May 2, 2014
HICPA-related settlements show consumers should be proactive, Attorney General Kane says
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane encouraged consumers to be more proactive in calling her Bureau of Consumer Protection if they feel ripped off. The Bureau of Consumer Protection today announced a variety of settlements and legal actions against contractors, who slighted or deceived consumers.
"Just like protecting their personal data online and checking their credit reports, consumers must be proactive if they feel like contractors are not doing what they promised," Attorney General Kane said.
The majority of these settlements are the result of investigations initiated by consumer complaints. Settlements announced today were reached across the state, including Erie, Allegheny, Westmoreland, Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.
The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA), which went into effect in July 2009, establishes a mandatory registration program for contractors who offer or perform home improvements in Pennsylvania. The statute also establishes minimum insurance requirements for contractors; requires contractors to provide their registration number in their ads and contracts; establishes required contract terms for home improvement contracts; and creates a criminal penalty for home improvement fraud.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Kane and the Bureau of Consumer Protection issued a series of tips for consumers to help avoid home improvement scams this spring.
"Recent flooding from heavy storms should put homeowners on heightened alert for scammers promising home repairs that may not be delivered with the speed, quality, or price that may be promised," Attorney General Kane said.
All home improvement contracts must contain the Office of Attorney General's toll-free HICPA number, 1-888-520-6680, which consumers can call to verify whether a contractor is registered. Consumers can also file complaints by calling the Bureau of Consumer Protection's helpline, 1-800-441-2555.
Allegheny County Contractor Settlement: $4,790 in consumer restitution
The Bureau of Consumer Protection entered into a settlement agreement with Chuck Willis Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.
The settlement agreement alleges that Chuck Willis Hearing & Air Conditioning violated a prior 1998 settlement agreement with the Attorney General?s Office, by utilizing a home improvement contract that failed to fully comply with the Consumer Protection Law. The settlement agreement further alleges that the company failed to comply with the contractual requirements of HICPA.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the company agreed to pay $1,250 in costs and penalties to the Commonwealth and agreed to pay $4,790 in consumer restitution.
Former Westmoreland County Wedding Photographer Settlement
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced that her office has entered into a settlement with former Westmoreland County wedding photographer Eric A. Porado, who did business as Eric Porado Photography.
In January of 2014, the Bureau of Consumer Protection filed suit against Eric Porado, after receiving complaints that Porado accepted payment from consumers for wedding photography services and then either failed to appear at the consumers? weddings or failed to provide the consumers with their albums and/or photographs after attending their weddings.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Porado is required to pay $3,800 in consumer restitution and $1,500 in costs and penalties. In addition, Porado is banned from engaging in the photography business in Pennsylvania, until he has paid in full all amounts due under the settlement.
Montgomery County Painting Company Settlement
The Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection has reached a civil settlement agreement with Louis Karnbach, who does business as Fair Price Painting. Attorney General Kane alleged that Karnbach had failed to register as required under HICPA, failed to include a HICPA registration number in his advertisements and failed to use contracts that comply with HICPA.
According to the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, Karnbach promises to abide by all requirements of HICPA and the Consumer Protection Law in the future. In addition, Karnbach agreed to pay a civil penalty to the Commonwealth in the amount of $1,250.
Philadelphia General Contractor Settlement
The Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection has reached a civil settlement agreement with MacDonald & Son General Contracting Inc. and its President, James F. MacDonald, who also does business as JMD General Contractors, JMD General Contracting and Relative Painting Company. MacDonald allegedly had failed to register his business names with the Pennsylvania Department of State, failed to use contracts that comply with HICPA, and failed to complete work as agreed to in his contracts.
According to the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, MacDonald promises to abide by all requirements of HICPA and the Consumer Protection Law in the future. In addition, MacDonald agreed to pay $2,000 in a civil penalties and costs to the Commonwealth.
Philadelphia Roofer Settlement
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced today that the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) has reached a civil settlement agreement with Jay K. Rhoads, individually and doing business as Rhoads & Son Roofing and Rhoads Roofing. BCP said that Rhoads has failed to register as a home improvement contractor with the Bureau of Consumer Protection and failed to use contracts that comply with HICPA.
According to the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, Rhoads promises to abide by all requirements of HICPA and the Consumer Protection Law in the future. In addition, Rhoads agreed to pay $1,250 in a civil penalties and costs to the Commonwealth.
Erie County Electrician Settlement
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced the filing of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance involving Robert P. Holmes Jr., an Erie County home improvement contractor. Holmes does business under the unregistered fictitious names Holmes Electric Co Inc. and Holmes Electric Company, 1743 E. 27th St., Erie.
Holmes allegedly entered into an AVC to resolve allegations that he failed to register his home improvement business, under HICPA, failed to register his fictitious name with the Pennsylvania Department of State and operated under a name that made it appear that the business was incorporated when, in fact, Holmes' business was not incorporated. Holmes' conduct violated the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and HICPA.
Holmes also used home improvement contracts that failed to comply with HICPA requirements. For example, under HICPA contracts must include certain information including, but not limited to, the complete address of the contractor, the approximate start and completion date of the work, the contractor's requisite insurance information and mandated three-day rescission notices.
Under the terms of the AVC Holmes will pay restitution of $750 and civil penalties of $1,500.
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