WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Attorney General Josh Stein spoke in Wilmington on Wednesday afternoon about two new price gouging lawsuits involving four out-of-state companies. He also offered advice for how people can avoid getting victimized.
When you have a storm that comes into a community like Hurricane Florence hit New Hanover County, people with bad intentions will come from across the country to try and take peoples money,” said Stein. “And its utterly heartless, its wrong, and its illegal. Thats why Im taking these actions today.
In the first suit, two Kentucky-based tree cutting services — Action Tree Pros and Premier Landscaping and Lawn Care — are accused of charging excessive prices for tree removal services, including $29,500 to remove one tree. In total, they charged a homeowner about $80,000 to remove five trees.
The other suit alleges that Scotts Tree Service, an Ohio-based company, charged homeowners an excessive amount for tree removal, added inflated prices to a previously signed statement of work and sent a falsified estimate to a debt collection agency.
Goldberg & Donovan Inc., the debt collection company, is named as a co-defendant in the suit. It does not have a permit to collect debts in North Carolina and is alleged to have harassed the homeowner.
In both cases, Stein is seeking temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief against the defendants along with restitution for the victims, civil penalties, attorney fees and other relief. In other words, the attorney general is asking the companies to stop breaking the law, wants to punish them for their actions, and pay back the victims.
If you believe you have been victimized by any of these companies, Stein asks you to contact his office.
We want to get a list of all customers that they have done business with because if theyve done this to other people who havent complained to us, we want to get their money back,” said Stein. “We also want the court to issue civil penalties for every violation that these companies have done.
To avoid becoming a victim of price gouging, Stein encourages you to get price quotes from multiple companies, work with local services if possible, get everything in writing, and dont pay in full until the job is done.
A few weeks ago, Steins office filed a lawsuit against a tree removal service for price gouging. The company is accused of charging three times the initially provided amount for tree removal services.
Stein encourages consumers to contact his office if you believe youre a victim of price gouging. You can file an online complaint at NCDOJ.gov/gouging or call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Four more companies have been sued by the state for alleged price-gouging in Wilmington after Hurricane Florence.
N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein came to Wilmington on Wednesday to announce a pair of lawsuits against companies involved with tree removal. One suit names Action Tree Pros and Premier Landscaping and Lawn Care, both of Kentucky, and the other names Scotts Tree Service, of Ohio, and Goldberg & Donovan Inc., a debt collection agency based in Massachusetts.
According to the first suit, after Florence struck Action Tree Pros — owned by Nick Downey — gave a property owner a $5,000 estimate for tree removal. But after the work was completed, the company billed the owner for $10,565.
After that, the property owner told Downey not to do any tree work on any of her other properties. Stein said that Downey disregarded this and allegedly contracted with Premier Landscaping for more work. That included charging $29,500 to remove a single tree, and charging homeowners $78,865.02 for a total of five trees, Stein said.
The second suit alleges that Scotts Tree Service charged Castle Hayne homeowners $14,500 for tree removal services, then sent Goldberg & Donovan, the debt collection agency, after them. Stein said that owners Amy and Stephen Lombardi do not have permits to operate in North Carolina. He also said they allegedly harassed the homeowners and made threats against them.
“Sadly there are a few businesses out there that will exploit a natural disaster like Hurricane Florence to try to make a quick buck at the expense of people who are desperate,” Stein said. “This is against the law in North Carolina and we will not tolerate it.”
The suits are the second and third price-gouging actions taken by Steins office in the area after Hurricane Florence. A Wake County judge issued an injunction against Lexington company A1 Tree & Storm Relief after Stein filed a similar suit.
Stein said his office will ask the courts for a list of every person who did business with the named companies in the region. He expects there may be other victims of alleged price-gouging.
“If they’ve done this to other people who haven’t complained to us, we want to get their money back,” he said.