New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Obtains $17 Million Judgment Against
South Jersey Paving Company and Individual Defendants
NEWARK - A Superior Court judge today ordered a South Jersey paving company and six individual defendants to collectively pay $285,744 in restitution to consumers and $16.8 million in civil penalties to the state, after finding that they violated consumer fraud and home improvement contractor laws and regulations. They also must reimburse the state $134,707 for its legal and investigative expenses.
On April 21, 2010, Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Division of Consumer Affairs Director Thomas R. Calcagni filed suit in Burlington County against Williams Asphalt Materials, LLC, alleging it operated under the names Williams Asphalt Paving, Williams Asphalt Paving & Excavating, Williams Paving & Excavating, Williams Paving, and Williams Paving Asphalt Contracting, and sold and/or performed substandard driveway paving and then failed to honor workmanship warranties to repair cracked and crumbling driveways. The suit was later amended to include as defendants Advanced Asphalt Services, Bertha Williams, Henry R. Williams, Jr. (father), Henry R. Williams, Jr. (son), Samuel Williams, Saul Williams, and Alexander Stanley.
The Division of Consumer Affairs identified more than 1,600 violations of the stateís Consumer Fraud Act and Contractorsí Registration Act and related regulations.
"Driveways that should have lasted for years began to disintegrate within months of being paved. Consumers paid thousands of dollars but did not receive the quality product they expected and the warranties offered by the defendants were worthless because they were not honored," Attorney General Dow said. "The outcome of our lawsuit sends a clear message to home improvement contractors that they will be held accountable when our consumer protections laws are violated."
The consumer contracts sold under the various Williams business names listed Bertha Williamsí personal phone number and her property in Browns Mills as the location of the businesses. Williams Asphalt Materials owned an asphalt plant in Millville, where equipment also was stored.
In addition to performing substandard work, some of the defendants were not registered as Home Improvement Contractors, as required by state law. They are barred from working in New Jersey until they become registered, under the courtís Final Judgment by Default and Order.
"Our lawsuit makes clear that this was a unified scheme, designed by the defendants to defraud consumers. The slight variations on the many assorted business names, and consumers being told to write checks to different individuals at different times, illustrate the deceptive practices used by these defendants to mislead the public," Director Calcagni said.
Company personnel typically knocked on consumersí doors, stating the company was doing paving work in the neighborhood and could offer the consumer a good deal because it had leftover asphalt available. The paving work was often completed and paid for that same day.
The Divisionís investigation found that the defendants engaged in unconscionable commercial practices, made false statements or misrepresentations, knowingly omitted material facts, and engaged in "bait-and-switch" pricing. The unconscionable commercial practices included performing paving work of poor or sub-standard quality and then failing to make the necessary repairs and failing to honor guarantees or warranties provided in a consumerís home improvement contract.
The misrepresentations included representing to consumers that the asphalt to be used in paving work was of a certain thickness (e.g., 2Ĺ") and then laying asphalt that was measurably thinner (e.g., less than 1"), and representing to consumers that the products or materials to be used in the paving work were sufficient to withstand the weight and traction of motor vehicles, when such was not the case.
"This case highlights the need for homeowners to take the time to research a Home Improvement Contractor before hiring one," Director Calcagni added. "Consumers should always check with the Division to ensure a Home Improvement Contractor is registered annually as we require. We also encourage consumers to obtain multiple bids and to get and review references from previous customers before signing a contract."
Calcagni noted that an online database of Home Improvement Contractors, and all businesses and individuals licensed or registered by the Division of Consumer Affairs, can be found at http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/LVinfo.htm. A free mobile application for Apple users also is available for download here: New Jersey Professional License Lookup App.
Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Kant of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section represented the Division in this case. Senior Investigator Katrina Eberly of the Burlington County Office of Consumer Affairs and investigators in the Division's Office of Consumer Protection investigated this matter.
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, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey ) or 973-504-6200.
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