Seattle remodelers warned about business practices‏

By Nick Rees | Oct 15, 2009

SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) - A letter sent by Washington's attorney general to more than 30 home remodelers statewide informed them that they must educate themselves against unlawful business practices to end the slew of complaints against the industry.

"We want the home remodeling industry to do a makeover on their bad sales practices," Assistant Attorney General Jack Zurlini, of the office's Consumer Protection Division, said. "If your business boasts bogus discounts, pressures consumers to buy immediately or exaggerates endorsements, stop now – or hire an attorney because you'll probably be hearing from us in short order."

Businesses that received the letter are not necessarily believed to be breaking the law. The letter was sent only as a general notice to educate businesses about unlawful practices.

"Bad actors give the industry a bum rap," he added. "And that's not fair to those who are doing the right thing. There are many good companies out there."

The letter lists several practices that should be avoided by home remodelers, including inflated retail prices and false reference pricing discounts, which have been illegal for more than 70 years.

False reference pricing occurs when companies misrepresent to consumers that goods or services being purchased are substantially discounted in price. Companies then force the consumer to earn the fake discounts by actions including posting of signs in the consumer's yard.

The letter also warns against high-pressure sales wherein consumers are warned that if they do not buy immediately, prices will rise dramatically in the future. Scare tactics are also barred, including exaggerating dangers posed by small amounts of mold.

The attorney general's letter also warns against sales pitches that last for hours or that are scheduled late night so that consumers will be worn down and more likely to agree to get the sales people to lead.

Fraudulent endorsements are also highlighted in the letter, which warns the remodelling companies to not fabricate endorsements or testimonials, or exaggerate their awards or Better Business Bureau ratings so as to appear better than their competitors.

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