WC lists top consumer complaints

March 3, 2009 12:08:11 PM PST
After several years of claiming the dubious "honor," improvement contractors once again head the "Top 10 List" of consumer complaints in Westchester County, released Tuesday by County Executive Andy Spano to mark National Consumer Protection Week. Complaints about home improvement contractors (357 complaints), gasoline sales and furniture stores topped the list of more than 1,500 complaints received by the county. Next on the list were specialty services (including collection agencies and home security companies), motor vehicle sales and heating oil companies.

But there was good news for many of those complaining. The Department of Consumer Protection obtained over $833,000 in restitution for consumers, the second-highest figure in the department's history.

"In these tough economic times, we're trying extra hard to make sure that consumers get their money's worth," Spano said. "If you have a consumer problem, we can help."

Gary Brown, director of Consumer Protection, emphasized that most of the complaints against home improvement contractors involved firms that were unlicensed, in violation of county law.

"Unlicensed contractors are a menace to consumers," Brown said. "While hiring a licensed contractor is no guarantee of satisfaction, many of the most serious complaints - involving shoddy work or failure to perform any work at all - involved unlicensed contractors."

The county is continuing its zero-tolerance approach toward unlicensed contractors. Last year, the department conducted two law enforcement sweeps in which 121 contractors were charged with operating without a license.

The department also began using the county's new Seizure/Impound Law to seize the vehicles and tools of unlicensed contractors. The new law also increased the civil penalty for unlicensed contractors who are repeat violators. The penalty for a first violation is $1,000. This can now increase to $5,000 for a second violation within five years and $10,000 for a third and subsequent violations within 10 years. Unlicensed contractors can also face criminal charges.

The stepped-up enforcements are making a difference. The number of licensed contractors in Westchester reached an all-time high of over 7,600 during 2008.

WESTCHESTER'S TOP 10 CONSUMER COMPLAINTS

  • 1. Home improvement contractors
  • 2. Gasoline sales
  • 3. Furniture stores
  • 4. Specialty services (including debt collection agencies and home security companies)
  • 5. Motor vehicle sales
  • 6. Heating oil companies
  • 7. Food stores
  • 8. Professional services
  • 9. Utilities
  • 10. Department stores

    To receive further information or to file a consumer complaint, log onto www.westchestergov.com or call (914)995-2155.


    NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

    USEFUL LINKS:
    SEND TIP OR PHOTO  || REPORT TYPO ||  GET WIDGET

     EYEWITNESS TWITTER ||  FIND US ON FACEBOOK


  • Load Comments