Learn to Avoid these Air Duct Cleaning Scams
Remember that old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is?” Well, it is no more true than when it applies to advertisements placed by fly-by-night companies.
State of New Jersey wins 1.7 million dollar lawsuit against fly-by-night companies. Victory for consumers!!!!!!
April 5, 2011
NEWARK – A Superior Court judge has ordered two Bloomfield-based air duct cleaning companies to pay more than $68,000 in consumer restitution and more than $1.7 million in civil penalties, for “bait and switch” tactics and other unconscionable business practices alleged by the Office of the Attorney General and State Division of Consumer Affairs.
The Division, in its investigation of United Air Care and Indoor Air Care, identified more than 1,200 violations of the State Consumer Fraud Act and regulations on advertising and home improvement contractors. The violations affected a total of 98 consumers who filed complaints with the Division.
Many consumers contacted the companies after receiving direct-mail coupons through advertising services, such as “Super Coups” and “Clipper Magazine,” which advertised “Whole Duct House Cleaning” for prices from $37.95 to $69.95. The Division alleged that the companies often failed to perform the services for the specified price. In many cases, the coupons were allegedly used to bait the buyer into purchasing higher-priced services.
The Division also alleged that the companies failed to register with the State as home improvement contractors, and in many cases caused damage to consumers’ homes, then failed to fix, clean, or compensate for the damage.
“There is no excuse for such flagrant violations of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act,” Attorney General Paula T. Dow said. “We will aggressively continue to pursue those who target New Jersey homeowners with unconscionable business practices, deceptive advertising, and false promises.”
The Final Judgment by Default and Order, signed March 31, 2011, orders the companies to pay $68,157.36 in consumer restitution, $1.71 million in civil penalties, $58,539 in reimbursement for the State’s attorneys’ fees, and $7,629.05 for the State’s investigative costs.
The Division of Consumer Affairs began investigating United Air Care in April 2008. The company supposedly ceased operations in approximately mid-2008, after which Indoor Air Care commenced operations with the same business address, phone numbers, employees, and ownership as United Air Care. The Division expanded its investigation in July 2008 to include the new company.
“It is exactly because of abuses like these, that we have launched a new, statewide crackdown on unregistered home improvement contractors,” said Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “If you are a contractor, you will comply with the law or you will pay. If you are a consumer, before signing a contract for home improvement work you should make sure the contractor is registered, and learn as much about the contractor as you can.”
The Division alleged that United Air Care and Indoor Air Care violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, Contractors’ Registration Act, Contractor Registration Regulations, Home Improvement Regulations, and Advertising Regulations by, among other things:
- Offering specific air duct cleaning services, where the purpose or effect of the offer was not to sell those services, but to bait or entice the buyer into the purchase of other or higher priced services;
- Providing direct-mail coupons that offered specific duct cleaning services at a specified price, and then failing to provide the services at that price;
- Failing to register with the Division as a home improvement contractor and then advertising and/or performing home improvement work;
- Failing to include in home improvement contracts cancellation language, the total price and/or the date or time period within which work was to be commenced and/or completed;
- Requiring that consumers sign estimates and then failing to provide consumers with a full and accurate copy of the documents;
- Misrepresenting that a consumer would receive a refund or reimbursement; and
- Causing damage to a consumer’s home while performing air duct cleaning services and then failing to fix, clean, or compensate for the damage.
Calcagni noted that consumers who purchase duct cleaning or other services on the basis of a coupon should be aware that the price may increase, and should get the total price in writing before the job starts.
When informed of the outcome of the Final Judgment, Richard Spano, Commercial Services Coordinator for Advanced Air Duct Cleaning , a duct cleaner in Bayville NJ for over thirty five years released the following statement, “This is a great victory not only for the citizens of New Jersey but also for our industry. For many years, we in the duct cleaning industry have had to do business with the specter of these fly by night companies hovering over us. Many duct cleaning consumers are unaware that these type of companies existed and that their advertisements were misleading. Advanced Furnace & Air Duct Cleaning has a policy in place wherein our employees would warn prospective customers about those types of “bait and switch” air duct cleaning companies. Advanced Furnace & Air Duct Cleaning has been hearing about and dealing with the fallout from these disreputable companies for years. Our office staff receives numerous calls from customers stating they felt they were scammed from what we refer to in the duct cleaning industry as “blow and go” companies. Our in home technicians, have also seen the results of their “work” in consumer’s homes and Advanced has been called innumerable times to clean up the mess made by these companies. It has been a long, long trip but we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Advanced Furnace & Air Duct Cleaning has been performing duct cleaning throughout New Jersey for over 49 years. We are fully insured and licensed as a Home Improvement Contractor by the state. Advanced is certified by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List. Advanced Air Duct Cleaning will gladly put all our duct cleaning quotes in writing and fully explain our air duct cleaning procedures before you even book an appointment. It is our goal that every one of our customers feels confident booking with us, comfortable having us in their home, satisfied that they have received a quality service and will be breathing easier.”
NBC Date Line exposes Air Duct Scams: Part 1
NBC Date Line exposes Air Duct Scams: Part 2
NBC Date Line exposes Air Duct Scams: Part 3
NBC Date Line exposes Air Duct Scams: Part 4
Scam warning #1 from Better Business Bureau
Scam warning #2 from Better Business Bureau
Can these guys really clean your Air Ducts?
Or Do they Just Clean out your Wallet?
Dirty Business of Air Duct Scams
Low-Price is a sure sign of a Scam
Things to Watch-Out for to Avoid the Scam
Avoid Duct Cleaning Bait-and-Switch Tactics
Use Common Sense when Selecting a Company
We called every company that ran the ads shown below and got price quotes from them. Guess what? The prices listed in the ad were never the actual cost to do the job!!!! When we asked for the prices in writing, all but two of the companies refused, stating that the prices were subject to change after their technicians arrived. As you can see in the ads, these are only starting prices.
Once you include the extra supply vent charges, the extra return vent charges, the extra charges for cleaning the blower section, the extra charges for cleaning the access panels and the extra charge for sanitizing the prices for an average home were as follows:
|Follow the bouncing Price!|
|Coupon A||listed price: $159.00||actual price: $479.00|
|Coupon B||listed price: $159.00||actual price: $551.00*|
|Coupon C||listed price: $ 59.00||actual price: $489.00*|
|Coupon D||listed price: $159.00||actual price: $550.00*|
|Coupon E||listed price: $ 99.00||actual price: $499.99|
All ads marked with an asterisk (*) told us that the price quoted is not guaranteed!
As you can see, if you read these ads, they are very misleading. You must read the fine print and contact the companies to get the full final price for cleaning. They are very deceptive, all they care about is getting you hooked and reeling in another sucker!
Also note above that two of the companies have stated that they have “vacuum trucks” but in their ads, they show pictures of portable vacuums in the back of vans. This is their way of trying to trick you into thinking a portable system, (which can only move 4,000 cubic feet of air per minute) as a legitimate power vacuum truck which has a 15, 855 cfm vacuum. Oops!!!
If you come across a company working the Bait & Switch, you should contact the Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau and complain. Fraudulent advertising hurts everyone, especially the honest contractor who is providing excellent service at a fair price. We tell the truth about the price up front and actually do the work we advertise! We will fax, email or US mail you an estimate in writing that includes all costs. Our prices are guaranteed in writing! The super duper coupon guys never last long, but the reputable companies grow stronger every year.