Connecticut Commissioner of Consumer Protection William M. Rubenstein has issued a consent order to cease and desist against James Dean Joyner LLC, of Milton, Florida, doing business as The Fireplace Doctor, and Mr. James Dean Joyner as an individual, for alleged violations of the Home Improvement Act and the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.
In its complaint, the Department alleged that since April 2012, The Fireplace Doctor offered chimney and fireplace cleaning and repair to Connecticut consumers through websites including www.fireplacedoctor.net, www.fireplacedoctorstore.com and www.groupon.com.
More than 1,400 Groupon vouchers for The Fireplace Doctor were sold to Connecticut consumers in 2012 for chimney cleaning. It was also alleged that on several occasions, the company made offers to Connecticut consumers to undertake chimney repair work in addition to the chimney cleaning it performed.
Chimney repair in Connecticut falls under the Home Improvement Act, and persons performing such work must be registered as a home improvement contractor in Connecticut. Persons offering contracts for home improvement work must be registered either as Home Improvement Contractors or as Home Improvement Salespersons, and neither Mr. Joyner nor his company were registered as a home improvement contractor at the time the work was offered, nor were the company’s salespersons registered as Home Improvement Salespersons.
“This resolution not only offers reimbursement to a number of homeowners for services that were unfairly sold to them, but reminds everyone, including homeowners and contractors, that chimney repair work is not to be taken lightly – it must be done correctly in order to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning in homes,” Commissioner Rubenstein said. “We want only properly credentialed individuals doing this work, which has numerous important health and safety implications.”
In addition to being registered as home improvement contractors, legitimate and reputable chimney repair companies typically acquire professional training and/or certifications and participate in professional membership associations to improve and promote the quality of their work. The Fireplace Doctor has no such credentials or associations, and in 2009 the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) demanded that Mr. Joyner refrain from falsely using CSIA trademarks in advertising for The Fireplace Doctor. CSIA ultimately won a permanent injunction against Joyner earlier this year.
While making no substantive admission, Mr. Joyner agrees to the facts in the order, will cease doing business in Connecticut, and will provide full restitution to any Connecticut consumers (not previously refunded through Groupon) who request a refund for any services rendered by The Fireplace Doctor before December 27th, 2012 – the date the order was signed.
In addition, Joyner is required to assume financial responsibility for portions of refunds paid to Connecticut consumers by Groupon as part of its agreement with Joyner as of December 27, 2012, must pay any outstanding sales and use taxes to the Department of Revenue Services for any of the sales it made, and pay the penalty of $500 to the Department of Consumer Protection to be used for consumer complaint resolution, education, enforcement and litigation.
Consumers seeking a refund should file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Protection, and include a copy of their invoice and receipt from The Fireplace Doctor. The agency’s complaint form is available on the Department of Consumer Protection website at: http://www.ct.gov/dcp/lib/dcp/Consumer_Statement_CPFR-2.pdf.
Here is what a consumer who is planning to hire someone to inspect and/or repair their chimney should consider:
Check to see if the company is registered with the Department of Consumer Protection at: https://www.elicense.ct.gov.
- Beware of scare tactics – you can always shut a unit off and not use it until you get a second opinion
- If the repair person shows you photographs of damage, verify that it is actually your chimney by asking him to also provide you with a photo taken from a wider angle
- All chimney liner and woodstove installations require a permit from your town – as such, it is incredibly rare for a same-day installation of a liner or woodstove
- Ask for a copy of the company’s insurance certificate
- Educate yourself before the service person arrives, and let family members know that you are having an inspection or repair done.
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