Illegal sales practices are widespread in the industry
SEATTLE – Window sellers need to be transparent in their marketing. Roofers need to stay on top of the law. And home siding installers shouldn’t sidle up to consumers with inappropriately high-pressure sales pitches.
That’s the gist of a letter sent Tuesday by the Washington Attorney General’s Office to more than 30 home remodelers around the state.
“We want the home remodeling industry to do a makeover on their bad sales practices,” said Assistant Attorney General Jack Zurlini, of the office’s Consumer Protection Division.
He said the letter is a general notice to educate businesses about unlawful practices, and doesn’t necessarily mean that recipients are breaking the law. In addition, the office is investigating several remodelers and recently reached a settlement with a Seattle-based window installer.
“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,” Zurlini warned.
“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.”
Among the AG’s list of no-no’s:
- Inflated retail prices and bogus discounts: Officially called “false reference pricing” under the law, this scheme has been illegal for more than 70 years. It occurs when companies misrepresent that consumers are buying at a substantially discounted price. Companies try to conceal their scheme by having consumers agree to do just about anything to “earn” the bogus discounts, such as posting a sign in their yard.
- High-pressure sales: Consumers are told that if they don’t buy now, the price will be higher in the future. Sometimes companies use scare tactics such as exaggerating the dangers posed by a small amount of mold found around a window. Sales pitches last for hours or are scheduled late at night so consumers are worn down and say “yes” just to get the sales person out of their home.
- Fraudulent endorsements: Companies exaggerate awards or Better Business Bureau ratings to appear better than their competitors. Some fabricate endorsements or testimonials.
Consumers who believe they may be a victim of such illegal practices may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. Complaints can be filed online at www.atg.wa.gov or request a complaint form by calling the Consumer Resource Center at 1-800-551-4636 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays.
Media Contacts: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager – Seattle, (206) 464-6432, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Zurlini, Assistant Attorney General, (509) 458-3538