A lawsuit filed by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office against a Hamilton home improvement contractor is the latest example of the state targeting companies about which residents have filed financial complaints.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is seeking consumer refunds of almost $20,000 from Wayne Colwell, of Hamilton, who is accused of performing “shoddy work and failing to deliver promised services or refunds” and violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act. Colwell operates under the name A2Z Exteriors. He also is accused of creating a fictitious business name, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
“It’s a simple concept: keep your word and you can keep the money,” Yost said in a news release. “This guy clearly doesn’t get it, so now we’ll have to explain it to him in court.”
Consumer complaints generally are handled through the office’s dispute-resolution process, with specialists working with the consumer and the business to reach a resolution, according to the AG’s office.
In 2018, more than $3.5 million was adjusted or recovered for consumers through this process, according to complaint information. The Consumer Protection Section received 22,877 complaints in 2018.
Four consumers from Butler and Hamilton counties reported financial losses totaling $19,866 in complaints about Colwell submitted to Yost’s Consumer Protection Section and the Better Business Bureau. Three of the complaints, from Hamilton, West Chester and Cincinnati, were filed with the AG’s office and one was filed with the BBB.
The lawsuit requests an order requiring Colwell to reimburse affected customers and pay civil penalties of $25,000 for each appropriate violation and court costs. It also requests an injunction ordering him to stop violating the state’s consumer protection laws.
The suit says Colwell allegedly took customers’ monies for goods and services and didn’t deliver them within eight weeks. When Colwell was contacted by his customers, he refused to refund their money, according to the suit reviewed by The Journal-News.
Colwell allegedly performed “incomplete, shoddy, substandard and unworkmanlike” services, according to the suit.
The case will be heard by Judge Greg Howard.
Often, home improvement scammers will ask for large down payments, according to the attorney general’s office. After collecting payment, some simply take the money and run, leaving homeowners with no repairs and no refund. Then they move on to another community to repeat their routine, according to the AG’s office.
Last year, the Economic Crimes Unit of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office was appointed by the Washington County prosecutor to handle a case against Anthony Combs, a man accused of scamming more than $200,000 from 34 homeowners in Ohio and West Virginia.
Combs and his company, AMC Remodeling, offered roofing services to consumers, many of them elderly, in the Belpre area. After taking thousands of dollars, Combs failed to deliver the agreed-upon services or provide refunds. In May 2018, he was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to return $205,000 to his victims.
Consumers should take the following steps before signing a contract for home improvement services:
• Check for any complaints against the contractor with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau.
• Make sure your contract includes notice of your right to cancel a door-to-door sale. Contractors generally can’t start working until the three-day “cooling-off” period ends.
• Get written estimates from several contractors before making a final decision.
• Check to make sure the written contract includes any verbal promises, the start and end dates, and an itemized list of all significant costs, labor and services.
• Be wary if the contract requires a large down payment or requires that you write a check directly to the contractor instead of his or her company.
• Check with the Ohio Secretary of State to confirm that the business is registered properly.
Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
SOURCE: Ohio Attorney’s Office
Top 10 Complaints of 2018
The Attorney General’s Office works every day to protect Ohio families from unfair and deceptive business practices and scams. The office accepts and handles consumer complaints through an informal dispute-resolution process to assist consumers and businesses in reaching a mutual agreement to resolve issues.
In 2018, the office received 22,877 complaints.
The 10 most common types of complaints reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section involved:
1. Used-car sales (approximately 4,140 complaints);
2. Shopping online and in stores (approximately 1,280);
3. Professional services, travel agencies (approximately 1,250);
4. Cable or cable bundling (approximately 720);
5. Wireless phone service (approximately 650);
6. Motor-vehicle repairs (approximately 610);
7. Identity Theft Unit, requests for assistance (approximately 560);
8. Collection calls (approximately 510);
9. Rental issues and landlords ( 490);
10. Medical billing (420).
SOURCE: Ohio Attorney General’s Office
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