WASHINGTON, DC – The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against New York-based Handy Technologies, Inc. (Handy) for misleading consumers about the safety of its online housekeeping service and about how it bills customers. Handy is a “sharing economy” company through which consumers can hire persons to clean their home using Handy’s website and smartphone application.
The Attorney General’s suit alleges that Handy:
- Misleads consumers concerning the effectiveness of the background checks it performs on the cleaners it sends to consumers’ homes; and
- Deceptively enrolls consumers into cleaning plans that bill them on a recurring basis.
“Sharing-economy companies must abide by the same laws as traditional businesses, and we will bring actions against any company we believe has unlawfully deceived consumers,” said Attorney General Karl A. Racine. “People should be able to take a business at its word when it represents that it has vetted workers coming into consumers’ homes. Likewise, a company’s billing practices should be clear before consumers agree to incur charges.”
Problems with Theft by Handy Cleaners
According to the Attorney General’s lawsuit, Handy claims that its cleaners are “trusted,” “background- and identity-checked,” “pre-screened,” and “top-quality,” when, in fact, the company’s screening practices fail to identify individuals with criminal histories. Over a period of more than a year (between March 25, 2015 and June 3, 2016), the suit says, 24 District consumers filed police reports with the Metropolitan Police Department alleging that cleaners booked through Handy stole property from those consumers’ homes.
Deceptive Enrollment into Recurring Charges
The Attorney General’s lawsuit also alleges that, despite advertising prices for single cleanings, Handy automatically enrolls consumers without their knowledge into “cleaning plans” that include recurring credit card charges for automatically scheduled follow-up cleanings. Consumers who think they have only signed up for a single home cleaning are often unaware that they have been enrolled in a cleaning plan until a Handy cleaner arrives at their door for the next cleaning. When consumers attempt to cancel these cleaning plans, which they did not want in the first place, they often experience trouble doing so or must pay cancellation fees.
A copy of the District’s complaint against Handy is attached. The Attorney General is seeking an injunction to stop the unlawful practices, restitution to consumers who were harmed by the practices, and costs and penalties payable to the District.
Consumers with concerns about Handy or similar “sharing economy” companies, or any other consumer complaint, can contact OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection through the OAG Consumer Hotline at (202) 442-9828, by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or online using OAG’s Consumer Complaint Form.