AG sues Florida tree removal company for alleged price gouging in Wilmington

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Attorney General Josh Stein has filed a lawsuit against Canary Tree Service, a Jacksonville, Florida-based tree removal company, and its owner Justin Hartmann, alleging that they price gouged Wilmington-area homeowners after Hurricane Florence.

“My office will not allow price gouging to go unchecked,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “These out-of-state operators took advantage of homeowners rebuilding after Hurricane Florence. That’s against the law, and my office will hold them accountable.”

The complaint alleges price gouging incidents involving four Wilmington-area homeowners who were charged excessive amounts for tree removal work, and a fifth homeowner who was offered an inflated quote for a job.

Two homeowners were charged $9,500 for 14 hours of work, which is approximately $679 per hour. Another homeowner was charged $4,500 for six hours of work, which is $750 per hour. A fourth homeowner was charged $14,000 for 30 hours of work, or $467 per hour, though another company estimated that work to cost approximately $2,400.

A fifth homeowner was quoted $750 for removing a small tree, work that was ultimately completed in less than an hour by a neighbor.

Additionally, none of the consumers were provided written notice of their three-day right to cancel, a requirement under North Carolina law.

On Thursday, Stein spoke at an event called “The Florence Factor” at the New Hanover County Senior Center, teaching older adults how to identify fraud related to storm damage repairs.

“Get more than one quote for the work. Make sure that quote is in writing, and then once you’ve chosen your contractor, have that contract in writing. And don’t pay for the work until it’s completed,” Stein said.

One woman who attended said she was grateful for the information.

“Fortunately it did not happen to me. I have heard about it, but I think North Carolina’s very lucky to have this kind of government that cares about us to share that information,” Betty Grace said.

Attorney General Stein is seeking temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief against the defendants, along with restitution for victims, civil penalties, attorney fees, and other relief.

This is the seventh price gouging lawsuit Attorney General Stein has filed after Hurricanes Florence and Michael hit North Carolina in 2018.

He has already reached settlements with seven defendants involved in in two lawsuits, totaling $234,006 in restitution and $154,971 in money companies are barred from collecting from homeowners.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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