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Post date: December 20 2001

Monroe County Snow Plow Company Faces State Lawsuit

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has obtained an order freezing funds of a Monroe County snow plowing and lawn maintenance business which is accused of failing to reform its unscrupulous business tactics.

According to the lawsuit filed today in Monroe County State Supreme Court, Sandana, Inc. - which has been doing business as "Eclypse" since 1996 - violated a previous settlement with the Attorney General's office by failing to provide promised refunds to customers and continuing to engage in false and deceptive business practices. Today's lawsuit seeks a court order barring the company and its owners - Brian Gagne and William Van Duser - from continuing in the snow plow and lawn care business or, in the alternative, requiring the posting of a $250,000 performance bond.

"Repeated attempts by my office to reform this company's business practices and to obtain refunds for customers of Eclypse have been fruitless," Spitzer said. "This court order is an important step in securing the assets of the company in order to make restitution, and in protecting the public from further unscrupulous acts."

Spitzer's office began investigating Eclypse late in 1999 after receiving dozens of complaints from area consumers that the company had failed to provide snow plowing services for which it had contracted. Eclypse signed an out-of-court settlement with Spitzer's office a year later in which the company committed to provide over $3,600 in restitution and civil penalties to be paid in monthly payments and to reform its business practices.

Since that time, Spitzer's office has received nearly 100 additional complaints from customers. Repeated attempts by Spitzer's office to force the company to change its ways have been ignored. Likewise, Eclypse stopped making installment payments to comply with the settlement after paying only $1,200.

Spitzer's lawsuit alleges that the Webster-based company demanded up-front payment for its snowplowing and lawn maintenance services, falsely claiming it would provide services on a timely basis and would repair any damage to the consumer's property caused by the company's snow plows. Many consumers attempted to complain to Eclypse, only to discover a disconnected phone line at times or a voice-mail system that was full and unable to take messages. Other consumers experienced a repeated lack of response to written inquiries and faxes.

Eclypse's failure to provide snow plowing services left many consumers, including a number of senior citizens, trapped in their homes and forced to find alternative means to clear the snow during what was considered to be one of the snowiest seasons on record. In the instances when consumers were successful in contacting the company to complain about service, they often encountered rude responses and poor excuses and then received absolutely no service thereafter.

Eclypse's record regarding its landscaping and lawn maintenance services was similarly poor. Most of the company's lawn maintenance customers contracted for weekly lawn mowing services, sometimes including power edging and lawn aeration. Many complained that Eclypse failed to provide services as contracted, refused to respond to inquiries and to provide refunds, and, at times when a service was actually performed, left the consumer's property damaged.

Many consumers took their complaints against Eclypse to small claims court and obtained judgments, which the company then refused to pay.

In addition to an order barring the company from the snow plow industry, Spitzer's lawsuit seeks restitution for injured consumers, civil penalties and court costs.

Individuals with complaints against Eclypse are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

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