There's a lot in this issue of Replacement Contractor about what's been going on in Washington state for the past year. To summarize, the attorney general there has filed civil suits against seven window replacement companies and a window manufacturer accusing them of engaging in deceptive marketing and sales practices.
Many in the industry are now weighing in about the merit of these suits. In his column, longtime industry consultant and Replacement Contractor contributor Dave Yoho outlines the charges and offers the warning that many companies in other states could be similarly vulnerable. The assistant attorney general, Jack Zurlini Jr., who filed the cases in Washington state, has his say in On the Record. And in a feature article, we convey the broad outlines of what has happened and what it might mean for the industry.
What is important about these cases in Washington is that similar investigations and similar suits could be filed in other states. Should that happen, is your company vulnerable? It's worth it to know because this type of action could put you out of business, as it has several companies in Washington.
If your company's selling practice is to move through a series of discounts to get that contract signature on the first call, how steep is that price drop and how real is that first price? Can you substantiate the energy savings claims your company makes for its windows? The attorney general may want to know.
Those are the biggest beefs the state of Washington had with the companies it took action against, but there are others. This is not so much about the product ? windows ? as it is about how the product is marketed and sold. And don't think that no one is paying attention. In the Internet age, everything is open to scrutiny.
Right now might be a good time to have someone ? a lawyer or a qualified industry consultant ? look over your contracts, pitchbook, marketing and selling scripts, and training manuals to determine if what you do could be interpreted as illegal in some way.
It's also a good idea to put a second line of defense in place with customer satisfaction surveys. Deal immediately with complaints, no matter how trivial, before they become public ? and document that you did so. In most cases, this is not about legal vs. illegal practices, it is about managing your business well.
Jim Cory, Editor