Press Release

Attorney General Shapiro Files Suit Against Western PA Father and Son Plumbers for Defrauding Pennsylvania Consumers

December 13, 2018 | Topic: Consumers

Son Deceived Consumers by Recommending Unnecessary Repairs, Father Ignored Customer Complaints and Demanded Payment from Defrauded Consumers

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection has filed a lawsuit and is seeking a preliminary injunction against Howard Stahl, of Pearl Plumbing, Inc. f/d/b/a Roto-Rooter, and his son, Nolan Stahl, and his current business: Stahl Brothers Plumbing, Inc. d/b/a Rooter Man for allegedly defrauding Pennsylvania consumers in the course of recommending the unnecessary replacement of sewer pipes.

Nolan Stahl, of Erie County formerly worked for his father, Howard Stahl, of Allegheny County, as a service technician and supervisor, and currently does business as “Rooter Man” in Erie, Crawford, Mercer, Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, and Washington counties. An investigation revealed that while Nolan Stahl worked for his father’s business, Howard Stahl was well aware of consumers’ complaints against his son and other service technicians who were recommending unnecessary repairs. Yet, Howard Stahl continued to demand payment from defrauded consumers, rejected timely efforts to cancel contracts, and failed to take any corrective action against the service technicians allegedly committing the misconduct.

“My Office heard from more than 20 consumers who had been scammed by these defendants, and we followed up on their complaints. Several consumers reported being told their pipes needed to replaced, when in fact, that was unnecessary,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “My Bureau of Consumer Protection is seeking a preliminary injunction against the defendants to prohibit them from defrauding Pennsylvanians by recommending, contracting for, or accepting payment for plumbing repairs.”

The complaint alleges Nolan Stahl knowingly recommended the unnecessary replacement of sewer pipes and made misrepresentations, omissions, and misleading statements to consumers in recommending the replacements. Furthermore, the complaint alleges that Nolan Stahl defrauded some consumers with pre-recorded video footage of defective sewer pipes, which he claimed was live video footage of the consumers’ pipes. The Bureau of Consumer Protection is not suing Roto Rooter: that company is not a defendant and its corporate office has cooperated with the investigation.

Two Erie county consumers say Nolan Stahl told them their interior sewer pipes were collapsing and needed to be replaced, but a second opinion told them otherwise:

“On June 29, 2017, my family hired the local Roto Rooter franchise to simply unclog a drain in our laundry room. Mr. Nolan Stahl came to our home to repair the drain and after conducting an inspection, told us that in order to do the work the pipes under our house also needed to be replaced at a cost of $8,650. Despite the owner of the franchise, Mr. Howard Stahl, hassling my wife for an up-front payment, we decided to trust that they were telling the truth because they were professionals,” said Craig Cook, a consumer claiming to be mislead by the defendant’s fraudulent practices. “We gave them $1,000 as a down payment to begin the work. When they came to do the work, they sledgehammered a hole in the basement floor, breaking up some of the existing pipes in the process. We were really stressed and worried: the basement was filled with mud, concrete, dust and were told it could possibly flood. Mr. Nolan Stahl returned with a camera and quoted us an additional $6,400 for a pipe leading from our house to the street that needed to be replace so our yard wouldn’t flood. At that point we sought out a second opinion, and using their camera to look inside the pipes, that plumber informed us that the pipes were fine and didn’t need to be replaced under the house or outside. We never got our $1,000 deposit back and ended up paying an additional $4,500 for repairs to our home after discovering that we never needed any work done in the first place. We are grateful to Attorney General Josh Shapiro and his team for taking legal action against these defendants and their fraudulent actions.”

“Any Pennsylvania consumers who believes they have been scammed by Howard Stahl, Nolan Stahl, Pearl Plumbing or Stahl Brothers Plumbing should contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555 or scams@attorneygeneral.gov,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We want to help keep your hard-earned money in your pocket.”

The Bureau of Consumer Protection also recommends the following tips to protect consumers from falling victim to deceptive conduct involving plumbing repairs:

  • Always check the contractor’s online reviews, before engaging a home improvement contractor. These reviews may be available on Google, Yelp, or the Better Business Bureau’s website.
  • Ask if the plumber is licensed in Pennsylvania and whether he or she carries all required contractor insurance.
  • Ask for a recording of the camera inspection. A reputable plumber should be willing to give you a recording on-site.
  • Get a second opinion from another plumber before signing a contract for an expensive repair or replacement.
  • Don’t be pressured into allowing a plumber to start work right away. If you do sign a contract, be advised that you have three business days to cancel, even if the work has been commenced or completed.

The Complaint was filed in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas by Deputy Attorney General Jill Ambrose in the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

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