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Gas Gouging & Supplies; Contractor Scams

Nov. 5, 2012--  Local governments reported gas lines easing Monday morning, with deliveries increasing and more stations operating.

The county Department of Consumer Protection, at the direction of County Executive Robert P. Astorino, had previously sent inspectors to all county gasoline stations to assess supplies and to make sure there is not price gouging.

If there is any gouging, the information will be turned over to the New York State Attorney General's Office for possible prosecution.

"Taking advantage of consumers in need and raising prices without any justification will be investigated by the department," Astorino said.

John Gaccione, acting director of the department, also reminded consumers to use common sense when selecting a contractor to do any home mprovement reapairs. 

Home improvement contractors working in Westchester must be licensed. A licensed contractor will have the necessary contractor insurance. To find out if a contractor is licensed, check online at www.westchestergov.com/consumer.

 Here are other tips from the county's Consumer Department:

  • If you haven't done so, call your insurance company as soon as you can. Many insurance companies have existing relationships with home repair contractors.
  • Watch out for contractors who are suddenly in the area. Fly-by-night contractors will take advantage of homeowners in need. Don't get rushed into signing a contract or agreeing to repairs.  
  • Avoid contractors who demand payment in cash or want more than one-third of the total payment before work has begun.
  • Do not agree to an oral contract. Get everything you can in writing. Insist on a written contract that sets forth all the important details of the job. That includes a detailed scope of work, a start date, a completion date, cancellation clause, warranty information and a schedule of payments.
  • Get at least three estimates. In reviewing the estimates, don't always go with the lowest bidder. A higher bid may be worth it if the contractor is the most experienced, uses better materials and keeps to a timeline.
  • Consumers who need to purchase essential goods and services need to take notice of what they are paying for these items and should contact the department if prices seem to be much higher than normal.

The Department of Consumer Protection can be reached by e-mail at conpro@westchestergov.com, or  by phone at (914) 995-2155. You may also visit the department's Web section at www.westchestergov.com/consumer.

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