Plumbing company fined for overcharging seniors

Jack Howk Plumbing the subject of a KOIN 6 News investigation in 2011

A Jack Howk Plumbing & Drain Service truck (KOIN 6 News, file)
A Jack Howk Plumbing & Drain Service truck (KOIN 6 News, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Following a KOIN 6 News investigation in 2011, the state of Oregon is now fining and putting on probation a plumbing company accused of overcharging seniors for unnecessary work.

Dozens of people filed complaints against Jack Howk Plumbing , which also goes by the names Rescue Rooter and ARS.

Wednesday, the construction contractor’s board released a report that found ARS engaged in conduct that was dishonest or fraudulent and used untruthful scare tactics to make sales.

The company was ordered to pay a total of $540,000 in fines and legal fees. Employees now also have to take ethics training on handling seniors.

The report also accused the company of accounting fiction in the case of Jane Sharlock.

Jane Sharlock, 90, filed a complaint against Jack Howk Plumbing in 2011. She has since gotten most of her money back, Dec. 3, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Jane Sharlock, 90, filed a complaint against Jack Howk Plumbing in 2011. She has since gotten most of her money back, Dec. 3, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Now 90, Sharlock was one of the many who filed complaints. ” It’s just too bad they had to take advantage of people like that,” she told KOIN 6 News on Wednesday.

The KOIN 6 News investigation prompted ARS to give Sharlock back most of her money, but by then she already had to sell some of her property to cover the $40,000 plumbing bill she said she got for work she didn’t need.

The ruling has been a long time coming, Sharlock said. “It feels like it should have been in the first place.”

But she said she feels relieved and believes the ruling will protect other seniors.

The state investigtion also found that after ARS bought Jack Howk Plumbing, they began paying employees minimum wage unless they met certain sales goals. It also said employees who did not sell enough products could be fired.

The company said they’ve made changes to protect seniors.

“We’re comfortable that we’re doing far more than any other contractor in the state of Oregon to protecting consumers,” a company spokesperson said.

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