A King County Superior Court judge has ordered the owner of two air-duct-cleaning companies to pay $10 million over deceptive advertisements and robocalls following a lawsuit by Washington state.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleged that the Vancouver, Washington-based companies DLM Services and US Air Ducts and Sky Builders made over 13 million robocalls within the state from 2017 to 2019, calling some residents more than 100 times.
Judge Susan Craighead ruled in May that the companies and their owner, Rami Mornel, had violated the Consumer Protection Act, including by posting fake Google reviews, and on Wednesday another judge, James Rogers, ordered them to pay $10 million.
An attorney for Mornel, Bradley Thoreson, argued in court documents that he is a first-generation immigrant who did not understand that he was breaking the law, but that he had simply been following the marketing advice of a business mentor. He accused the attorney general’s office of being more interested in collecting money than in protecting consumers, and said Ferguson’s lawsuit had forced the companies out of business, costing 20 Washington residents their jobs.
The attorney general’s office said the companies acted with a lack of good faith in providing false information in advertisements, including pricing, to induce business. Dozens of people complained to the office about the companies, and 120 complained to the Federal Trade Commission, Ferguson said.
At the requirement of the court, the companies set aside $500,000 in a trust account to satisfy any judgment. Dan Jackson, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said Wednesday the state plans to collect at least that much and will “make every effort to collect the judgment in full.”