CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Better Business Bureau today announced its 2014 Midyear Dirty Half Dozen List of the top six area businesses with the most unanswered complaints in the first half of 2014.
“These six companies have made the BBB’s list for unacceptable business practices,” said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. “Two of these businesses are “repeat offenders” that have made our bad list in previous years.”
“When companies don’t respond to complaints, they usually don’t stay in business very long because consumers are checking businesses out in record numbers,” Bartholomy added. “However, there are businesses that repeatedly change their names so that it is more difficult for consumers to find out about their complaint record.”
In the first half of 2014, consumers filed 6,320 complaints with the BBB against businesses in the Southern Piedmont area of N.C. and S.C., a two percent increase over last year.
“The majority of businesses in our area work with the BBB to resolve consumer complaints because they care about their reputation and they sincerely care about their customers,” said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. “Unfortunately though, there are businesses that don’t respond to complaints, at all.”
The top six businesses with the most unanswered BBB complaints from January 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014 are:
1. Randy Briel doing business as The Pro Group (BBB Grade F) – Waxhaw-based contractor Randy Briel does home improvement jobs including concrete patios, landscaping, remodeling and fencing. In the first half of 2014, six complainants allege that Briel accepted payments ranging from $600 to $6,800, but failed to perform or complete the work stated in the contract. Since 2000, 70 consumers in nine counties in NC and SC (Mecklenburg, Union, Lincoln, Gaston, Cabarrus, Catawba, Iredell, York and Richland) have filed complaints with the BBB against Briel for accepting payments for home improvement projects that were either not started or not completed.
He has been able to continue operating in the Southern Piedmont area because he continually changes his business name and uses aliases. Briel has used 21 business names, 21 phone numbers and a dozen aliases using various spellings of his first, middle and last name. Briel has multiple felony convictions in NC, SC and GA for obtaining money under false pretenses, passing worthless checks and cheating people out of money. Consumers and subcontractors have filed more than 40 civil lawsuits against him to recoup money he owes them. REPEAT OFFENDER – Randy Briel has made the BBB’s Dirty Dozen list in previous years.
2. SpeedTech Auto Racing School (BBB Grade F) – Concord-based SpeedTech Auto Racing School sells driving experiences at a limited number of NASCAR tracks to fans who want to learn to drive a race car. Owned and operated by Randy Baker, son of NASCAR legend Buck Baker, SpeedTech sells a “Rookie Rush” six lap package through online coupon sites including Groupon and Living Social. Complainants allege that SpeedTech has repeatedly scheduled and then cancelled their driving experiences. In the first half of 2014, six consumers filed complaints against SpeedTech for selling, but not fulfilling racing packages. All of these complaints are unanswered. Since 2009, 66 consumers from six states (NC, GA, AL, MS, VA, and AZ) have filed complaints with the BBB against SpeedTech, 18 of these complaints are unresolved or unanswered.
The BBB contacted Groupon to inquire about SpeedTech’s status as a seller. Groupon told the BBB that SpeedTech is no longer a Groupon seller and that their most recent Groupon offer is no longer available. However, SpeedTech currently has the “Rookie Rush” racing experience available through Living Social.
3. Looc Studio (BBB Grade F) – Newton-based Looc Studio sells and manufactures custom-designed furniture. In the first half of 2014, six complainants from three states (NJ, NY and ID) allege that they ordered and paid deposits ranging from $887 to $3,135, for furniture that they have not received. Complainants further state that they have not been able to get refunds or get owner Matt Carfaro or manager Mark Beck to return their calls. All six complaints are unanswered.
4. Monster Marine LLC (BBB Grade F) – Mooresville-based Monster Marine sells new and used boats and boats on consignment for other owners. In 2014, six individuals from six states (NC, SC, OH, WI, TX and AZ) have filed complaints with the BBB against Monster Marine’s owner Seth Andrew Bloom claiming that they are owed more than $108,000 total. Complainants allege that a) they purchased a boat that they did not receive, b) they purchased a boat that did not have a clean title, or c) they contracted with Bloom to sell their boat on consignment, but they did not receive the proceeds from the sale. Five of the six complaints filed so far this year are unanswered.
5. PDL Recovery Services (BBB Grade F) - Charlotte-based PDL Recovery Services is a debt collector that specializes in collecting payday loans taken out online. In 2014, PDL Recovery Services has four unanswered complaints. In the previous 36 months, 26 consumers from 20 states have filed complaints with the BBB against PDL Recovery Associates, 25 of which are unanswered.
Complainants allege that PDL collectors used harassing and threatening tactics in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act including: 1) calling repeatedly, 2) threatening to have the person arrested for not paying their debt, 3) contacting the alleged debtor’s employers to tell them that the person is going to be arrested, or 4) impersonating law enforcement. Complainants also allege that PDL did not provide requested documentation to prove that the debt was valid. REPEAT OFFENDER – PDL Recovery Services was the number one company with the most unanswered complaints on the BBB’s 2013 Dirty Dozen list.
“With payday lending barred in many states including N.C., payday lenders have set up shop on the Internet where business is booming,” said Bartholomy. “Instead of driving across the state line to Fort Mill or Gaffney to get a payday loan, consumers are going online. Payday lending is a brand new market for debt collectors, but the debt collectors are still required to adhere to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,” Bartholomy added
6. Principle Moving, Inc. (BBB Grade F) – Charlotte-based Principle Moving, Inc. is a residential moving service that has had three unanswered complaints filed against it in 2014. Complainants allege that Principle’s movers damaged their furniture or their homes during their moves and that the company will not pay for the damages. In the previous 36 months, consumers from six states (NC, SC, GA, CA, MD and PA) have filed 19 complaints against Principle Moving with the BBB.
Consumers can check out businesses online at www.bbb.org or call the BBB (toll- free in N.C. and S.C.) at 1-877-317-7236.