Aiello Plumbing Executives Agrees To $35,000 In Fines After Consumer Complaints

January 3, 2011
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One of the largest and most expensive plumbing and cooling companies in Connecticut has agreed to pay $35,000 in fines to avoid legal action following consumer complaints.

Over the past 10 years 47 consumers had filed formal complaints against Aiello Plumbing and Cooling, Windsor Locks, alleging that the firm’s employees overcharged them, had employees illegally perform work not licensed for, failed to properly supervise workers, and in at least one case failed to obtain a building permit to disconnect a fireplace chimney vent.

The most serious complaints, according to state Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr., and Richard Maloney, director of trade practices, was failing to properly supervise workers and permitting workers who are licensed in one field to work in an area they were not licensed. For instance, having a plumber do electrical work.

This is the second time Aiello has been filed. The first fine came in 2005 because an electrician did work he was not licensed to perform.

“We have reviewed the allegations and the business response, and I feel confident that Michael Jezouit (owner) and Stephen Birch (general manager) now understand fully that they shall follow proper building code, display their licenses, obtain permits on time, respond to the Department immediately upon any further complaint and follow basic trade practices,” Farrell said today. “We were ready to proceed administratively to a formal hearing, but it became clear that the respondent was willing to settle the matter without any additional proceedings, and more importantly, understands the necessity to comply with Connecticut law.”

During the four years that I have been a consumer columnist I received a number of complaints against Aiello claiming that employees attempted to convince homeowners to authorize major repairs when only a minor repair was required, overcharging, and shoddy work. Many of the complaints came from elderly consumers who were unfamiliar with what the cost of minor plumbing work should be, and only learned that they were overcharged when a friend or a relative reviewed their bill.

Farrell said the main purpose of the lengthy investigation was to convince the executives to agree that their practices did not follow the law and to have them state in writing that from now on they would follow the law.

“So that later they can’t say we didn’t that that is what the law is,” Farrell said.

Jezouit signed an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance and paid a civil penalty of $30,000 while  Birch signed a separate Assurance of Voluntary Compliance and paid a civil penalty of $5,000.

“We will continue to monitor the business practices of Michael R. Jezouit and Stephen G. Birch to ensure their compliance with the all Connecticut statutes and regulations,” Farrell said.

Aiello officials had no immediate comment. However on Wednesday, Birch claimed that he and the owner did not pay a fine nor a civil penalty.

“Primarily, Aiello did not pay any “fine.” Your reporting that we paid a “civil penalty” is incorrect,” Birch wrote to me in an email. The remainder of his response is at the bottom of this column.

Birch makes that claim while the press release from Farrell says: “Michael R. Jezouit signed an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance and paid a civil penalty of $30,000; Stephen G. Birch signed a separate Assurance of Voluntary Compliance and paid a civil penalty of $5,000.”

The  last time I wrote about them they said:

The company denies that its work was ever sloppy and said that complaints from customers are actually low compared to the thousands of jobs its plumbers perform. They claim to have a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

The last time I wrote about Aiello was in November after the firm tangled with a West Hartford conservator.

Carolyn G. Levine, a geriatric care manager and conservator from West Hartford, who wrote me last summer that one of her elderly clients – without her knowledge or permission – called Aiello to have a clogged sink fixed.

She said the plumber performed branch line cleaning, replaced several feet of drain line, opened a plaster wall under one sink and put in ABS piping on two sinks.

“The total,” she wrote me, “came to $1,919.30. The work performed was sloppy. He put in black pipes (exposed) with a pedestal sink. Previously there was all silver piping. The plaster wall was left open and one can see through the next bathroom.”

A jagged edge was left on one piece, cutting an aide’s hand, she said.

She said that the bill was much more than most other plumbers would charge and added that this was the third time in her career that she believes one of her clients was overcharged by Aiello.

This time, she said, she was standing firm, especially after an Aiello plumber accused her of padding her bill by repeatedly coming to her client’s home to deal with the plumbing issue.

“Aiello, in an effort to ensure that a customer receives replacement materials that will last over time, installed an ABS trap for the simple reason that this type of material is well known in the industry as being a superior product to chrome offering a longer lifespan. In other words, by demanding to use an inferior product after the work was completed, Ms. Levine is criticizing Aiello for initially doing the right thing,” said Birch, Aiello general manager.

Birch had asked Levine to provide three written quotes from other firms showing that Aiello’s charge was out of line. He said that in all cases Aiello guarantees satisfaction and will provide a refund with three quotes. However, I wonder how many plumbing companies would provide free quotes.

Despite Levine not providing any competing quotes, Aiello last week sent her a refund check for $685 and asked her to sign a statement saying she was withdrawing her complaint to me and to the state Department of Consumer Protection.

The refund was sent after Levine showed Aiello officials pictures she took of the original work, photos that she turned over to the attorney.

“Regarding the reimbursement of $685.30, it proves how far Aiello will go to satisfy a customer,” Birch said.

Levine said she would not sign a release because it would show that she was satisfied with the work and how her client was treated. “They did a lousy job,” she said.

The following the remainder of Aiello’s statement:

Secondly, upon completing its review, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection did not make any finding of fact whatsoever that Aiello was engaged in any wrongdoing, particularly with respect to ethical practices with the public. At every step of the review, Aiello was open and made its records available to the Department, as importantly acknowledged by the Department. Thirdly, the event in which a grey area was highlighted by the Department is in regards to the 1:1 ratio of trade technician to apprentice, and Aiello had adequately explained the underlying situation to the Department. Importantly, this event did not involve any “unethical practices” with the public. Fourthly, the Department has closed all matters, of whatever their nature.

Concerning Carol Levine, Aiello declared to you earlier the facts of this situation. Aiello trusts that you will report the facts, accurately. Insofar as “overcharging,” this is, frankly, a specious claim, considering no objectively credible or reliable facts exist to prove your claim. Notwithstanding the lack of such facts, you have recklessly portrayed Aiello has engaging in “overcharging,” with the intended effect of putting Aiello in bad light in the public’s eye.

Aiello Home Services is trustworthy and dependable. We have loyal customers, as evidenced by the fact that our percentage of repeat customers significantly exceeds the industry standard. Aiello has earned this loyalty by listening to our customers, as well as, more recently, to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection about its interpretation of agency regulations. We take such feedback seriously. In sum, Aiello is rated A+ by Connecticut Better Business Bureau and has a 97% “excellent” Customer Service Rating by Lennox Industries third party Survey Company. Aiello is a leader in the residential plumbing, heating and air conditioning industry because of what we do and we stand by our work. We are proud of our accomplishments.


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17 Responses to Aiello Plumbing Executives Agrees To $35,000 In Fines After Consumer Complaints

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by George Gombossy. George Gombossy said: Aiello Plumbing Executives Agrees To $35,000 In Fines After Consumer Complaints http://j.mp/hTNrJE via @AddToAny […]

  2. Just sayin on January 4, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Mmm…wonder what their rating is with the BBB!

  3. Bob Tobin on January 4, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I used them once for a small repair that I was not able to do myself. The price (according to their “charge book”) was way to high for the amount of work that needed to be done, but the work didn’t really match anything in their book. Of course I would have had to pay them just for showing up, so I ended up overpaying for the work I had done. Needless to say, I will never call them again.

  4. Brad Formaker on January 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Aiello installed the wrong nozzle on my furnace during a “tune-up” and two months later I had soot all over my house. Aiello denied it, of course, but they came out to “fix” the problem anyway. While the Aiello employee was vacuuming the soot out of the furnace he broke the combustion chamber! Aiello had the nerve to charge me for that visit AND they wanted $1000 to replace the combustion chamber they broke! 100% customer satisfaction? I don’t think so. I found another company that replaced the combustion chamber for $350 and I will NEVER call Aiello again. I tell all my neighbors to stay away too.

  5. Beware on January 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Believe BBB gives Aiello a decent rating, but then again the BBB has also been investigated by the State for how they rate.

  6. […] officials and the owner and general manager of Aiello took place on Monday, when I wrote a column on it. Aiello has not responded to my request for a […]

  7. George Porter on January 5, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Before using a plumbing company and after checking their BBB rating, Aiello is an A+ rated company. sure, they may be more expensive than a backyard plumber, but they sure helped me out. They were completely upfront about what they were doing and how much it would be every step of the way. They are a company that will be around for a long time, and that is the security I need in a plumbing company. Now look at the scenario…
    G.Gombossy clearly shows he has an axe to grind with this company, his one sided articles show he is only interested in himself. His unfair and unbalance journalism is what got him fired from the Courant, not this company. George Gombossy somehow got his hands on this newsand wrote and published his website on January 3, 2011, a full day before an official press release was made from the state on january How this this happen? Inside connection with a commissioner who is on his way out this month?

    • George Gombossy on January 5, 2011 at 9:19 am

      What is your job title at Aiello? Don’t you think readers would want to know what ax you are grinding my friend?

      • MIKE R on January 5, 2011 at 4:48 pm

        WHY ASSUME HE WORKS AT AIELLO GEORGE HE JUST KNOWS A GOOD COMPANY WHEN HE SEES IT WHY DIDNT YOU GO TO AIELLO WERE YOU AFRAID YOU MIGHT HAVED LIKE IT.IM CURIOUS GEORGE WHO DO YOU RECCOMEND FOR A PLUMBER ,IS IT THE NON INSURED LOWEST PRICE.YOUR ARTICLES AMUSE ME YOU CAN HEAR THE VENOM COME OUT IN YOUR WRITING YOU ARE A TALENTED JOURNALIST PUT IT TO GOOD USE ,DONT MAKE IT PERSONAL

        • Joshua on January 6, 2011 at 10:28 pm

          George,
          It seems to me that many of the places that you chose to write columns have fired you or “let you persue other options”. It makes me wonder. Let me give you a story about Aiello. A good friend of mine (elderly living alone) lost the heat in her home on Xmas eve 2 years ago. A sales person went to the home and found her in a winter coat with no where to go. After determining that the furnace couln’t be replaced for two days, the gentleman called his wife and brought a guest home for the holidays. Soo, with all the negitive you choose to find about the company, I’m sure that there are many more positive stories with that company that you would probably choose not to report on. It’s ashame that there are people like you in the world and not more willing to lend a hand.

          • george gombossy on January 8, 2011 at 1:39 am

            You sure you don’t have me mixed up with someone else? I worked at the same company for more than 40 years – The Courant. And before that the U.S. Army. I wasn’t fired from the Army..

  8. Aiello Home Services on January 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Thank you, George, for allowing Aiello Home Services to respond to your story. The draft contains a number of significant inaccuracies. Primarily, Aiello did not pay any “fine.” Your reporting that we paid a “civil penalty” is incorrect. The payment of money under the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance was what is termed an “offering of compromise.” The term “civil penalty” for purposes of the AVC is merely for satisfying the Department of Consumer Protection’s administrative procedures so that the payment (which is essentially to cover the cost of undertaking the Department’s administrative review) may be deposited into the Department’s account, not the Sate of Connecticut’s general revenue account.

    Secondly, upon completing its review, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection did not make any finding of fact whatsoever that Aiello was engaged in any willful or intentional wrongdoing, particularly with respect to ethical practices with the public. The Department has closed all matters, of whatever their nature.

    In sum, Aiello is rated A+ by Connecticut Better Business Bureau and has a 97% “excellent” Customer Service Rating by Lennox Industry’s third party survey company. Aiello is a leader in the residential plumbing, heating and air conditioning industry because of what we do and we stand by our work. We are proud of our accomplishments.

    Aiello Home Services

    • George Gombossy on January 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      That is an interesting point of view which I don’t think the Department of Consumer Protection, which has been investigating complaints against this company for 10 years, would view it.

  9. […] this month Aiello officials paid a $35,000 fine to avoid civil prosecution following 47 complaints from customers over the past 10 […]

  10. Steve on January 13, 2011 at 8:35 am

    George your article is just another example of your vendetta against the Hartford courant and their advertisers. Maybe you would not have been fired if you could focus on real issues and not report the truth.

  11. un happy customer on June 12, 2011 at 6:58 am

    George , keep shining a light on this company – nothing has changed with them they are still practicing shady,deceptive -business with there quotes -“their book
    for pricing for parts are 1000% mark up?!( not a typo) to prove my point just google
    a part they they require to install and do the math, call them and ask what would that part cost, do not let them state they need to come out ,they will charge you a trip a fee to do so(not needed if they all quote prices from their “book” they alter everything and give a “quote” how can you give a quote if you didnt do anything. granted they are in business to make money..say that who in business volunteers to pay 30,000$ it just them being pro active to avoid public
    awareness

  12. Tomjones1727 on July 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Home owners, consumer protection, and the better Business Bureau. FYI, I have had Ajello do work for me for many years, yes they have had minor problems but always 100% came back and fixed all the problems. FYI, Consumer Protection charges a fee to home improvembt contractors of $220.00 a year times 100,000 contractors with only a photo ID, No test is ever given, u do not have to speak or read English. We did have cetain cities, like New Britain have there own test which the state will not allow them any more. The reason for regerstration was to know information about a contractor, The fee , about 10% goes into a guarantee fund for home owners if they hire unprofesional contractors. What qualifies a contractor to know what they are doing, nothing. Your drivers license is renewed every four years, so why do home improvement companies have to renew their regestration every year, to make money for the state At least in order to recive a drivers license you get tested for. The better Business bureau is a joke!!! You join them they give you a excellant rating, you do not the BBB gives no information. The BBB has gone bankrupt in Hartford many years ago for misusing funds. I have know sales people that worked there and they were always on straight commision. Home owners, buyer beware, every thing you buy comes from China, Go into a quality furniture store you wlll lables under tthem that say made in China. We might be bankrupsy on August 2, 2011. Thank You Uncle Sam

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