WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced today that his office has obtained restitution for consumers through its lawsuit against Handy Technologies, a “sharing economy” company. The lawsuit alleged that Handy Technologies misled consumers about the safety of the in-home cleaners offering their services through Handy’s website and smartphone application. Numerous Handy customers have reported having their personal items stolen by house cleaners they hired through Handy. The settlement provides restitution to those customers harmed by Handy’s cleaners, as well as consumers who have complained that they were misled into enrolling in a cleaning plan involving recurring charges and fees when they thought they were purchasing only a single cleaning service.
“This is a victory for District consumers and sends the message that all sharing economy companies like Handy must play by the same rules as traditional brick-and-mortar companies, including truthfully representing their products and services,” said Attorney General Racine. “The District welcomes innovation in emerging economic sectors like app-based services. However, sharing-economy businesses must develop the same good practices that all other businesses follow in order to treat their customers fairly.”
According to the suit, filed in September 2016, Handy misled consumers about the background checks they performed on cleaners, who were given unsupervised access to consumers’ homes. While they claimed that their cleaners were “trusted” and “fully vetted,” in reality their screening failed to identify individuals with serious criminal histories. Between March 25, 2015 and June 3, 2016, 24 D.C. consumers filed reports with the District’s Metropolitan Police Department alleging that Handy cleaners stole property from their homes. The suit also alleged that, despite advertising prices for single cleanings, Handy automatically enrolled consumers without their knowledge into “cleaning plans” that included recurring charges for automatically scheduled follow-up cleanings. Consumers who thought they had only signed up for a single home cleaning were often unaware that they had been enrolled in a cleaning plan until a Handy cleaner arrived for the next cleaning. When consumers attempted to cancel these cleaning plans, which they did not want in the first place, they often had trouble doing so or were charged cancellation fees.
To settle the suit, Handy has agreed to pay restitution to consumers who file complaints concerning thefts of their property, unauthorized recurring charges, cancellation fees, or Handy’s money-back guarantee. The full amount of restitution Handy pays to consumers in the District will be determined through a claims process. In addition, Handy will make a payment of $150,000 to the District in connection with this case.
Handy also agreed to stop making misleading claims about their screening process for home cleaners, recurring charges, and cancellation and refund policies. In particular, Handy has also agreed to stop advertising its cleaners as “trusted,” “fully vetted,” and “fully verified” and will provide information regarding the scope and limitations of the processes that it uses to check cleaners’ criminal histories. Handy will also take steps to make it easier for consumers to cancel their cleaning plans and will no longer advertise that consumers may cancel “anytime” when, in fact, there are fees associated with canceling a cleaning.
A copy of the Consent Judgment and Order settling this case is attached.
Restitution Process for Consumers
Eligible consumers in the District of Columbia will be paid restitution under the settlement in one of two ways:
Consumers who have already filed complaints regarding thefts, unauthorized recurring charges, cancellation fees or the money-back guarantee with Handy or the Office of Attorney General (OAG), but whose complaints have not yet been fully resolved, will be provided with restitution by the company;
- Consumers who have been harmed by Handy but who have not yet filed complaints will have until June 20, 2018 to do so.
- Consumers with questions about their eligibility or the process for restitution should contact OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection at (202) 442-9828.
Consumers with other questions about the Handy settlement, or with complaints regarding 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 [email protected], or online using OAG’s Consumer Complaint Form.