed right in the merchandise. Photographers/videographers have the ability to pursue their own individual legal actions against the Defendants, as do consumers.

Deputy Attorney General Lorraine K. Rak, Chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, and Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells are representing the State in this action.

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