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Agreement pending for St. Petersburg window company accused of pressuring seniors

Home Performance Alliance, accused in a complaint from the Florida Attorney General’s Office of high-pressure sales tactics and “outright deceit,” says it has taken steps to fix problems.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody speaks to reporters in 2019. This year, her office investigated complaints about Home Performance Alliance, a St. Petersburg window installation company.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody speaks to reporters in 2019. This year, her office investigated complaints about Home Performance Alliance, a St. Petersburg window installation company. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Nov. 9, 2020

The woman would later describe the salesman who showed up at her home to sell her new windows as "very arrogant and almost angry.”

“High pressure," she reported in a complaint to the Better Business Bureau. "Scare tactics,” she said.

Another customer said a salesman from the same company wore him down for more than seven hours to sign a contract that day.

“All I know is I’m OVER this company,” wrote another. “I should have never trusted them when they came knocking at my door.”

The Florida Attorney General’s Office reviewed more than 180 complaints about Home Performance Alliance — a St. Petersburg-based window sales and installation company that "primarily solicits consumers in their homes and offers financing for most jobs, which typically cost between $10,000-$30,000,” according to court documents.

An attorney for Home Performance Alliance said the company does 3,000 to 4,000 jobs a year. He said the company has made changes in response to the complaints and resolved financial issues with customers.

Customer complaints, some from people age 60 and older, alleged “unfair and deceptive business practices.” These included “high-pressure sales tactics, ‘bait-and-switch’ sales tactics, intimidation, harassment, failures to honor cancellation requests ... and outright deceit to induce customers into purchasing windows that often fell far short of consumer expectations,” said a complaint filed in Pinellas County civil court last month by the state Attorney General.

“My office is committed to holding irresponsible contractors accountable when they take advantage of Floridians, particularly our seniors, by utilizing high-pressure or misleading sales practices,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a recent news release.

The window company and the Attorney General’s office have reached a pending agreement that includes $90,000 in civil penalties. The company has voluntarily provided customers more than $700,000 in refunds, payment forgiveness and lien releases, the Attorney General’s Office said.

Customers said they were threatened with lawsuits, liens and even physical harm when they declined to enter contracts or tried to cancel them, according to the complaint. Residents said salespeople would not leave their homes until they signed what they thought was an estimate, but turned out to be a contract to buy windows, the Attorney General’s Office said.

Residents said they couldn’t reach Home Performance Alliance, based at 1780 102nd Ave. N, Suite 500, when they wanted to cancel a contract. Some said they were told they purchased impact-resistant windows, but received lesser quality ones instead, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

D.S. Berenson, the attorney for Home Performance Alliance, said the company took steps "pro-actively” before its agreement with the state. These measures included replacing the management team, simplifying documents, getting a new customer quality-control system, putting in a toll-free customer care phone line, waiving past-due balances and eliminating outstanding liens.

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“They had a bad management team in place; there was no question about that,” said Berenson, whose Washington, D.C.-based firm represents the remodeling industry. “They looked at their customer complaints and took steps to address everything.”

The $90,000 in civil penalties includes $75,000 classified as “senior” penalties because of the victims' ages.

The Attorney General’s news release noted the company cooperated in addressing the allegations and took action.

In court documents, the window company “neither admits nor denies any allegation in the complaint.” The agreement is awaiting approval from a Pinellas County judge.

“I urge all Floridians to guard against this type of scam by reviewing all written materials carefully before signing anything or contracting with any business,” Moody said in the release.

Berenson said that they were “surprised” at the strong language used by the Attorney General.

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