December 21, 2015
Attorney General Pam Bondi's Office obtained a temporary injunction to shut down an air conditioning service scheme targeting vulnerable Floridians.
According to the complaint, 11 companies and individuals used false claims, intimidation and scare tactics to coerce hundreds of consumers, many of them seniors, into purchasing expensive air conditioning parts and services that were not needed or rendered.
The scheme cost consumers millions of dollars.
Bait and switch scam
The defendants allegedly used bait and switch tactics, enticing consumers with offers of massively discounted air conditioning services but then convincing the consumers to sign up for much higher priced services instead.
According to the complaint, the defendants used weekly mailers and online ads to advertise air duct cleaning services, often for less than $20. Air duct cleaning services typically cost between $450 and $1,000. Once consumers signed up for these services, a representative of the companies visited the consumer’s home and attempted to sell other, more expensive services.
The complaint alleges that on many occasions, company representatives falsely told consumers that air ducts and vents in their homes contained dangerous mold, even though the company representatives had not conducted proper testing to make their mold assessment, and frequently did not hold the appropriate professional licenses required by the State of Florida to provide mold-related services. One disabled consumer reported paying the defendants more than $1,500 to remove mold from her system, but later discovered the services were not provided.
High-pressure sales scam
Some consumers reported feeling unsafe during the service calls and claimed they felt they had no choice but to purchase unwanted parts or services in order to get the representative to leave their house.
Other consumers reported that the companies’ representatives dismantled their air conditioning units, and felt they had to pay in order to have the systems reassembled.
Still, other consumers complained they were charged for adding refrigerant to their air system, even though their system did not need refrigerant, and in at least one case, did not even use refrigerant. More than 500 complaints have been filed against the defendants with the Florida Attorney General’s Office or other protection agencies. The civil complaint seeks full refunds for all affected consumers.
Attorney General Bondi's Office obtained a temporary injunction and asset freeze against the defendants and five other affiliates that allegedly received proceeds from the scheme.
The complaint names the following as defendants:
The complaint also names the following as affiliates who received proceeds from the scheme:
Source: Attorney General Pam Bondi News Release
The best way to avoid scams is to know what to look for in an AC company. We talk about this in-depth in this article: Top 10 Essential Qualities to Look For in an HVAC Contractor.
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