With the weather reaching sweltering temperatures this summer, it is more important than ever to have a working, reliable air conditioning unit. Scam artists know this and use the rise in temperatures to take advantage of consumers by charging for unnecessary repair work.
"Consumers should always check their unit's warranty before making any repairs," said Consumer Affairs Director Gary Cordell. "It is important to be an educated consumer and to do your homework before spending any money."
Commerce & Insurance (TDCI), the State agency that houses the Consumer Affairs Division, is also home to the Board for Licensing Contractors, which licenses professionals who work in the home-heating-and-cooling industry. Anyone with questions about individuals' or companies' license statuses should first search the TDCI license database at http://verify.tn.gov, or should contact the Contractors board staff at 800-544-7693 or Contractors.Home-Improvement@TN.Gov. If a license is required for the work to be done (the Board can help you determine that, as well), hire only licensed personnel to perform it. The Board's consumer tips can be found at http://www.tn.gov/regboards/contractors/consumers.shtml.
Consumer Affairs and the Board for Licensing Contractors partner in contractor-consumer mediation through the Contractor/Homeowner Accountability And
Mediation Program (C.H.A.M.P.). Read about it at http://www.tn.gov/consumer/champ.shtml.
Additionally, Cordell suggests that consumers:
- Always research the company/contractor before agreeing to have work performed.
- Make sure that the company or contractor lists a physical address.
- Be wary of advertisements whose quoted prices seem too good to be true.
- Get multiple quotes for repairs.
- Be wary if told that the air conditioning unit needs multiple parts replaced.
- Do not accept quotes for repairs over the phone. It is impossible to know how much a new unit or repair will cost without first seeing the problem in person.
- Be wary of advertisements offering free cleanings or tune-ups. These offers may lead to recommendations for costly repairs that are not necessary or for worse: customers being pressured to replace units or pay for overpriced replacement parts.
- Never pay money upfront.
- Ask for written statements.
- Avoid having to pay overtime fees for work done after hours or on weekends.
- Be wary of contractors who suggest adding refrigerant to air conditioning units annually. A reputable contractor will detect a leak through a pressure test or by using dye, and will repair the leak. An air conditioning unit should not leak refrigerant regularly.
- Always check the "Buyer Beware List" (http://tn.gov/consumer/buyerbeware.shtml) to see if the company being considered has had problems in the past. Companies are typically placed on the list for being unresponsive to complaints filed with Consumer Affairs.
- Always read the fine print of any contract or estimate!
Consumer Affairs (www.tn.gov/consumer/) is a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance (www.tn.gov/commerce/), which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. www.tn.gov/commerce/, @TNCommerceInsur (Twitter), http://on.fb.me/uFQwUZ (Facebook), http://bit.ly/ry1GyX (YouTube)