NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow announced on Tuesday that two air duct cleaning companies will pay over $68,000 in consumer restitution and over $1.7 million in civil penalties.

The Bloomfield, N.J.-based United Air Care and Indoor Air Care were given the penalties for "bait and switch" tactics along with other unconscionable business practices alleged by Dow's Office and the State Division of Consumer Affairs. There were a total of 98 consumers affected by the alleged 1,200 violations.

Consumers contacted the companies after receiving direct-mail coupons from advertising services such as "Super Coups" and "Clipper Magazine." The coupons advertised "Whole Duct House Cleaning" for prices ranging from $37.95 to $69.95. The companies, however, allegedly failed to perform the services for the specified price or baited the buyers into purchasing higher-priced services.

Some of the alleged violations included requiring consumers to sign estimates and failing to provide them with a full and accurate copy of the documents; failing to include cancellation language, total price or a date or time period within work was to be completed within contracts; and misrepresenting that a consumer would receive a refund or reimbursement.

The companies also allegedly failed to register with New Jersey as home improvement contractors, caused damage to consumers' homes and failed to clean, fix or compensate for the damage.

"There is no excuse for such flagrant violations of New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act," Dow said. "We will aggressively continue to pursue those who target New Jersey homeowners with unconscionable business practices, deceptive advertising, and false promises."

The companies were ordered to pay $68,157.36 in consumer restitution, $58,539 to reimburse State's attorneys fees, $1.71 million in civil penalties and $7,629.05 for other costs.

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