On August 7, 2018, in a case filed by the Colorado Attorney General against a Westminster-based, Colorado HVAC company, a district judge issued a permanent injunction against the company for violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.
The Court’s order requires the defendants (the owner and manager of the company) to pay $1.5 million in civil penalties, $205,146 in consumer restitution, and to reimburse the state’s attorney’s fees and costs. The order also permanently enjoined the owner and manager from engaging in any activity related to the sale or installation of any type of HVAC equipment.
The verdict follows a temporary restraining order issued in September 2017, followed by a trial in February 2018.
The Court’s order found that the company was in clear violation of local municipal ordinances for obtaining building permits from the appropriate building departments before installing furnaces, boiler heaters, hot water heater and air conditioning units in consumers’ homes. The failure was found to be deliberate, and “caused injury to the public, leaving hundreds of consumers with a potentially hazardous HVAC installation in their homes.”
The facts of the case revealed that the company had used poorly trained technicians to install over 1,000 furnaces, hot water heaters and AC units in Colorado homes, deliberately without pulling permits, and in one instance a homeowner testified that she was forced to leave after installation because her home filled with carbon monoxide.
This is a cautionary tale for all members everywhere, and not just the state of Colorado. The court addressed the violations under the state’s Consumer Protection Act and arrived at the $1.5 million verdict in civil penalties. Leaving well enough alone, the Court did not dive further in other allegations of deceptive trade practices and false advertising, which could potentially have imposed even greater fines and penalties.
Needless to say, don’t let this happen to you. There are health- and safety-related ordinances in every jurisdiction, and failure to adhere to these governmental requirements – especially deliberately – could result in you becoming the poster child for your own state. This was a clear and concise message from the Colorado AG’s office to all of the bad actors out there. No doubt your state has an active consumer fraud protection office of its own, so, while we believe this may be unnecessary for our own contractor members, let this serve as a warning to always do the right thing.