For Immediate Release - February 09, 2006

OVER $5 MILLION RETURNED TO CONSUMERS IN 2005

Consumer Affairs' Home Improvement Contractor Arbitration Program Leads the Way

For the second year in a row, the state's Office of Consumer Affairs and its regulatory agencies recovered over $5 million for Massachusetts consumers resulting from the resolution of consumer complaints, arbitration cases and regulatory examinations.

More than $1.9 million was awarded to homeowners in arbitration settlements with home improvement contractors and an additional $600,000 was reimbursed in 2005 through the state-administered Home Improvement Contractor Guaranty Fund.

Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom congratulated her staff and regulatory agencies for their hard work on behalf of aggrieved consumers, but cautioned homeowners who are considering home renovations.

"We're proud to have these safety nets for homeowners, but there are still too many unscrupulous contractors out there, getting away with unprofessional or unlicensed work. Consumer awareness in this area is increasing. Our office logged over 1,100 inquiries about contractors and our program last year, but increased law enforcement is needed to better protect consumers," Lindstrom emphasized.

Director Lindstrom urged consumers to take the following steps before entering into a contract with a home improvement contractor:

  1. Make sure the contractor is registered. Check at www.mass.gov/bbrs or call (617) 727-3200.
  2. Check several references, the Attorney General's office and the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints exist.
  3. Insist on a written, detailed contract and obtain proof that the contractor carries insurance.
  4. Make sure the contractor applies for and obtains any necessary permits for the job.
  5. Pay no more than one-third of the total cost up-front.

Following is the list of consumer awards and refunds for consumers in 2005:

Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation
  • Home Improvement Contractor Arbitration
$1,926,973
  • Home Improvement Contractor Guaranty Fund
$685,666
  • Lemon Law Arbitration
$635,270
Division of Banks
  • Recoveries from complaints filed by consumers
$307,000
  • Restitution to account holders from bank examinations
$362,000
Division of Insurance
  • Recoveries from complaints filed by policyholders
$292,746
  • Restitution to policyholders from investigations
$350,548
  • Market Conduct settlement
$295,731
Department of Telecommunications & Energy
  • Refunds for utility, phone, cable, towing and moving complaints
$361,628
Division of Professional Licensure
  • Refunds from complaints against professional licensees
$41,738
TOTAL: $5,259,300