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Paula T. Dow,
Attorney General

Division of Consumer Affairs
Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director

   
For Immediate Release:
March 7, 2011

For Further Information Contact:
Jeff Lamm, 973-504-6327
Neal Buccino, 973-504-6327

National Consumer Protection Week Announcement # 1:

NJ Division of Consumer Affairs Goes on the Offensive Against Unregistered Home Improvement Contractors;
54 Warnings Issued

NEWARK - To prepare for spring, the peak season for home improvement work, the State Division of Consumer Affairs last week launched a proactive effort to seek out unregistered home improvement contractors, and warn them to get into compliance with the law, or face fines up to $10,000 each.

Under New Jersey's Contractors' Registration Act, home improvement contractors must register with the state and obtain a registration number that begins "13VH " Contractors must display that number on their signage, including signs on commercial vehicles, as a reference for consumers. To register, a home improvement contractor must provide proof of liability insurance and disclose a legitimate business address. Complaints about dishonest or shoddy home improvement contractors are the secondmost common type of complaint the State Division of Consumer Affairs received from consumers in 2010, representing 1,401 of the 13,761 consumer complaints the Division received.

"Each year, phony contractors and unregistered contractors rip off hundreds of New Jersey consumers, leaving them on the hook for as little as $200 to as much as $100,000 or more. When contractors register with the state, they provide consumers with a valuable tool that helps them learn about the company's background and make an informed choice before letting a contractor into their home," Attorney General Paula T. Dow said.

The undercover effort announced today, which includes using a pickup truck disguised as a home improvement contractor’s truck, represents a fresh, aggressive approach to addressing the problems posed by the thousands of New Jersey contractors who refuse to register with the State. State Consumer Affairs investigators, in tandem with county and municipal Consumer Affairs investigators, are scouting the parking lots of home improvement stores, hardware stores, and other places across the state where contractors congregate, seeking out those who advertise that they perform home improvement work but fail to display a state registration number.

"We're going on the offensive," said Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. "In the past, we would take action against the unregistered contractor only as consumer complaints were received. No longer. Now, we're taking the fight to them. If you are a home improvement contractor, and you?re operating outside of the law, we?re coming after you. And if you don't fall in line, you'll pay."

Since the undercover operation began March 2, investigators issued warnings to 54 contractors in Essex, Gloucester, Morris and Warren counties. State Consumer Affairs investigators worked in partnership with the Gloucester and Essex County Offices of Consumer Affairs. In each case, the contractor advertised for home improvement work with signs on a commercial vehicle, but failed to display the "13VH" number that proves the contractor is registered. With each warning, contractors were ordered to get into compliance ? by registering with the state if they were not already registered, or by displaying their number on the signage if they were registered within 30 days or face fines up to $10,000 each.

Home improvement contractors who have yet to register with the State, are urged to do so immediately by using the materials available at http://njconsumeraffairs.gov/HIC/HIC_application.htm. Consumers looking to hire a home improvement contractor can check the online database of all approximately 43,000 registered home improvement contractors statewide at http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/LVinfo.htm. NATIONAL CONSUMER PROTECTION WEEK (NCPW) is a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. NCPW 2011 takes place March 6 through 12, 2011.

More information designed to help consumers protect themselves is offered free of charge at the State Division of Consumer Affairs NCPW website at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov. Information is also available at the official National Consumer Awareness Week website, www.NCPW.gov. Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.

Home Improvement Contractors (HIC) Ticket Sample

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