San Francisco District Attorney Files Complaint Over Allegedly False Advertising about Background Checks

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The San Francisco District Attorney has filed a civil complaint against HomeAdvisor, Inc. and its parent company ANGI Homeservices, Inc., for allegedly broadcasting radio and television ads with false and misleading information about the background checks that HomeAdvisor performs on service providers sent to the homes of their customers, according to a press release from the District Attorney’s office.

“California business laws are designed to protect consumers and promote an honest and fair marketplace,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón stated in the press release. “Companies like this offer a convenient service, but they also introduce strangers into our homes. They must operate their businesses in a way that is within the parameters of the law and not misleading.”

HomeAdvisor – which describes itself “the operator of the largest home services marketplace across the globe” – broadcasts ads that represent service professionals such as plumbers, electricians, painters, and housekeepers retained through HomeAdvisor undergoing background checks. One HomeAdvisor ad tells viewers: “They do background checks so you know you can trust them with your home.”

However, according to the District Attorney’s press release, the only people who undergo background checks are the owners or principals of independently-owned businesses. HomeAdvisor does not perform background checks – even on the owners or principals – when the businesses are franchisees, dealers, or independent contractors of larger national companies or corporate accounts with ads on HomeAdvisor.

The 17-page complaint filed by the San Francisco District Attorney states: HomeAdvisor’s television and radio advertisements are false and misleading. The advertisements are likely to deceive consumers into believing that all service personal hiring through HomeAdvisor who come into their homes have passed criminal background checks when that is not the case.

The District Attorney’s Office filed the complaint on March 14, 2018, in San Francisco Superior Court, and has asked for a preliminary injunction against the advertisements. The Court set a hearing for April 12, 2018. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction requiring HomeAdvisor and ANGI Homeservices to stop violating California law, and civil penalties for the unlawful business acts and practices, and restitution.

A government survey of the “extended workforce” – workers with non-traditional employer-employee relationships – found it could be “more than a third of the total employed labor force.” The need for employers to properly screen the extended workforce is one of the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2018 selected by global background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR).

Employers can be held liable if – in the exercise of reasonable care – they should have known that a member of the extended workforce was too dangerous, unqualified, or otherwise unfit for employment. Sadly, many employers – and many more unfortunate victims – have found out the hard way that using unscreened workers from the extended workforce can cause damage and, in some cases, even death.

In one tragic example, a woman contracted a store to clean air ducts in her home and a twice-convicted sex offender on parole was sent on the service call. Months later, he returned to the woman’s home and murdered her. The victim’s sister started the Sue Weaver CAUSE (Consumer Awareness of Unsafe Service Employment) to raise awareness about the need for background checks on service workers.

Employers should perform the same background checks for the extended workforce that they perform on regular employees.  A best practice is to have the same firm perform the background checks on regular employees and the extended workforce and also ensure that screening providers members of – and are accredited by – the National Association of Profession Background Screeners (NAPBS).

ESR Whitepaper on Background Checks for Extended Workforce

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading global provider of background checks that is accredited by the NAPBS – offers a complimentary whitepaper entitled “Background Screening of Extended Workforce Necessary to Compete in Modern Economy” that is available for download at www.esrcheck.com/Tools-Resources/Whitepaper-Library/Screening-of-Exteneded-Workforce/.

 

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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