News Release



For More Information:

William R. Steinhaus
Dutchess County Executive
(845) 486-2000

Nelson Kranker, Director
Dutchess County Consumer Affairs
(845) 486-2949

For Immediate Release

June 17, 1999


Steinhaus Announces Consumer Affairs Actions
Benefit Dutchess County Residents

Poughkeepsie, NY - County Executive William R. Steinhaus, together with Dutchess County Consumer Affairs Director Nelson Kranker, held a press conference today to highlight the latest scam by a local propane delivery company that was uncovered by our Consumer Affairs Department.  Steinhaus and Kranker used this opportunity today to also underscore guidelines residents should reference when dealing with home improvement contractors and to show off our Consumer Affairs Department's new gasoline test truck.

"Our Dutchess County Consumer Affairs Department has much more responsibility and is much more pro active than many people may realize," Steinhaus said. "We are constantly vigilant to ensure our consumers are protected against fraud. As we see, when certain individuals do try to take advantage of our residents, our Consumer Affairs Department will take action."

The Consumer Affairs Department recently charged Dutchess Propane, Inc., Hyde Park, with having a second meter in the cab of the truck that was being used to print tickets for amounts greater than the amounts actually delivered. Consumer Affairs entered into a "Stipulation and Order" with the company to operate its delivery trucks in accordance with local and New York State Law, and pay an $8000 civil compromise for the alleged violations. In addition, the illegal meter was seized.

This investigation was prompted by consumer complaints and propane industry leaders who were concerned about unethical practices taking place in their industry. "This company began offering propane for prices lower than the industry standard which sent a red flag to their competitors," Steinhaus said. "These other companies notified the Department of Consumer Affairs in an effort to protect the reputation of their industry."

"We are continually working to better protect consumers in the county," Steinhaus commented. "This is just another in a long list of actions we in county government are taking to protect our residents."

"This time of year people begin making many home improvements, and this is also the time of year the Consumer Affairs Department begins receiving many inquiries and complaints about incomplete or inferior workmanship. With the development and release of some guidelines, our goal is to educate consumers of problems that can be prevented before they occur."

According to Nelson Kranker, complaints have several things in common:

Tip-offs to unscrupulous "fly-by-night" home improvement outfits that consumers should look out for are as follows:

Lastly, when dealing with contractors the following suggested guidelines will save you time, money and aggravation, and allow for recourse if necessary;

The Consumer Affairs Department acts on consumer complaints under the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Law and will retrieve monies taken from homeowners by unscrupulous contractors through court orders and levying fines for violations. "We have recently put a lien on a contractor's home and have recouped the monies owed to an elderly woman," stated Kranker. "We do what is necessary to protect consumers and bring about justice."

"We believe the overwhelming majority of businesses are lawful and honest, but it is always in the consumers best interest to follow the old adage, 'Buyer Beware,"' Steinhaus added.

"The Department of Consumer Affairs monitors the sales of all retail petroleum products in addition to other consumer law enforcement responsibilities," noted Kranker. Today we want to introduce to the community our new gasoline test truck which the county purchased in early 1999. This truck, as well as the county's existing one, is used in the Dutchess County Gasoline Quality Program which tests all gasoline pumps for accuracy and correct computation. There are approximately 2214 pumps in the county. The trucks also obtain samples for testing the octane rating of the gasoline, the chemical content under the Clean Air Act, and other specifications to ensure proper performance of our residents' motor vehicles.

Consumer Affairs also does random inspections at retail stores to ensure all scanned prices reflect the true price on the item and they inspect all supermarket packages for correct weight. There are 1850 scales around the county which they also inspect for accuracy.

"The purpose of the actions of the Department of Consumer Affairs is to promote an atmosphere of trust among consumers, the business community and county government by promoting a fair and equitable market place," Steinhaus concluded.


County Executive Press Releases