Don’t Get Caught in the Heat of an AC Repair Scam

With summer heat being at its peak, keeping your house cool and air conditioner running properly can be a challenge. When needing to get your system serviced, it’s important to choose a qualified and trustworthy contractor. While most AC contractors are reputable and fair, some have been known to dupe unsuspecting homeowners into buying equipment or authorizing services they don’t need. In some cases, unscrupulous contractors may try to frighten home owners with warnings that their systems are leaking dangerous gas or pose some sort of other hazard, requiring immediate action.

What are BBB tips if you experience air conditioning trouble?

  • Before calling for service, troubleshoot a few basic things. Is your thermostat operating properly? Has the electrical breaker powering the unit tripped? Are the air in-take screens or filters on your outside unit dirty or blocked and need to be cleaned? Sometimes there are minor, inexpensive things you can do yourself to alleviate a problem and avoid paying for a service call or repair.

  • Always see if you are covered by an existing warranty before calling someone else. Be sure to check the warranty on your system to see whether any repairs or replacements are covered. Remember, many systems come with long-term coverage.

  • When you call to schedule an appointment, ask if the contractor will charge for a trip fee and if service rates are charged on a flat or hourly rate. In addition, ask if a diagnosis fee is charged in addition to trip and service rates and obtain the amount of these costs in advance to make a decision.

  • Often, when consumers incur problems it’s because they fail to thoroughly research a company. Along with checking through BBB for a company’s Business Review and verifying proper registration and insurance, make sure you get a written estimate that notes what is wrong with your air conditioner, what the entire cost to repair or replace the unit will be, and the printed and signed name of the repair person. If they are recommending purchasing a new system, also require that the estimate include its make, model, serial number and system capacity.

  • Get at least three written quotes before you make a final decision. Quotes should include a full description of the services and materials to be used so you can adequately compare them; this includes the air conditioner’s size and units of energy, as well as the calculated cooling capacity of your home. Also, compare all available warranties.

  • Beware of contractors that attempt to use a sense of urgency and high pressure tactics to complete a sale. Always take the time to get a second opinion, even if the contractor is claiming it is an emergency. Dishonest contractors know that you have a 3-day right of cancellation unless the situation is deemed an emergency, which requires you to waive your right to this law by signing an emergency waiver. Therefore, scammers may try to claim an emergency when it is not.

  • Always pay by credit card if you can and avoid paying cash. If paying by check, make it out to the name of the business rather than payable to the employee or another individual. Some unethical employees and subcontractors steal from consumers by convincing them to write checks directly to them rather than the company that was hired.

For more helpful BBB tips to stay cool this summer, visit bbb.org.

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About Caitlin Driscoll

I have been the Public Relations Director of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA since November 2011.