Did AJ Perri rip you off? Paying $100K fine, says it’s innocent
NEWARK — Plumbing company A.J. Perri has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine after complaints from customers throughout the state that it bilked customers — selling them repairs and services they didn't need.
In a consent agreement with the Board of Examiners of Master Plumbers, the company did not acknowledge any wrongdoing. But the board included its findings and a history of allegations it investigated in the order.
Former Attorney General Christopher Porrino, in an announcement of the agreement, cited several examples of complaints against the company to his office and the state Department of Consumer affairs. Those included complaints by elderly patients who said they were told their equipment and pipes would need major repairs or replacements, when simpler and less expensive fixes would work just as well — in an alleged effort to jack up commissions.
In one incident, an 85-year-old man with Alzheimer's disease who had used the company before agreed to more than $8,000 in repair work despite the fact that the company was supposed to go through his son for approvals given the father's condition, according to the materials in the consent agreement.
The state board's investigation into the company was prompted by an NJ.com Bamboozled report. Bamboozled "spoke to dozens of customers, along with current and former A.J. Perri employees, who painted a portrait of predatory practices fueled by a commission-based sales structure and pressure to meet sales goals" the site said in its own report on the fine.
The consent agreement cited several instances where the company could not provide written reports on customer work, or copies of videos used to determine damage — with some such videos "recorded over." Customers also reported being given limited windows to accept special prices on work,
Michael J. Perri, a part owner of the company, was asked by the board according to about the company's safeguards to prevent employees from upselling to customers, as well as whether the company checked removed equipment before sending it to be recycled. Perri told the board the company did not have such a practice in place, but said any work over $1,000 required verbal phone confirmation from the customer before work was started.
While the consent order says Perri told the board that the company has a specific policy against upselling, and that employees are not authorized to set arbitrary prices, three master plumbers employed by the company said they were paid hourly, but also got commissions and bonuses based on certain criteria.
The order said some of those criteria included reaching revenue goals and achieving a "close rate of above 75 or 80 percent."
The plumbers also told the board that the company recently instituted a new policy ro protect customers: A licensed master plumber would conduct a second camera inspection after one done by a technician, to ensure that the work ordered was indeed needed. One of the plumbers said he had either stopped or modified 30 such job orders over the last two years.
In issuing the fine, the board said the company "repeatedly engaged in the use of deception and misrepresentation," as well as "occupational misconduct" in a number of areas that were in violation of the board's rules and regulations.
In a statement to New Jersey 101.5, company vice president Kevin Perri said A.J. Perri did not agree with the board's findings and "categorically den(ies) that our business in any way promotes endorses or encourages any behavior against the best interests of our customers."
However, he said he was glad the agreement allowed the company to put the proceedings behind it.
"We take great pride in the knowledge that we have served and satisfied hundreds of thousands of customers who justifiably regard us as leaders in our industry because of our professionalism and dedication," Perri said. "We are confident that those countless customer experiences are true representations of the services our business provides to the community where we live, and we are eager to move past this and get back to serving our customers and our family of 370+ employees who make their living honestly and honorably."
As part of the consent order. the company was ordered to pay $75,000 of the $100,000 up front, while the remaining $25,000 would be paid only if the company did not comply with the terms of the agreement.
The company also agreed to have all recordings of sewer or water pipe inspections saved for a period of four years, and that that footage will be made available to the board within 15 days of a request. The company also agreed to provide customers formal forms with written options for work they may need, and to indicate on those forms which options the customers choose. Those forms will also be kept by the company for four years as well.
Any violations, according to the order, would also result in an additional $10,000 penalty if a customer involved is deemed to be a senior citizen over the age of 60.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com