Local ads offering a low price on air duct cleaning can seem like a great deal with minimal risk. While most companies are on the straight and narrow, the Better Business Bureau warns consumers to beware of air duct cleaning businesses that employ bait and switch tactics or try to scare the homeowner into thinking they have a serious health-threatening mold problem.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a careless or inadequately trained service provider can damage your ducts or heating and cooling system, possibly increasing your heating and air conditioning costs or forcing you to undertake difficult and costly repairs or replacements. Complaints to BBB also show that putting your trust in the wrong company can mean spending thousands of dollars on unnecessary mold remediation services.
Most of us aren’t experts when it comes to maintaining the mechanical components of our house and we have to rely on the opinion of the technician. Unfortunately, some companies are taking advantage of that trust by misleading customers and even lying about them having a serious mold problem.
BBB has received many complaints about one outfit — operating most recently under names like Pure Kleen, Priority One Air Solutions and United Restoration — which has been active for more than a dozen years. The network of individuals have set up different duct and carpet cleaning companies from Washington to Florida and been the subject of at least three cease and desist orders issued by various state attorneys general.
Customers are baited with low advertised prices, generally through mass mail or local newspapers, for air conditioning duct cleaning services. These ads often include a depiction of a giant dust mite and alarming descriptions of mold, mildew and unhealthy air quality. Once sales agents are in the customer’s homes they run reportedly bogus mold detection tests and tell the owner they must pay thousands of dollars to have the mold removed.
When looking for a professional to clean out air ducts, BBB recommends consumers:
n Check the company out with BBB. Before setting up a visit, check the company out with your Better Business Bureau first. Ideally, the business will be Accredited by BBB or at least have a good rating. Pay close attention to the name of the business you’re researching because unscrupulous outfits often choose a name that is similar to an existing business that has a solid reputation. To check out a business’ reliability report or locate a BBB accredited duct cleaner visit http://www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/.
n Look for the fine print. Ads and contracts may contain fine print which the business might think will absolve them from honoring their advertised price. Always ask plenty of questions and get to the bottom line of what it’s going to cost you, before you sign on the dotted line.
n Get a second opinion. If the duct cleaner discovers that you have a mold problem, get a second opinion. Mold remediation can cost thousands of dollars so you’ll want expert advice on how to take care of it.
n File a complaint with the BBB. If you believe you’ve been misled by a business, file a complaint with your BBB online at www.bbb.org/us/file-complaint. Even if BBB isn’t able to resolve the issue for you, the complaint can serve as a warning to other consumers about the business.
For more advice on home improvement and maintenance, visit http://www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-home/.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the central Savannah River area. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at (478) 742-7999, www.bbb.org or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.