NEWARK – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and the State Division of Consumer Affairs have filed suit against a chimney cleaning and repair company accused of using high-pressure, deceptive tactics to mislead consumers – including several who were elderly or had disabilities – into paying thousands of dollars for repair services they did not need.
The company is accused of performing shoddy work that created the danger of carbon monoxide leaks into the homes. In some cases, the company allegedly failed to perform the contracted-for work at all.
According to the state’s eight-count civil complaint, filed in Middlesex County, All Care Chimney Corp, of Levittown and Bethpage, N.Y., and Michael Lyon, its president and sole owner, allegedly violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractors’ Registration Act, Regulations Governing Home Improvement Practices, and Regulations Governing Contractor Regulations.
“We allege not just that these defendants performed substandard, incompetent and dangerous work, but that they pressured consumers who were elderly, disabled, and vulnerable into paying thousands of dollars for so-called ‘repairs’ they did not need,” Dow said. “With cold weather season rapidly approaching, it is imperative that we halt such unconscionable activities and protect consumers from the risk of being scammed — or, worse, the risk of their homes becoming unsafe due to shoddy work.”
Today, Judge Glenn Berman of the Chancery Division, General Equity Part in Middlesex County, granted temporary restraints against the defendants. The temporary restraints, which took effect immediately and remain in effect pending a hearing to be held on Nov. 10, enjoin the defendants from advertising, offering to sale or selling Home Improvement Contractor services to consumers within New Jersey. The defendants also are required to identify all consumers within New Jersey whom they provided services to since Jan. 1, 2010 and provide the contracts they had with identified consumers and may not destroy any company records.
“Consumers must do their homework before hiring a contractor, and they must be extra vigilant before inviting someone to work on their chimney,” Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “The average consumer is unable to discern whether chimney repair work is truly necessary, or whether it’s completed properly. Improper work can result in dangerous, even deadly, carbon monoxide leaks and fires. Before hiring a contractor, consumers should call the Division of Consumer Affairs to learn whether the business is properly registered, and whether it has been the subject of previous consumer complaints.”
According to the state’s complaint, All Care Chimney engaged in aggressive sales tactics in New Jersey, including unsolicited phone calls and door-to-door solicitations. Sales pitches typically offered chimney cleaning services costing $39 to $60, but were followed by alarming claims that the consumers’ chimneys were in very bad condition and created an imminent danger unless the consumers paid for chimney repairs costing thousands of dollars.
Work was allegedly performed without permits or inspections, and in some cases led to carbon monoxide leaks in consumers’ homes, according to the complaint.
As detailed in the state’s complaint, many consumers are also alleged to have experienced problems with their chimneys after All Care Chimney performed work and obtained payment.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
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