New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Obtains $2.6 Million Default Judgment Against South Jersey Pool Contractor for Violations of the Consumer Fraud Act
NEWARK – Hammonton-based Waterworld Fiber Glass Pools (N.E.) Inc. and its vice-president, Donald Tallman, have been ordered to pay $2.6 million in civil penalties, consumer restitution and other costs after the Division of Consumer Affairs proved in court that the defendants committed 229 violations of the state's consumer protection laws and regulations.
Consumers who paid for in-ground pools that either were not built or not completed, or had unresolved quality of work issues, are owed a collective $277,550 in restitution, under terms of the Final Order on Default issued by Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson. About 15 consumers are eligible for restitution.
"Some consumers were left with enormous holes that had been dug in their backyards after the defendants failed to complete contracted-for work," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "In light of this judgment, we will do everything in our power to obtain the court-ordered restitution to make these consumers whole again."
"After hiring Waterworld Fiber Glass Pools, consumers were subjected to substandard and unacceptable work, when work was completed at all. Pool liners that should have lasted years, instead developed cracks within weeks and electrical systems failed code inspections because of improper installation," said Steve Lee, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
The court found that the defendants violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractors' Registration Act and related regulations. The violations constituted unconscionable commercial practices, deception and false promises, and/or misrepresentations.
The court permanently barred Tallman from working in the state's home improvement industry and ordered that Waterworld's Certificate of Formation be permanently cancelled.
The Court's Order includes $2.3 million in civil penalties payable to the State, plus reimbursement of the State's costs and fees.
Investigator Michelle Davis in the Division's Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation of this matter.
Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells in the Division of Law's Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section represented the State.
Tips for Consumers, When Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor:
Learn about any contractor before deciding to hire them. It is ideal to work with a contractor who is recommended by people you know. It also is advisable to ask the contractor for references and speak with those references about the contractor's work.
Contact the Division of Consumer Affairs to learn if the contractor is duly registered to perform home improvement work in New Jersey, and learn whether the contractor has been the subject of consumer complaints and/or legal action by the Division. You can call the Division at 1-800-242-5846 or use the Division's website, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov.
Before hiring the contractor, demand a copy of the contractor's liability insurance policy and contact the insurer to learn whether the policy is valid.
Obtain a written contract. Contracts for home improvement projects costing $500 or more must be in writing. They must include the legal name, business address, and registration number of the contractor as well as a start date, completion date, description of the work to be done, and the total price.
Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing, and that the contract states the name brands or quality/grades of the materials to be used.
Ensure that all applicable construction permits are obtained by the contractor, from the appropriate municipality.
Remember that it is customary not to pay for the entire project in advance.
Additional tips can be found in the Division's Consumer Brief on "Hiring Home Improvement Contractors," by clicking here.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an
online 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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Consumer Outreach events.