By Jillian Jorgensen
A local wedding photographer is charged with taking couples' cash, but never delivering their photographs.
Andrea Runkel, doing business as Luminescence Photography, was charged with three misdemeanor violations of the Consumer Protection Act, Attorney General Michael Delaney announced yesterday.
The website for Runkel's photography business lists an address in Newton. But Senior Assistant Attorney General Connie Stratton of the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau said Runkel had done business from various locations over the last several years.
The charges allege Runkel took payments from customers, but did not provide the photographs and services. She photographed the weddings, but failed to deliver wedding albums or refunds. She faces a year in prison for each violation.
Runkel, who claims on her website to have worked for several local newspapers, did not return a message left for her at the number she listed for her business yesterday.
Runkel's business is the second local wedding photography studio to face criminal charges in recent years. Michael and Darlene Perrotta of Atkinson, who ran Forever in Time in Salem, face the same criminal charges in court. They also are being sued by the attorney general's office. Stratton said she did not know if Runkel also would face a civil case brought by the state.
"I think people who don't get photographs or albums or whatever, when their wedding is so important to them, that they're upset," Stratton said. "So they do contact us."
She said her office received 17 complaints about the business.
Runkel's website advertises wedding packages costing up to $2,445 that include albums, DVDs of pictures set to music, and discs containing every shot taken at the wedding. But wedding planning and consumer websites are littered with complaints about Runkel from new brides who wrote they had not received their photographs — sometimes a year or more after their weddings.
Kate Russell of Danville didn't have to wait that long for her wedding photographs — they were about two weeks late. But when they did arrive, every single photograph was in dire need of color correction, Russell said. She wedded her partner Lynn Taylor on Jan. 1 and received her photos in April.
"She was very pleasant to work with upfront and I had the utmost respect for her work because what I had seen was very admirable," Russell said. "However, when it came time to actually return the deliverables, she overpromised and under-delivered."
In addition to giving them orange-tinted photographs, Russell said Runkel was "just absolutely horrible to work with."
Russell said when she told Runkel the photographs needed color correction, the photographer said she would have to charge her extra and even threatened to take her to court.
"I was like, 'No, I'm the customer. You shouldn't be talking to me that way,'" Russell said.
Russell thought about contacting the attorney general's office, but ultimately decided not to pursue the matter any further.
"I'm glad to hear she's being prosecuted," Russell said.
Brides and grooms should always check out anyone they plan on hiring to photograph their big day, Stratton said.
"I would ask for references, and I would also check with both our office and the Better Business Bureau to see what the track record of the business is," Stratton said.
Consumers with complaints against Runkel's business, or any other business, can file a complaint with the state online by going to www.doj.nh.gov/consumer and clicking on "Filing a Consumer Complaint." People can also call 1-888-468-4454 and request a complaint form be mailed to them.
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