N.J. AG unhappy with chimney cleaning company

Bryan Cohen Oct. 4, 2011, 2:00am


NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow and the state Division of Consumer Affairs announced a lawsuit on Monday against a chimney cleaning and repair company.

All Care Chimney Corp of Levittown and Bethpage, N.Y., and Michael Lyon -- its president and sole owner -- allegedly used high-pressure deceptive tactics to mislead consumers into paying thousands of dollars for repair services that they did not need and performed shoddy work that created a danger of carbon monoxide leaks into the homes.

The lawsuit alleges that the company and its owner violated New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act, 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."

Judge Glenn Berman granted temporary restraining orders against the defendants.

According to the complaint, All Care Chimney engaged in aggressive sales tactics in the state -- including unsolicited phone calls and door-to-door solicitations, sales pitches that offered services ranging from $39 to $60 followed by alarming claims that the consumers' chimneys were in very bad condition and created an imminent danger unless consumers paid for repairs costing thousands of dollars.

Workers allegedly showed consumers bricks or cell phone pictures of damaged chimneys, falsely claiming that the brick and the picture came from the consumer's chimney. Based on these representations, consumers allegedly agreed to purchase chimney parts and repairs ranging from $1,800 to $4,800.

The state's complaint notes that Princeton Township issued a notice of violation and notice of penalty against All Care Chimney arising from its performance of work without a permit. Due to the company's alleged failure to respond to the notices, penalties of $74,000 have accrued.

The state is asking the court to revoke the company's registration as a home improvement contractor in New Jersey and to appoint a receiver, at the defendants' expense, to assume control over the defendants' assets and to sell or convey assets for the restoration of affected consumers.

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