Saturday, May 28, 2005

Roofing suit becomes

A judge allows a Hawaii case
to proceed against Interlock
Industries Inc.

A lawsuit against a former Honolulu roofing contractor and its top employees, who are accused of deceptive trade practices, has been granted class-action status.

The suit alleges Interlock Industries Inc. and Ivor Wenzel and Mark Wenzel, the father-and-son team who oversaw the company's Hawaii operations, pulled a "bait and switch" on customers, then skipped town, leaving up to hundreds of people with leaky roofs and worthless warranties. Kailua attorney Buck Ashford of Ashford & Associates represents the class of former Interlock customers.

"There were some very intelligent customers who were taken in by this company," Ashford said. "They paid higher fees for the promise of a lifetime warranty that they were later unable to use."

Neither Mark Wenzel nor his attorneys returned calls.

In a hearing early this week, an Oahu Circuit judge allowed the suit to proceed.

While there are discrepancies about the number of Interlock customers, Ashford estimates about 1,000 people in Hawaii have been affected by what he describes as the company's "deceptive business practices."

Several of Interlock's Hawaii customers, including Maui retiree Susan Sugino, spent close to $30,000 on their roofs.

Sugino, a plaintiff in the suit, said it took less than a year for the Interlock roof installed on her Wailuku home in 2001 to start leaking. But when Sugino tried to contact the company, she discovered it had skipped town, she said.

"It's really unfortunate, but most of the company's customers were senior citizens, who are living on fixed incomes," Ashford said.

The suit is seeking to prevent Interlock Industries from ever again contracting in Hawaii to install roofs with lifetime warranties without complying with state requirements. Plaintiffs are seeking restitution an unspecified amount of damages.

Interlock, which sells and installs aluminum roofing, has been hit by complaints and investigations in several states, in addition to Hawaii. The company appears to be out of business and customers have complained of disconnected phone numbers and returned mail, said Anne Deschene, president of the local Better Business Bureau.

Earlier this year, Mark Wenzel and the company had their licenses revoked by the state and were ordered to pay $205,000 in fines by the state Regulated Industries Complaints Office over allegations similar to those in the class-action lawsuit.

The company has not paid its fine, said Jo Ann Uchida, RICO's complaints and enforcement officer.

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