Lawn Care Co. Misled Homeowners With Ad Campaign

Attorney General Spitzer today announced an agreement with an Onondaga County company accused of duping homeowners into purchasing lawn care services.

Lawn-A-Mat, based in Manlius, has agreed to halt an advertising campaign in which the company made false representations about its services and the state's new "neighbor notification" law.

"New Yorkers have legitimate concerns about the health and environmental impacts of lawn care pesticides," Spitzer said. "This company took advantage of those concerns with a blatantly false ad campaign."

Earlier this spring, Lawn-A-Mat posted pink flags on lawns and placed flyers on doorknobs of homeowners, notifying them that their property was "within 48-hour notification range" of one of the company's customers. The flags falsely claimed to be a public notice required by New York State law. The flags and flyers further stated that Lawn-A-Mat - unlike other pesticide applicators - was exempt from the statewide notification law because it used "special equipment."

In fact, there is no pesticide neighbor notification law in Onondaga County, and the advertising campaign was simply designed to encourage people to patronize Lawn-A-Mat as opposed to other competing lawn care companies.

Last year, the State Legislature gave counties the option of adopting a county-level neighbor notification law. If adopted, the law would require that pesticide applicators provide written notice to nearby property owners before pesticides are applied.

Such a law would enable neighbors to take precautions against exposure to pesticides. To date, neighbor notification laws have been approved in Albany, Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau counties. Even if such a law had been passed in Onondaga County, no exemptions would exist for pesticide applicators using "special equipment."

In a recent settlement with the Attorney General's Office, Lawn-A-Mat and company owner Gerald Rubenstein agree to:

  • End Lawn-A-Mat's fraudulent, deceptive and illegal advertising campaign;

  • Contact each consumer who entered into a contract with Lawn-A-Mat based on the fraudulent advertising campaign and give them an opportunity to terminate their contract; and,

  • Pay $3,500 to the Attorney General's Office to cover costs of the investigation.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Judith Malkin under the supervision Winthrop Thurlow, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Syracuse Regional Office.