Business Glance

Published February 19, 2005 12:01 am
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Suit: Blockbuster didn't disclose late fee terms

NEWARK, N.J. - The state of New Jersey filed a consumer-protection lawsuit Friday against movie-rental chain Blockbuster Inc., claiming it fails to disclose terms of a new policy on late fees.

Blockbuster doesn't tell customers that late rentals are converted to sales on the eighth day after they are due, the lawsuit claims.

Stores that are not participating in the new policy also fail to make that obvious, the state said. The lawsuit, filed in Trenton, seeks restitution for customers charged late fees at those stores and for customers whose overdue rentals were converted to sales.

Blockbuster, the nation's largest movie-rental chain, said it had informed customers well. ''Blockbuster has trained store employees on how to effectively communicate the program to customers'' and has free brochures explaining the changes, a statement said.

The new no-late-fees policy started Jan. 1.

Reports of acquisition talks boost May stock

Shares of May Department Stores Co. rose as much as 6.6 percent after The Wall Street Journal reported that Federated Department Stores Inc.'s acquisition talks with May resumed by phone this week.

The newspaper, citing people close to the situation, said the retailers may be coming closer to a resolution. Talks had halted because the executives involved couldn't agree on a price, the Journal said. The companies are only about $2 a share apart on a price, the newspaper said.

May has come under more pressure after reporting lower-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings last week, the newspaper reported.

A combination would create the No. 2 U.S. department-store company with more than 1,700 stores and sales of about $31.2 billion.

Ice cream maker to stop selling Weight Watchers

TORONTO - CoolBrands International Inc., the third-largest seller of ice cream in the United States, Friday said it will stop making some Weight Watchers International Inc. low-calorie products this spring to settle a breach-of-contract dispute.

Under the settlement, CoolBrands, based in Ontario, will no longer make or sell ice cream and frozen desserts under the Weight Watchers and Smart Ones trademarks as of May 1.

Weight Watchers, of Woodbury, N.Y., handed the rights to sell the ice cream and other Weight Watchers frozen desserts to Wells' Dairy Inc. last July after deciding not to extend CoolBrands' contract. Iowa-based Wells has an ice cream plant in St. George.

However, CoolBrands was permitted under its pact with Weight Watchers to sell off its inventory of Smart Ones products until Sept. 28 of this year. Weight Watchers sued CoolBrands in an attempt to force it to drop the product, accusing it of breach of contract.

CoolBrands, which has used the Weight Watchers Smart Ones trademark since 1995, countersued for $360 million. CoolBrands' other brands include Eskimo Pie, Chipwich and Godiva.

Wal-Mart settlement

to get federal review

WASHINGTON - Labor Department investigators will review a $135,540 settlement the agency reached with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's biggest retailer, over accusations that it violated child labor laws.

The investigation was sought by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. He criticized the deal made public Feb. 12 because it provides that Wal-Mart will receive 15 days notice in most cases before the Labor Department investigates employee complaints of wage and hour violations. Miller, the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, said the two-week window could give Wal-Mart the chance to sweep violations under the rug.

''We plan to review the circumstances surrounding this agreement,'' Labor Department inspector general Gordon Heddell wrote in a letter to Miller.

Merger would create world's largest bank

TOKYO - Two Japanese banking giants disclosed Friday terms of their planned $38 billion merger that would create the world's largest bank, but also said the combination will mean 6,000 job cuts, or about 8 percent of their current global work force.

Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group Inc. and UFJ Holdings Inc. agreed last year to merge operations by October 2005 but had not disclosed the price or specific terms of the deal. The combination would create a banking giant with assets totaling nearly $1.8 trillion - topping those of the current leader, U.S.-based Citigroup Inc. at $1.19 trillion.

The merger is being challenged by rival Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., another of Japan's biggest banks. Sumitomo Mitsui had offered a one-for-one stock swap last year.

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