A.G.'s Office Wins Refunds From Monroe County Snow Plower

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with a Monroe County snowplowing and landscaping business that will provide refunds to dozens of dissatisfied customers.

William VanDuser and Brian Gagne, owners and officers of Sandana, Inc., which operates under the name Eclypse, have been providing seasonal snowplowing and landscaping services to consumers throughout Monroe County since 1996.

"The refunds promised through this agreement will help rectify this company's failings of the past," Spitzer said. "However, it is the reforms agreed to by Eclypse's owners that should greatly serve to promote better customer satisfaction in the future."

Some consumers who paid advance fees complained that Eclypse failed to provide snowplowing services as contracted or to make refunds. In some cases, Eclypse failed even to return telephone calls from dissatisfied customers.

VanDuser and Gagne settled allegations of deceptive business practices by agreeing to refund over $2,000 to at least 24 consumers. Spitzer's office also was successful in requiring Eclypse's owners to agree to reforms in their business operations including:

    • implementing a written policy that entitles customers to a full refund within 10 days if it can be shown that another contractor had to be hired to provide snowplowing services for which Eclypse had contracted;
    • responding promptly to customer phone calls and inquiries; and
    • providing a written detailed price list for services including any additional snowplowing expenses during extraordinary snow conditions.

Eclypse also agreed to pay $1,600 to cover penalties and the costs of the investigation.

According the agreement, Eclypse agreed to reimburse other dissatisfied customers through additional unspecified payments to the Attorney General's office, including monies to cover refunds to additional consumers who come forward with valid complaints and payments for court judgments rendered against it. Consumers have until October 31, 2000 to file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office to be eligible for refunds.

Spitzer's office provided the following tips for consumers considering contracting for snowplowing or landscaping services:

    • Be sure to get all services, restrictions, and obligations clearly defined in writing;
    • Ask about additional charges for services in extraordinary conditions, such as a severe snow storm;
    • Ask for and contact at least three references provided by the company;
    • Contact the local Better Business Bureau to check the company's history;
    • Avoid large up-front payments - periodic payments ensure the contractor will return to finish the work;
    • Be sure to get the contractor's refund policy in writing; and
    • Contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755 with any complaints or questions.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Carlos Rodriguez of the Rochester Regional Office.