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Archive for Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Deceptive practices, targeting of elderly alleged in state’s lawsuit against door-to-door asphalt salesmen

October 23, 2013

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Protect yourself from fraudulent door-to-door sales

• Never let a salesperson into your home unless you are sure of who they are and why they are there.

• Ask to see their peddler's license, which is required in Lawrence.

• Ask for written information on the company and salesperson and take plenty of time to read it and shop around, rather than making a purchasing decision on-the-spot. A legitimate salesperson will be happy to leave their business card and come back if you decide to make a purchase.

• If the salesperson says it is a special deal for "today only," it's probably too good to be true.

• Never pay for door-to-door purchases with cash. When possible, use a credit card, which will allow you to cancel or dispute the charge.

— From the Consumer Protection Division of the Kansas attorney general's office.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has filed a lawsuit against a door-to-door asphalt paving operation in Northeast Kansas stemming from complaints of deceptive practices, including at least one Lawrence resident.

The business owners failed to disclose the total price of their services and failed to provide receipts, which would include the information that a consumer could cancel an order within three business days, according to the state's complaint.

George H. Swartz and James J. Swartz are being investigated for alleged violations of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act in an business that has operated under at least eight different business names.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division said it received three complaints against the Swartzes from consumers in Douglas and Shawnee counties. Schmidt said the two may have also been operating in Jackson, Jefferson and Riley Counties.

The lawsuit, filed this week in Shawnee County District Court, alleges that the two men have operated under the following business names: All Star Asphalt, All Star Paving, Asphalt Solutions, All Star Asphalt Paving, All Star, Asphalt Solutions Hot Mix Asphalt, G&S Paving and G&M Paving.

The state’s complaint alleges that “some or all” of their transactions involved elderly residents.

A Lawrence resident, whose name was redacted in court documents, alleged a loss of $4,000, the largest among the three consumers who helped spur the lawsuit. The other complaints came from Topeka, with losses of $2,500 and $2,000.

In total, the state alleges six incidents of deceptive acts or practices in violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.

The state seeks restitution for the three transactions — at least $8,500 to each consumer named in the lawsuit — in addition to civil penalties of at least $150,000 and additional court costs and legal fees.

Schmidt’s office is seeking any other consumers who have done business with the Swartzes or any of their associated companies. Those who have are being asked to call 1-800-432-2310 or file a complaint online at www.ag.ks.gov.

Lt. Steve Lewis, a Douglas County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, said door-to-door asphalt sales complaints have occurred in the county in years past and were more prevalent in summer. He acknowledged that those affected are often elderly, often because they are at home to respond to the salesmen.

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