Two Bloomfield-based air duct cleaning companies, which are no longer operating, have been ordered to pay more than $1.7 million in civil penalties for bait-and-switch tactics, according to the state Division of Consumer Affairs.
State Superior Court Judge Harriet Farber Klein, presiding in Essex County, ordered United Air Care and Indoor Air Care to pay the penalty as well as $68,000 in restitution to consumers.
State investigators identified 1,200 violations of the Consumer Fraud Act that affected 98 customers who filed complaints with the division.
Consumers paid for the company’s services after receiving direct-mail coupons advertising “Whole Duct House Cleaning” for prices ranging from $37.95 to $69.95. The defendants were accused of failing to perform the services for the advertised price and of baiting customers into purchasing higher-priced services. The division also said the companies failed to register with the state as home-improvement contractors, and “in many cases caused damage to consumers’ homes, then failed to fix, clean or compensate” for the damage.
“It is exactly because of abuses like these, that we have launched a new, statewide crackdown on unregistered home improvement contractors,” said Thomas R. Calcagni, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “If you are a contractor, you will comply with the law or you will pay.”
The owners of the companies are Duljan Belegu and his son, Perparim Belegu, both of Bloomfield.
An attorney for the companies said Duljan Belegu has returned to his home country of Albania, and Perparim Belegu has moved to Australia.
The attorney, Sean McGovern, said his clients performed the duct-cleaning services as specified.
“We offered to give the state the assets of the company, but they turned it down,” he said. “The state is not going to get a dime. They continue to waste taxpayer money pursuing this.”
Calcagni said he was outraged by the defense attorney’s allegations and said the defendants “bullied, cheated and lied” to their customers.
Content retrieved from: http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2011/04/air_duct_cleaning_companies_mu.html.