PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced today that the Office has taken enforcement action against a Rhode Island man who held himself out as a contractor despite not having the proper registration or licenses for the work he agreed to perform, and initially pocketed $15,000 from a Rhode Island consumer.
In an Agreement of Voluntary Compliance, approved in Rhode Island Superior Court on February 23, 2023, the Office alleged that Kennedy Bui of North Smithfield held himself out to be a contractor, performed incomplete and substandard work, failed to obtain required building permits, and eventually abandoned a home remodeling project after receiving a substantial cash deposit in violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA).
As a result of the Agreement, Mr. Bui will provide the consumer full restitution of $15,000, plus pay a civil penalty to the Office of the Attorney General of $1,000 and agreed to cease performing unregistered or unlicensed work.
“Given the high demand for home improvement work and rising costs for materials during the pandemic, Rhode Island consumers are placed at risk of falling victim to scams,” said Attorney General Peter F. Neronha. “Unscrupulous contractors often demand large, up-front payments before performing incomplete and shoddy work. My message to these types of predatory businesses: our Office stands ready to protect consumers and businesses who play by the rules, and if you break the law and rip people off Rhode Islanders, we will be there to ensure you are held accountable.”
As agreed upon in court, Kennedy Bui, who is not a registered contractor, solicited and entered into a contract to perform remodeling work on a customer’s master bedroom and three bathrooms, among other areas. The contract included significant plumbing, electric, and structural framework inside the home. This type of work requires registration as a contractor with the Department of Business Regulation and licensure as an electrician and plumber with the Department of Labor and Training, which Mr. Bui did not have.
Kennedy Bui accepted a $15,000 deposit to begin the work on the project in February 2021, which was estimated to cost $22,500. Upon receipt, he began significant demolition, electrical, and plumbing work in the home. However, over time Mr. Bui became less and less responsive before eventually abandoning the project. The consumer was left living in a home with incomplete work and exposed wiring and unable to get their deposit back until the Office intervened.
Deceptive Trade Practices Act
In 2021, Attorney General Neronha worked with the General Assembly to pass legislation that restored the authority of the Office of the Attorney General to protect Rhode Island consumers against violations of the DTPA. Other efforts led by the Attorney General under the newly-strengthened DTPA include lawsuits against auto dealers for allegedly unfair pricing practices and a suit against a contractor for allegedly unlawful behavior, as well as other investigations.
Special Assistant Attorney General Stephen Provazza, Chief of the Consumer & Economic Justice Unit, and Investigator Julissa Ulloa Nin handled the matter on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.
National Consumer Protection Week
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that March 5-11, 2023 is National Consumer Protection Week. Protecting consumers is a top priority for the Office of Attorney General Neronha and a variety of resources are available on the Attorney General’s website, including how to file a consumer complaint and scams to avoid.