UNLICENSED HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTORS
AND UNFINISHED, SHODDY WORK TOP LIST OF COMPLAINTS RECEIVED
AT DCA FOR 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 9, 2005
DCA Secured $650,000 in Restitution to Homeowners Over
Past Six Months
The New York City Department of Consumer
Affairs (DCA) receives 5,000 contacts per month from New
Yorkers who want to file a complaint, request information,
and more. Last year, DCA was able to mediate complaints
and secure more than $1 million in restitution for New York
City consumers. The DCA enforces City and State consumer
protection and licensing laws. The following list highlights
most common complaints filed with the DCA and provides some
tips on how New York consumers can protect themselves. To
file a complaint or for more information, consumers are
urged to call the Citys 24-hour hotline at 311 or
go online to www.nyc.gov/consumers
HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTORS
Home improvement contractors are DCAs
number one complaint category, with approximately 900 complaints
filed last year and more than 560 so far this year. There
are approximately 8,000 licensed contractors in New York
City (an increase of more than 30% since 2002) but many
others are unlicensed, uninsured, and unreliable. If not
careful, consumers can be taken for a ride very easily,
whether its having your home left in shambles or paying
up-front for services not rendered by an unscrupulous contractor.
DCAs Home Improvement Contractor Trust Fund is only
available to provide up to $15,000 in restitution to consumers
who use a licensed contractor.
TIPS: Call 311 and check with
DCA to see if a vendor is licensed and if they have a record
of complaints. Go online to www.nyc.gov/consumers
to check the DCAs instant HIC license check. Only
use a licensed contractor. Check the contract carefully,
especially for a cancellation notice. Only pay the vendor
after the work is completed to the your satisfaction. Never
The DCA received more than 500 complaints
against debt collectors last year, and 285 so far this year.
Any vendor collecting debts from New York City residents
must be licensed by DCA. Complaints regarding debt collectors
generally concern debts that the consumer says he or she
does not owe or alleged harassment tactics by the debt collector,
like calling in the middle of the night.
TIPS: Check to see if the debt
collector has a license and if so, make sure the vendor
is legitimate. Confirm all agreements to resolve a debt
in writing. Dont ignore a debt collector because even
a small debt could hurt your credit rating.
Consumers can easily get scammed if they are
not careful when looking for a bargain on electronics. Last
year the DCA received more than 450 complaints about shady
electronics sales. Most common complaints include purchasing
damaged or defective goods that were labeled as new. Consumers
also can get lured into stores with bait and switch schemes
that advertise great deals that arent available when
you get there. Shoppers looking for good deals end up paying,
in some cases, up to $1,000 or more for unwanted merchandise
that were described as necessary items. Meanwhile, these
items often are the battery or pieces that already
came with the product.
TIPS: Always shop at licensed
electronics stores - they are required to post their DCA
license conspicuously. Request an itemized receipt and examine
it closely for hidden charges. Look for the stores
refund policy, which should be posted.
DCA does not license furniture stores, but
it remains one of the agencys top complaint categories.
Last year DCA received more than 350 complaints about furniture.
Most consumers complain about defective or damaged merchandise
or items that never get delivered. For example, one consumer
was delivered the wrong item, refused the delivery and was
refused a refund. Other complaints include billing disputes
and the sale of used mattresses as new.
TIPS: Check on complaint history
of business before purchasing merchandise. Ask for an exact
delivery date and insist it be written on the receipt. If
not posted, ask for the stores refund policy in writing
and examine your receipt closely.
The DCA has received more than 100 complaints
so far this year and is stepping up enforcement against
businesses that are operating unlicensed. Employment agencies
can prey on those who need work the most or who want to
be stars. Whether its businesses that specialize
in placing new immigrants in jobs, or a modeling agency
promising big roles and work, consumers need to be careful.
TIPS: Make sure the agency placing
you in jobs is licensed by the DCA. Depending on the category
of jobs being placed, upfront fees may be illegal and if
not, limits apply. Call 311 to request a copy of the DCAs
What You Need to Know About Employment Agencies