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The PHCC Gazette

Volume 3, Issue 17 Plumbing, Heating, Cooling, Contractors of Northern Virginia February 1998

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"Super Plumber" Tom Warner asks for HELP!

removed 10-31-05 CLICK HERE for updated information about Warner

 This January Meeting

The sponsor will be: Roy Bremerman, Jr. of D. B. Distributing Co., Inc.

At the Last Meeting

Sponsor was J & H Aitcheson

Winner of the 50/50 drawing was Andy Baumbach. He won $47.00 and donated all back the PHCC auxilary. Congratulations.

Coming Up Soon at Our Meetings


MONROE PORTER - March 11th and April 8th,1998

TIME: 3:00 to 6:00 P.M. Dinner meeting included in price 6:30 P.M. until.

PLACE: Holiday Inn - Fairfax City (same as monthly meeting)

COST: $40.00 per person for non-members per seminar

$30.00 per person for PHCC members per seminar

$20.00 per person for NVPHCC members per seminar


PHCC-NV will be having another Vegas Nite on November 14th, 1998 at Westwood Country Club so you have plenty advance notice to mark your calendar. Look for more details in future newsletters.

 "Super Plumber" Tom Warner asks for HELP!

Maryland’s Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr, has filed charges against Warner Plumbing and its owner Thomas F. Warner.

RE: MD Attorney General v. Warner

I need your HELP! The Maryland Attorney General has informed me that Maryland passed a Consumer Protection Law in 1986 that if a license exists in Maryland, it is against the law to sell those services if you don't have a license. No longer is a master's license adequate. Now each service technician must also be a licensed Maryland journeyman plumber.

Now in 1998, I am being sued because Warner and American Mechanical Systems, Inc. did not have 100% journeymen on each Maryland service van in the past years.

Warner is a test case. If Warner loses in July 1998, our industry as we know it will be changed forever. Work by "grey market" contractors will increase at the expense of firms like ours. This law also applies to journeymen electricians. We are legitimate contractors who shouldn't be penalized by this new interpretation and enforcement of the 1986 law.

The Maryland legislature is in session. Please contact as many members as you can to ease the implementation of this law.


Thomas F. Warner

The Warner Corporation,
I 01 Q Street N. E.
Washington D.C. 20002
(202) 269-5035
Fax: 202-269-5004

Warner Plumbing charged with misleading customers, using unlicensed plumbers.

Company Performed Service Calls for Sears


December 29, 1997

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that his Consumer Protection Division has filed charges against Warner Plumbing and its owner, Thomas F. Warner, alleging that the company

Violated Maryland's Consumer Protection Act by sending unlicensed personnel to perform plumbing work in consumers' homes and

(2) Advised customers to replace plumbing fixtures without disclosing that less expensive repairs would solve the problem

The charges seek an order requiring that Warner Plumbing, which acted as an authorized licensee for Sears from 1989-95, use only licensed plumbers to perform repairs and disclose material information to consumers.

The charges also ask that Warner Plumbing and Thomas F. Warner be ordered to pay restitution to consumers, civil penalties and costs.

"Sending unlicensed plumbers into peoples' homes only invites trouble," said Attorney General Curran. "Not only does a license ensure that the plumber demonstrate a minimum level of skill, but licensing also demands that plumbers are in compliance with health and safety regulations."

In order to obtain a license, plumbers must serve an apprenticeship of 7500 hours and pass an exam testing their plumbing knowledge. Curran recommends that consumers needing a plumber contact the State Plumbing Board at (410) 333-6322 to check whether any plumber they are considering is properly licensed.

Warner Plumbing has operated in Maryland under its own name as well as American Mechanical Systems. A hearing on the charges is scheduled for July 21, 1998 at the Office of Administrative Hearings in Hunt Valley. Consumers who have complaints about Warner Plumbing may send them to the Consumer Protection Division,

200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202.



Comments of Tom Warner in Response to Charges Filed by Maryland Attorney General Joseph J. Curran, Jr.

The fact that Maryland's Attorney General filed charges against us is disheartening, to be sure. They further malign the reputation of a company that is devoted to pro- viding a high-quality service for a reasonable price, in a manner that addresses consumer interests to a degree still unmatched by any comparable company nationwide.

The charges stem principally from Warner's work with Sears. In 1989 Warner became the "Sears-authorized plumber" for the greater Baltimore area. Based on our solid performance, Sears expanded our responsibilities in 1990, to include the Washington area as well.

The Warner Companies' direct, day-to-day involvement in Sears work ended in 1991. In that year, and at Sears' request, I established a new company, American Mechanical Systems, Inc. (AMS), to handle Sears work. AMS was a separate company, with its own technical and office equipment and systems, as well as its own technical, managerial, and executive staff. In January 1994, AMS operations were consolidated and AMS's name was changed to Warner Plumbing of Maryland, Inc. Then Warner once again served Sears customers. As for Warner's and AMS's relationships with Sears and Sears customers, the record is clear:

* During the period 1989-1995, Warner or AMS was audited at least once annually by Sears staff. This audit included an evaluation of the quality of work performed and compliance with Sears policies.

* In 1994 and, again, in 1995, Warner and AMS won awards for outstanding levels of quality improvement in Sears' Eastern Region and were consistently recognized by Sears as among its finest "SFI" contractors nationwide.

In fact, relationships with Sears and Sear's customers were so successful, AMS became the "Sears-authorized plumber" in other cities. Our relationship with Sears was concluded amicably. At that time, neither Warner nor AMS had any outstanding Sears complaints against them for any of the more than 20,000 Sears jobs performed. In fact, I am aware of only one consumer affairs department complaint (for work performed in Baltimore) filed against either company as the "Sears-authorized plumber" and that complaint was resolved immediately.

I can state unequivocally that, during the years Warner or AMS served as the "Sears- authorized plumber," we did our best to satisfy customer needs. Our performance in this respect was evaluated closely during each of our at-least-annual Sears audits. Neither Warner nor AMS ever once received a notice of deficiency.

The law cited by the Attorney General has been on the books for eleven years, and we are the first plumber to have been charged with its violation.

The work in question is relatively simple and often is performed on a do-it-yourself basis by home handymen. None- the less, the people we assigned are trained and qualified journeymen plumbers. Most of them simply do not want to have to sit for the written examination required to obtain licensure.

Local plumbing inspectors understand the issue and interpret the law to mean that unlicensed plumbers can be permitted to perform certain routine services as long as they work under the authority of a licensed master plumber who takes ultimate responsibility for their work. (In a similar manner, unlicensed engineering technicians are permitted to important construction inspections when they work under the authority of a licensed professional engineer who ultimately takes responsibility for the quality of their work.)

Stated simply, what we have done is a common practice in this area and, until the Attorney General's recent action, was considered wholly in compliance with the law. If the Attorney General's interpretation of the law is upheld, consumers will have to pay more (licensed journeymen plumbers are in short supply) for no real benefit.

If we really want to help consumers, then, to my mind, we should change the licensure examination to one in which plumbers are required to demonstrate their plumbing skills, not their written examination skills. Not everyone is as particular about who they have going into customers' homes as Warner, however. Our technicians are well trained and experienced. As proof of that, the Attorney General has not given us one example of poor workmanship or of a consumer who did not receive the valuable service he or she asked Warner or AMS to perform. Yet, the Attorney General asks for these customers to receive all of their money back.

I am absolutely confident that we will resolve the state's charges against us in full. We were in the midst of negotiations when the state unilaterally decided to curtail them and file suit. I had hoped to be able to conclude the matter through a settlement that would have cost less than the attorney's fees and time that now will be necessitated, but at least we will achieve vindication.

As for the allegations previously leveled by WUSA-TV and Montgomery County, we have patiently been abiding by the judge's preference that we not create publicity. This has been very costly for us and, more significantly, for the more than 200 men and women -- many of them Montogmery County residents -- we have been forced to lay off.

The wheels of justice grind slowly, and hard, so even more time will be required for Warner to show that, in fact, we have not knowingly defrauded anyone of so much as a dime.

For what it's worth, let me note that Warner was the first plumber locally, and possibly nationally, to insist on employee drug screening, to help ensure that those we sent into customers' homes were not users of controlled substances. We were the first plumber locally, if not nationally, to provide a five-year unconditional guarantee on all parts we install. We were the first plumber locally to offer special services for the hearing-impaired. We were the first to offer weekday evening and Saturday service at no additional cost. and we were among the first locally, if not the first, to quote a total service cost (flat rate) before doing the work, and after diagnosing the problem, so customers can obtain other bids.

As damning as some of the charges against us sound, they are based largely on a lack of understanding occasioned in particular by a lack of research, unwarranted assumptions, and, in some cases, ulterior motives. Ours is a good, honest company with which I proudly associate my name. Our low tolerance for bad attitudes and lackadaisical performance has created enemies.

The record will ultimately show that Warner is not guilty of the allegations. Until then, we will continue to rely on a large core of loyal customers wise enough about "the ways of the world" to recognize that their own experience is the most effective litmus of reality.

Here are a few responses from plumbers across the USA. To read dozens more see: www.phcc.org/Warner.htm/

"Would you please post the address where I can mail the keys to the front door of my office and shop to avoid the rush once the decision in this case is handed down . This might be the simplest way to resolve this B---S--- situation .Let the Federal Judges run all of the plumbing company's in the good ole' U.S.A. I have always wanted to have a government job, mainly for the benefits and now maybe my prayers will be answered." Columbia, SC

You would think the area schools would be offering plumbing as a trade, think again. As far as I heard there is only one high school that is, and they just started this year. but how many have computer classes. If you guessed all, go to the head of the class. Never mine how many have a degree in computer work at K.Y Fry.

Not to start an argument but I was wondering, did you wake up one day a licensed journeyman plumber? Then you must have started out somewhere. I know that I started out as an apprentice and after about a year my boss started to give my service calls that I could handle and the more I learned the more demanding jobs he gave me. I agree that when you end out a tech. he should be able to handle the job and the tech should be working toward the Journeyman's license but to only hire Journeyman plumbers is in my opinion a mistake, we all were given a chance to learn this trade from a Master who was willing to train and trust us with his business. John

As far as skill levels go ... the license don't mean squat (as proof, I have a master's license.. :-) I've got a master plumber who has to be shown most of what he needs to do... diagnosing abilities are weak indeed but I keep him because he has a card. The Plumbing Professional


OK Mr. Governor no unlicensed plumbers will go to a job in this state ever again. I will immediately fire all of my apprentices and so will every other shop in this state. We must train our apprentices and it is impossible to send a man to school for 4 years and not let him work so as to feed himself at the same time. Learning the plumbing trade is a skill that is acquired by 10% books and 110% ON THE JOB TRAINING. But of coarse Mr. Governor should you mandate that ALL plumbers MUST have in there accumpianant a trainee at ALL times then ALL plumbing contractors can jack up our prices by 30 bucks an hour or more throughout the land and the people can thank you for it at the next election.

At first blush, I'd welcome such a ruling because then I'd make a lawyer rich by bringing a class action suit against all the regulating authorities for failure to sufficiently enforce the laws thereby forcing law abiding companies to be non-competitive in the market place thus endangering the health and safety of the populace by inhibiting truly qualified personnel from serving the market place.
Randy: Master Plumber

Internet News

For the latest on Warner see:

www.phcc.org/Warner.htm removed 10-31-05

OSHA's new "Small Entity Compliance Guide for Hazard Abatement Verification" is now available three ways: on-line at: http://spider.osha.gov/compliance/

News from PHCC-NA

Utility deregulation is the talk of the town, and now it’s the topic of PHCC’s Second Annual "A Day on Capitol Hill" Legislative Conference. This is your chance to let off some steam in the air-cooled corridors of power on Capitol Hill. Find out what Congress thinks of utility deregulation. Then tell them what you think! The big day is Thursday, April 16, 1998. We will start bright and early and run through the afternoon, ending with an optional Political Action Committee fundraising dinner at the Marriott that evening.

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