Settlement With Westchester Locksmith Provides Restitution To Customers, Ends Deceptive Practices
Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with the owner of a Westchester County locksmith company that requires the company to provide honest estimates, ends its false advertising, provide restitution to consumers and improve the level of services offered. The settlement has been submitted to the Supreme Court in Westchester County for approval.
The company is known by several names, Hartsdale Locksmith, Inc., Elite Locksmith, Inc. and Elite Garage Doors, and is owned by Zion Cohen. As part of the settlement, the company will pay $10,000 in restitution, fines and costs. The company, located at 4 South Central Avenue, provides lock repair and installation, alarm installation services, 24-hour emergency services and lockout service to those who are locked out of their car, home or business.
Spitzer's office found that the company routinely charged customers two to three times more than the initial estimate for service calls and in some cases, failed to disclose the cost of services until the work was complete. The charges were much higher than work done by other area locksmiths and in many cases the work was done incorrectly or in a shoddy manner. Many of the complaints lodged against the company came from women who were alone at the time the locksmith services were provided and were intimidated into paying significantly higher prices than the estimate that the company originally provided.
The investigation also found that the company falsely claimed to be located in numerous metropolitan area locations when, in fact, it was located only in Hartsdale. Elite placed some two dozen advertisements in various editions the Yellow Pages in the Tri-State area altering the company's name repeatedly to reflect the names of the different towns. Examples of the listings include Mt. Kisco Elite Locksmith, Englewood Elite Locksmith and Peekskill Elite Locksmith. As a result, customers believed the company was locally-based and could provide prompt service, when in reality there was only one office. Additionally, the company often refused to provide a "Senior Citizen Discount" or "Crime Victims Discount" as promised in its advertisements unless customers disputed the bill.
"Consumers must have confidence that a local merchant is indeed local and that those who provide emergency service can do so in a timely fashion, especially in the case of locksmith services where a person's safety and well-being are at stake." Spitzer said. "This agreement requires the company to provide customers with accurate, good faith estimates, and to perform all work correctly and professionally."
The agreement requires the company to provide:
- an oral estimate to customers who call for service;
- a written estimate upon arrival at the customer's location; and
- a good faith estimate of how long customers locked out of their home, business or car will have to wait for service.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Deborah Scalise, under the supervision of Gary S. Brown, head of Spitzer's Westchester Regional Office. Assistant Attorney General Jane M. Azia of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau and Senior Investigator Cindy Trimble also assisted on the case.