Attorney General DeWine Warns Consumers of Tree-Trimming Scams
August 21, 2015 - 11:22 AM
Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned consumers to be
aware of contractors who come to their doors unexpectedly and offer
In the past year, the Ohio Attorney
General’s Office has received more than 50 tree-trimming complaints,
most of which involved a door-to-door or word-of-mouth solicitation.
a tree trimmer comes to your door and wants to cut down your trees
right away, be careful. It could be a scam,” Attorney General DeWine
said. “Under Ohio law, most door-to-door sellers, including tree
trimmers, must give you a three-day right to cancel and must wait until
that period ends before starting the work. Don’t trust a tree trimmer
who doesn’t honor your rights under the law.”
complaints often follow a typical pattern. A tree trimmer comes to the
consumer’s door while passing through the neighborhood. He offers a
competitive price for his services, takes payment in cash or check, and
then cuts down a few trees in the consumer’s yard, leaving the stumps in
the ground and the limbs strewn on the lawn.
Then the tree
trimmer leaves, promising to return to complete the job once he secures
additional equipment or once the weather improves. Despite these
promises, the tree trimmer never returns to finish the work.
consumer victims are elderly and some may have dementia. The tree
trimmer may try to scare the consumer into thinking the trees are
damaged, diseased, or dangerous and should be removed immediately.
Although the tree trimmer typically represents himself as a professional
and draws up a contract, the contract is often incomplete and fails to
mention the consumer’s cancellation rights.
Under Ohio’s Home
Solicitation Sales Act, consumers generally have three business days to
cancel most contracts that result from a door-to-door sale. Sellers are
required to notify consumers about this right and generally they cannot
start any services until after the three-day cooling-off period ends.
Signs of a scam include a tree trimmer who:
-Comes to the door unexpectedly.
-Claims trees are damaged, diseased, or dangerous.
-Uses a handwritten, incomplete contract.
-Fails to notify consumers of their cancellation rights.
-Requires a large down payment.
-Accepts only cash or check.
-Drives an unmarked vehicle.
-Starts work immediately.
-Performs incomplete or shoddy work.
Consumers can protect themselves by following these tips:
-Research the business. Check for complaints on file with the Ohio
Attorney General’s Office and do a basic Internet search of the tree
trimmer’s name and words like “complaints,” “reviews,” or “scam.” Also
talk to your neighbors and other past customers to ask about their
experiences with the business.
-Get a second opinion. If a tree
trimmer comes to your door and says your trees need work, contact
another business to get a second opinion and estimate.
skeptical of very low prices. If a tree trimmer quotes a price that is
dramatically lower than prices other businesses are offering, be wary.
The tree trimmer may later demand more money or do shoddy work.
-Don’t pay in advance. Be wary of tree trimmers who ask you to pay
before the work has started. They may take your money without completing
the job. Take time to think about the offer before signing a contract
or making any payments.
-Get a detailed written contract. Insist
on a written contract detailing the costs, the work to be done, and the
starting and end dates. If the contract resulted from a door-to-door
sale, make sure it includes notice of your cancellation rights.
-Consider paying with a credit card. Paying with a credit card generally
gives you greater protections to dispute unauthorized charges. On the
other hand, if you pay in cash, it will be very difficult to recover
your money if something goes wrong.
Attorney General DeWine has
taken civil and criminal action against tree trimmers and other
contractors who take advantage of consumers. For example, in June, the
Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit against a Springfield man accused
of doing shoddy, incomplete work and failing to give consumers notice
of their cancellation rights.