AG Alert: Rutledge Warns of Winter Weather

LITTLE ROCK – As Winter Weather moves through the Natural State, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is urging Arkansans to be watchful of potential scam artists trying to take advantage of them. Ice, sleet and snow can cause damage to homes, businesses, vehicles, trees and other property, and clean-up efforts may require some Arkansans to seek assistance from contractors or repairmen.

“Con artists will use any opportunity to defraud hard working Arkansans out of their money, such as recovering from severe winter weather,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I urge everyone to be aware and use caution as the clean-up process begins. If you suspect any type of fraud, call my office immediately.”

The Attorney General offered the following tips to consumers who need home-repair or tree-trimming services following the winter weather:

  • Select a reputable contractor. Always ask family, friends and neighbors for recommendations, and never be afraid to ask the contractor for references.
  • Always get multiple estimates. Consumers want to act quickly to repair damages or have a tree removed, but getting at least three estimates to compare prices will save money in the long run.
  • Get it in writing. A contract should contain details about the price of the project and any agreement on financing. It should indicate the exact work that is to be done, the type and quality of materials to be used, and the expected completion date.
  • Never pay in advance. One option that should be satisfactory for both parties is an arrangement where one-third of the expected cost is paid in advance, a third is paid during the work and the final installment is paid at the time of completion. Consumers should always inspect the completed project before making final payment to make sure the completed work meets their expectations.
  • Always handle insurance payments directly. If insurance payments are involved, consumers should deal with the insurance company directly rather than authorizing a contractor to negotiate with the company.

Governor Asa Hutchinson signed an Executive Order issuing a state of emergency following the freezing rain, sleet, snow and power outages in Arkansas. Act 376 of 1997, which prohibits businesses from price gouging during a state of emergency, is now in effect. The law prohibits businesses from charging more than 10 percent above the pre-disaster price of goods or services, such as food, fuel, water, flashlights, batteries, blankets, medicine, bandages and construction materials. The price gouging law is triggered whenever a state of emergency is declared by federal, State or local governments. The ban on price gouging remains in effect for at least 30 days and can be extended another 30 days by the local governing body if necessary to protect the lives, property or welfare of the citizens. For home repairs, the law remains in effect for 180 days. A violation of Act 376 is a violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

For more information about this or other consumer issues, visit www.ArkansasAG.gov or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division hotline at (800) 482-8982.

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