Recently, Dateline NBC aired an episode that exposed common scams by various companies that take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. One segment included on the show was regarding air duct cleaning scams. The undercover investigation by Chris Hansen in conjunction with NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association) exposed unscrupulous air duct cleaners using bait and switch tactics to take advantage of customers.
The focus of the investigation was a company out of Hebron, Kentucky called Duct Masters. The “customer” saw an advertisement placed by Duct Masters for a $49.95 duct cleaning, but when the technicians showed up, the customer was told that their home required extra services to complete the job correctly and charged the homeowner almost $500, an almost 1000% markup. The technician was shown installing a patch over a nonexistent access hole. This type of scam is unacceptable. The company was confronted about their tactics and had no reasonable response. According to the show, the company has since shut down.
This is a very significant issue to both the duct cleaning industry and the consumer. Every time a customer falls prey to a scam such as this, it leaves a black mark on the duct cleaning industry and every legitimate air duct cleaner out there, not to mention the consumer’s failure to receive a service worth their money.
There are numerous things a consumer can do to prevent falling victim to fraudulent duct cleaning scams. The most important action a consumer can take is to educate him or herself about the duct cleaning process. Knowledge is power and the more a customer knows about the process, the less chance that they will be taken advantage of. One key thing to look for is the equipment the company uses. Are they coming to your house with a portable unit or a power vacuum truck? If they don’t have the equipment to do the job properly, don’t even waste your time.
After learning more about the duct cleaning process, the second thing a consumer should do is research the companies they are considering doing business with. NADCA (The National Air Duct Cleaners Association) is a great place to start. NADCA members are certified to perform the services. In order to become a National Air Duct Cleaners Association certified technician, an ASCS (Air Systems Cleaning Specialist), a technician must demonstrate knowledge of HVAC system cleaning, NADCA standards, OSHA regulations and pass a 150 question exam. What is the companies’ Better Business Bureau rating? or Angies List? Consumer Affairs? Are they a licensed State Contractor? Fully insured?
When the field has been narrowed down, it is time to contact each company and get some estimates. How are you treated on the phone? Are all your questions answered fully or is the representative evasive? Can you receive your estimate in writing? Is the polite? These might seem like basic items, but this is a first contact with this company and they are attempting to win your business. If they can’t be nice then, what will they be like when they get into your home?
Once you have decided that you are happy with a duct cleaner and schedule an appointment, you should evaluate the technician(s). Are they fully uniformed? Are they clean and neat? Do they treat your home with care? Did they clean up after themselves when they were done?
If a consumer follows these basic steps, they will be on their way to receiving a great air duct cleaning service.