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AG Nessel Investigating West Michigan Tree Company for Allegedly Violating Michigan Consumer Protection Act
November 10, 2022
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued investigative subpoenas requesting testimony and documentation to a West Michigan tree company for allegedly violating the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.
The subpoenas, authorized by the 46th Judicial Circuit Court in Otsego County, were sent to Michigan’s Choice Tree Service, LLC, which offers tree removal, stump grinding, tree trimming, and lot and clearing services. The Attorney General’s concerns relate to the company’s provision of emergency services, such as when a storm causes a tree or limbs to fall on a home or other structure.
As explained in a Petition to the Otsego County Circuit Court, the Department of Attorney General has probable cause to believe that Michigan’s Choice is grossly overcharging customers for tree services, has engaged in a pattern of confusing consumers about the cost of services the company is providing, and breaks promises that consumers will not have financial responsibility for costs not covered by their insurance companies. The business owner claims that the company works directly with insurance companies so consumers can avoid out-of-pocket expenses. According to consumer complaints against the company, that was not the case.
According to one such complaint, a customer in Gaylord was told by the business owner that the company would bill her insurance to cover the cost to remove four fallen trees after a tornado devastated the area, and that the tree stumps would also be removed. After the work was done by Michigan’s Choice, the stumps had not been removed and the customer was told that the company would not remove them. Michigan’s Choice billed the customer’s insurance company $20,491.42 for the tree removal, a price much higher than she was led to expect based on her discussion with the owner. And it was significantly higher than what the insurance company determined was appropriate based on estimates it received from other tree service companies. After receiving a payment with an adjusted amount of $13,485 from the customer’s insurance company, Michigan’s Choice served her with notice that a lien had been placed on her home for $20,491.42.
In another situation described in the Petition, a Rockford consumer’s insurance company was billed over $30,000 for removal of a single tree that had fallen on her home. The insurance company has denied full payment raising concern a lien could also be placed by Michigan’s Choice.
“I take enforcing the state’s consumer protection laws very seriously to protect Michigan residents against companies that try to take advantage of them, especially when damage is caused by tornados, windstorms and other environmental disasters that are out of their control” said Nessel. “I will not tolerate any company that appears to be engaged in shady pricing and billing practices, or in deceiving and misleading unsuspecting customers. I encourage all consumers who have a complaint about a business to file it with my office.”
The Department is looking into other complaints from consumers who describe a similar experience with Michigan’s Choice. The Attorney General encourages consumers confronted with storm damage to do online research about potential tree service and home repair contractors, and to insist on written estimates or quotes that describe the work and price before signing agreements. These steps can help consumers protect themselves against those who may try to take advantage of a stressful situation.
Consumer complaints can be filed online at the Attorney General’s website, or by calling 877-765-8388.