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Archive for the 'Consumer' Category

Home improvement tops consumer complaint list

March
3

Consumers filed 357 complaints against home improvement contractors in Westchester County last year, making it the largest complaint category handled by the county’s Department of Consumer Protection.

Most of the complaints involved contractors working without a license in violation of county law, according to Gary Brown, director of consumer protection.

“Unlicensed contractors are a menace to consumers,” Brown said. “While hiring a licensed contractor is no guarantee of satisfaction, many of the most serious complaints — involving shoddy work or failure to perform any work at all — involved unlicensed contractors.”

The county beefed up enforcement action last year through sweeps in which authorities charged 121 contractors with being unlicensed. The department also increased penalties for repeat offenders and seized the vehicles and tools of unlicensed contractors, action that is permitted under a new seizure/impound law.

Officials credit the “zero-tolerance” stance to helping to boost the number of licensed contractors in Westchester to record levels of more than 7,600 last year.

After home improvement contractors, gasoline sales and furniture stores headed the list of more than 1,500 consumer complaints received by the county. Also on the top 10 list were specialty services (including collection agencies and home security companies), motor vehicle sales, heating oil companies, food stores, professional services, utilities and department stores.

The Department of Consumer Protection said that it collected more than $833,000 in restitution for consumers.

“In these tough economic times, we’re trying extra hard to make sure that consumers get their money’s worth,” County Executive Andrew Spano said in a written statement. “If you have a consumer problem, we can help.”

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
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Regional mall owner seeks refinancing

December
16

The debt-strapped owner of more than 650 U.S. shopping malls, including the Cortlandt Towne Center and seven other plazas in the Lower Hudson Valley, appears ready to turn over control of most of the company to lenders under a tentative refinancing deal announced this week.
Centro Properties Group of Melbourne, Australia said it has obtained a one-month extension of its credit contracts that were due to expire yesterday while the refinancing deal is under review.
Centro is struggling with $3.35 billion in debt that it accumulated in the course of expanding its retail holdings around the world in recent years. Its stock sells for pennies a share.
It had planned to sell a portfolio of American malls earlier this year that might have included some regional property, but commercial real estate values have fallen. In September, Centro said the deal was canceled but talks were continuing.
This week Centro said the current refinancing deal calls for part of its debt to be changed to securities that in turn could be converted into the equivalent of 90 percent of Centro’s equity.
The company’s office in Manhattan declined to elaborate on the latest announcement.
Centro has more than 1.26 million square feet of gross leasable space in Westchester and Rockland counties. In addition to the Cortlandt Towne Center, its portfolio includes Rockland Plaza in Nanuet, Dalewood Shopping Center in Hartsdale, Highridge Plaza in Yonkers, North Ridge Plaza in New Rochelle, A & P Mamaroneck, Village Square in Mamaroneck, and a plaza on North Central Avenue in Hartsdale.

Posted by Jerry Gleeson on Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
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Tub contractor faces grand larceny charges

November
13

An unlicensed contractor faces grand larceny charges for never installing walk-in tubs for elderly Westchester residents, despite accepting deposits to do the work, according to the Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection.

Florida-based contractor William Becker, 46, took deposits totaling $21,600 from three county residents after he opened a booth in October 2007 at the Home Improvement Show at Pace University, county officials said.

“These consumers needed the walk-in tubs to improve their quality of life,” said Consumer Protection Director Gary Brown. “Instead, this turned into their worst consumer nightmare, paying thousands of dollars and receiving nothing in return.”

Home owners in Pennsylvania and Florida have made similar complaints against Becker, who has addresses in Florida and New Jersey, county officials said.

Becker is charged with two felony counts of grand larceny 3rd for allegedly taking deposits from residents of Yorktown and New Rochelle and never installing the tubs. County officials added that they anticipate that charges will also be filed in a third case involving a Mount Vernon resident that remains under investigation.

Brown said other Westchester residents who believe they were victimized by Becker can call his office at 914-995-2155.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Thursday, November 13th, 2008 at 5:57 pm |
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Pepsi Bottling confirms ’08 guidance

September
4

The Pepsi Bottling Group Inc., the Somers company that bottles Pepsi products, today confirmed it expects to earn $2.30 to $2.38 a share this year.

The company said it expects revenues to grow in the mid-single digits. Operating profit growth will be in the low-single digits and operating free cash flow will be about $620 million, according to the company’s projections.

Pepsi Bottling also said that it will earn $1.02 to $1.06 a share in the third quarter. That would be 4 to 7 percent more than last year.

Revenues will rise 3 percent, the company said.

Posted by Allan Drury on Thursday, September 4th, 2008 at 8:27 am |
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Westchester allocates $150K for housing hotline

August
1

Westchester County has signed a $150,000 contract with Westchester Residential Opportunities Inc., a nonprofit agency certified by the federal government, to reduce the number of evictions in the county caused by the nation’s ongoing mortgage crisis.

The money was derived from a special fund the county set up to deal with emergencies, said County Legislator Peter Harckham, D-Katonah.

The agreement provides for the housing-support agency to use the funding to increase staffing to accommodate the growing number of requests for mortgage default and foreclosure counseling on its toll-free hotline, 877-976-4968, and the hotline’s continued operation.

The contract also calls for WRO officials to meet with top lenders and community stakeholders to discuss early intervention for potential defaulters, the county said.

WRO has offices at 470 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains and by appointment at the Mount Vernon Armory, 144 N. 5th Ave.

Its Web site is www.wroinc.org.

Posted by David Schepp on Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
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NYSEG Web site updated to permit outage reports

June
18

New York State Electric & Gas Corp. is advising its electricity customers, which include 85,000 in Westchester, Dutchess and Putnam counties, that they can now report outages through the companies revised Web site (www.nyseg.com), by clicking on the Outage Central tab on the company’s home page.

“While it may seem odd to think about having Web access when the power is out, more and more NYSEG customers are using wireless technology or may be reporting an outage at home from work or another location where the power is on,” the company said.

In addition to reporting outages, customers can also view where service interruptions have occurred by town and street.

In the event of extended outages, news releases and the locations of any emergency shelters and dry ice and water distribution sites are also posted, NYSEG said.

Posted by David Schepp on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
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Gas prices rise 14 cents in two weeks

June
17

Another survey, another big increase in gasoline prices.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Westchester County stands at $4.44, according to a survey by the county’s Department of Consumer Protection. The average price rose 14 cents since the previous survey, which was conducted June 2.

Prices have shot up $1.14 a gallon in the past year, said John Gaccione, a spokesman for the department.

The latest survey, which was conducted yesterday and posted on the department’s Web site (www.westchestergov.com/consumer) today, found the lowest price was $4.199 at a Gulf station at 5 Secor Lane in Pelham. The highest was $4.759 at a Shell station at 1141 Boston Post Road in Rye.

Rockland County’s last survey showed an average price of $4.36 in the southern and northern parts of the region. The average price in western Rockland was $4.24.

Posted by Allan Drury on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
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Consumer Reports warns about taking on debt to pay for medical bills

June
9

Yonkers-based Consumer Reports is warning consumers stressed by medical bills not to get caught up in a new credit crisis that’s unfolding.
In a report in the magazine’s July issue, Consumer Reports explains how trusted names in the credit business, including GE Money, Citigroup, and Chase, are pushing high-interest loans for people who need to pay for medical procedures.
The magazine notes that consumers are putting $45 billion in medical costs on credit cards today, an amount it said could reach $150 billion by 2015.
The credit cards and finance lines being marketed to consumers with medical costs can come with interest rates of up to 27.99 percent if the balance isn’t paid off within a promotional time window, according to Consumer Reports.
The credit is being extended to people who need to pay for everything from cancer care to dental care to cosmetic procedures, according to the magazine.
Consumer Reports senior editor Andrea Rock notes that patients are in a “vulnerable position” when they get the sales pitch for the credit, often in a doctor’s office or hospital.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, June 9th, 2008 at 10:48 pm |
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Prestige Brands earnings rise 24 percent

May
15

Prestige Brands Holdings Inc. reported net income rose in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, which ended March 31, to $10.4 million, up 24 percent from the $8.4 million it reported a year ago.

On a per-share basis, the Irvington-based maker of familiar household products reported it earned 21 cents a share, compared to 17 cents a share in the year-ago quarter.

Revenues, Prestige Brands said, rose to $80.4 million, up 3 percent from $78 million a year ago.

The revenue increase was driven by improved sales of the company’s over-the-counter health care and household products segments, said Prestige, whose products include Comet cleanser, Compound W wart remover and Prell shampoo.

Posted by David Schepp on Thursday, May 15th, 2008 at 12:54 pm |
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General Patent licenses patent to LG

April
16

General Patent Corporation International said today it has licensed a cell-phone patent to LG Electronics Inc., the South Korean maker of consumer electronics, including cell phones.

The license gives LG non-exclusive rights to technology to improve communications between cell-phone transmitters and handsets, as well as devices, such as Bluetooth wireless headsets.

The patent is held by a sister company of General Patent, Digital Technology Licensing LLC, both of which are based in Montebello Park in Suffern.

Posted by David Schepp on Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 at 1:01 pm |
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Jarden says Q1 earnings on target

April
15

Jarden Corp. said today it expects to meet or exceed earnings estimates for the first quarter.

Analysts predict the Rye-based company will earn 20 cents a share for the quarter that ended March 31, based on a consensus estimate of five analysts provided by Zacks Investment Research.

The maker of appliances and other consumer products reported net sales for the quarter of $1.2 billion, an increase of about 47 percent above the same period last year.

Jarden said its best-performing unit was its outdoor-products unit, K2, which it acquired last year. Other business segments saw a decline, it said.

Jarden products include familiar household names such as Mr. Coffee and Sunbeam appliances, Ball canning goods, and Bicycle and Bee brands of playing cards.

Jarden is scheduled to report its first-quarter earnings May 8.

Shares of the company fell 65 cents to $20.66 each in trading today.

Posted by David Schepp on Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
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Yonkers banker opens new branch in Manhattan

April
14

Hudson Valley Bank has opened a new branch on Manhattan’s West Side, it said today.

The office, at 112 W. 34th St., near Herald Square and Penn Station, joins three others the Yonkers-based financial-services company operates in Manhattan.

Hudson Valley Bank is a unit of Hudson Valley Holding Corp., which also owns NYNB Bank.

Posted by David Schepp on Monday, April 14th, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
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Gas prices rise again

April
11

The average price of regular unleaded gasoline in Westchester County rose 4 cents in two weeks to $3.517, the county’s Department of Consumer Protection said.

That’s 55 cents higher than a year ago, the department said.

The latest survey is the second consecutive one that showed the average price at an all-time high, said John Gaccione, a spokesman for the department.

“Prior to that, they were below Katrina levels,” he said, referring to the price spike that took place after the hurricane caused havoc with oil production in the Gulf Coast area in 2005.

The lowest price for regular unleaded in the latest survey was $3.359 at a Power station on North Broadway in Sleepy Hollow. The highest was $3.799 at a full-service Citgo station on Lake Street in White Plains.

It also appears that Westchester could be on the verge of its first $4 gas, Gaccione said. A Gulf station on Wolfs Lane in Pelham was charging $3.999 for self-service premium unleaded, while an Exxon station on the same street was charging $3.999 for full-service premium unleaded, according to the survey results published on the department’s Web site.

Posted by Allan Drury on Friday, April 11th, 2008 at 11:21 am |
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Financial advisor aims to reach deaf consumers

March
14

Financial-planner Beth Blecker, who hosts a personal-finance program on Internet-based RocklandWorldRadio.com, hopes to expand the reach of her program to deaf and hearing impaired consumers.

Beginning Tuesday, Blecker’s “Taking Control” program, which airs at noon, will utilize a sign-language interpreter to communicate with viewers who can’t hear or have difficulty hearing.

“It’s our goal to provide vital financial information for members of a wide-ranging audience,” said Blecker, chief executive at Nanuet-based Eastern Planning Inc.

For those who aren’t able to listen at the time of broacast, Tuesday’s “Taking Control” program, like all shows broadcast on RocklandWorldRadio.com, will be archived for future listening or viewing.

Posted by David Schepp on Friday, March 14th, 2008 at 4:55 pm |
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Home contracting complaints top Westchester’s list

March
3

The Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection recovered a record $975,000 in restitution for consumers in 2007, up 36 percent, as the department focused on complaints involving home contractors.

Complaints about home improvement and repair work topped the department’s “Top 10� list of more than 1,300 consumer grievances for 2007. Contracting complaints logged in at 362, slightly less than the 370 complaints logged for 2006, although the department was able to recover more money on contracting complaints last year, spokesman John Gaccione said today.

“We did shift some resources and put more emphasis on it,� he said.

Last year Consumer Protection ran an undercover sting operation for the first time, with county police posing as homeowners and contacting unlicensed contractors to seek bids for repair work. The department recently seized a vehicle from an unlicensed contractor, using a new county law allowing for the impounding of such equipment.

In descending order, the other nine subjects of consumer complaints were automobile dealers, furniture stores, food stores (pricing, scanner accuracy, outdated merchandise, rain checks), department stores, professional services, utilities, manufacturers (consumer products), wireless phones, and appliance stores.

To file a consumer complaint, call (914) 995-2155 or log onto the department’s Web site, www.westchestergov.com/consumer.

Posted by Jerry Gleeson on Monday, March 3rd, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
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New Rochelle high-rise touts health club

February
8

The New York Sports Club will open at Trump Plaza in New Rochelle in March, the luxury high-rise announced, and complimentary one-year memberships are being offered to buyers of units.

Seventy percent of the 194 units at Trump Plaza have been sold since its opening last fall, and more than 125 residents have moved in.

The free NYSC membership program, valued at $1,000, runs through March 30.

Residences at the 40-story Trump Plaza are priced from the mid-$500,000s to $1.7 million.

Posted by Jerry Gleeson on Friday, February 8th, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
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EpiCept drug trial shows ‘encouraging results’

February
7

EpiCept Corp., a developer of topical drugs, reported today that a drug it is developing to alleviate pain suffered by diabetes patients performed well enough in tests for the Eastview-based company to call for further clinical trials.

EpiCept said patients who used its NP-1 cream instead of a placebo in a Phase II trial were more likely to experience relief from nerve damage caused by diabetes, known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Sixty percent of patients taking the drug saw at least a 30 percent reduction in pain, EpiCept said, compared to 48 percent of placebo patients who experienced the same reduction in pain.

The encouraging outcome means NP-1 is likely to move to Phase III trials.

EpiCept is also testing NP-1 in two other trials, a late-stage study to see how the cream helps in relieving pain in patients who have suffered nerve damage after chemotherapy and a mid-stage trial to see how the drug performs on patients who suffer residual pain from shingles.

Posted by David Schepp on Thursday, February 7th, 2008 at 1:59 pm |
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RCC in Ramapo to host home show

February
6

Rockland Community College in Ramapo plays host to the 2008 Suburban Home Show, which starts Friday at 3 p.m. and runs through 6 p.m. Sunday.

The home show incorporates 350 exhibitors, housed in the college’s 90,000-square-foot Fieldhouse, showcasing products and services geared to homeowners.

Categories include remodeling and home improvement, kitchens, baths, tools and hardware, windows, doors and many more.

The event also features personalities from broadcast- and cable-television shows This Old House and While You Were Out.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for seniors. Children under 16 are free.

For more information go to www.showoffice.com or call 800-248-7469.

Posted by David Schepp on Wednesday, February 6th, 2008 at 1:28 pm |
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Verizon adds more FiOS communities

January
21

Verizon is expanding its FiOS TV service to Briarcliff Manor, Sleepy Hollow and the town and village of Ossining. Consumers in those towns can now place orders for the service, which is available in more than 145 New York communities. Consumers can log onto www.verizon.com/ny/savebig to see if FiOS is available in their area.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, January 21st, 2008 at 4:34 pm |
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Barr Labs to start selling anti-nausea drug

January
2

Barr Laboratories Inc., the Pomona-based generic-drug unit of Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., has received regulatory approval to begin selling a generic version of Kytril, a brand-name drug used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatments.

Barr said it received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration following the expiration of the drug’s patent Friday.

Kytril, manufactured by Roche Laboratories Inc., had annual sales of $88 million ending October, based on industry data.

Barr plans to launch its generic product shortly, it said.

Posted by David Schepp on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
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About this blog
Business in the Burbs is our online news blog about businesses based or operating in the Lower Hudson Valley. Visitors here will also find items of interest to consumers in the region. Most contributions are from business reporters and editors covering Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.

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