13 December – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Spitzer Alleges Low-Ball Cleaning Offers Led to Unnecessary Repairs Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today announced that his office has obtained a temporary restraining order against a chimney cleaning company that targets elderly Hudson Valley residents for unnecessary repairs.
State Supreme Court Justice James V. Brands signed the order barring John Delp and Caron Brady, the operators of a series of chimney cleaning and repair companies, from continued violation of consumer protection laws such as the Do Not Call Law and the Home Improvement Contracts Law.
In addition to obtaining a restraining order, Spitzer’s office filed a lawsuit against Delp, Caron and their two current businesses, Flue Season, Inc. and All American Service Maintenance, Inc.
The suit alleges that the defendants conducted business in New York State and New Jersey through a series of corporations which they opened and closed in an effort to avoid liability to their customers.
“Frauds targeted at vulnerable seniors are particularly egregious and will be met with
aggressive action by my office,” Spitzer said.
Spitzer’s investigation revealed a pattern of soliciting consumers, many of whom were elderly, by phone, and baiting them with low-ball estimates for chimney cleaning services. Rarely, however, was a chimney cleaning all that the consumers ended up purchasing. Using scare tactics about chimney fires or dangerous back drafts, the service men who arrived to clean chimneys sold consumers on the need for expensive chimney repairs, including caps and liners.
In most cases the work was unnecessary and cost consumers between $1,200 and $3,000.
Defendants also violated consumer protection laws by insisting that the repairs needed to be done immediately, denying consumers the benefits of the legally required three-day cooling off period for cancellations. In addition, the defendants failed to put any advance deposits into an escrow account as required by law.
Spitzer’s office said that some consumers complained that the “repair” work was poorly done or just partially completed, in some cases creating a dangerous condition. Efforts by these consumer to have poor or incomplete work fixed were rebuffed or ignored by the defendants.
In filing the lawsuit, Spitzer’s office is seeking a court order barring Delp and Caron from, among other things, engaging in the home improvement contracting business unless they post a performance bond of $100,000. Spitzer also seeks civil penalties, costs and restitution for injured consumers, including nearly $7,800 for seven consumers identified in the lawsuit.
In the past nine years, Delp and Caron have operated under several business names, including Chimney Care Corp., Big Apple Chimney Sweeps, Inc., Garden State Chimney Cleaners, Inc, and All American Chimney Repairs, Inc.
Individuals wishing to file a complaint against any of the aforementioned chimney cleaning companies are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s consumer help line at (800) 771- 7755 or to visit his website at www.oag.state.ny.us.
The investigation leading to the case was conducted by Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Garin under the supervision of Mary Kavaney, Assistant Attorney General In Charge of the Poughkeepsie Regional Office. Assisting in the investigation were Senior Investigator Peter Schwindeller, Investigator Judy Koerber and Senior Consumer Representative Mark Hoops.