OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today is urging Oklahomans to proceed with caution before selecting contractors when making repairs to property and clean up in the wake of the ice storm this week.
While Oklahomans begin to recover from the storm, the attorney general also reminds contractors and individuals the state’s Emergency Price Stabilization Act is still in effect for all 77 counties with the ongoing disaster emergency declaration.
The price gouging statute prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent for the price of goods and services after a declared emergency. Additionally, the act allows the attorney general to pursue charges against individuals or businesses that engage in price gouging.
Attorney General Hunter said natural disasters bring out criminals.
“Criminals see things like ice storms as an opportunity to make money,” Attorney General Hunter said. “They prey on people’s emotions and frustrations in a sinister pattern of behavior. They will go door-to-door, use high pressure sales tricks, require large amounts of cash up front to make repairs quickly or remove debris, among other tactics. I know it’s hard right now with a lot of people without power or wanting to get repairs made to get back to normal life. But I encourage Oklahomans to remain patient and be cautious when choosing a contractor. If someone does become the victim to contractor fraud, contact my office. We will do what we can to get their money back and prosecute the individuals committing the crimes.”
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit offers the following tips to avoid contractor fraud:
- Ask for referrals from people you trust and for references from contractors;
- Avoid fly-by-night companies and use local companies established in the community;
- Obtain written estimates from multiple contractors;
- Ensure roofers are registered with the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board by calling (405) 521-6550 or check the online database at https://cib.ok.gov/are-they-licensed;
- Be cautious of door-to-door solicitation, contractors who ask for a substantial up-front payment or request cash payment, use high pressure or aggressive sales tactics or resist the use of a written contract;
- Do not give out bank account information, social security or driver’s license numbers;
- If contractors identify themselves with a federal or state government agency, ask for credentials and call the agency they claim to be with.
For more information or to report a complaint, individuals are encouraged to contact the Consumer Protection Unit by phone at (405) 521-2029, email at [email protected] or visit the consumer protection website and fill out an online complaint form, here.