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Clean out your air ducts, not your wallet

July 21, 2010 6:15:26 AM PDT
Questionable selling practices employed by some companies in the air-duct cleaning industry are causing homeowners to spend hundreds more than expected. The Better Business Bureau states that most of these complaints involve bait and switch tactics, such as when a company advertises a low price but once they are in the home they do not honor the advertised price and aggressively offer additional services.

"Of the 172 companies listed in our database as providing duct cleaning, the three businesses with the most complaints filed by consumers - American Pure Air, International Duct Cleaning, Procare Carpet & Air Duct Cleaning - account for more than one-quarter of all complaints for this type of business," explained Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.

"Homeowners often end up paying much more than the advertised prices because the company does not honor this price and adds on other work or services," Bernas said. "Since the workers are already in their house, many homeowners simply agree to the additional services."

The BBB President noted that people should be aware that many companies offer duct cleaning as an addition to other services. To determine the type of complaints these companies may have, Bernas encourages consumers to check out business Reliability Reports for free at the BBB Web site www.bbb.org

Specific complaints from duct cleaning victims include:

Cindy Kuh of Niles, Ill. complaint about International Duct Cleaning: "We had been quoted $99 to clean all the vents in the house. They brought in a hose from a van to clean but it did not seem right-dust was blowing around. They said that they really needed to clean the furnace. It was a new furnace so that did not make sense. They said that there was dangerous buildup in the vents and that we could get sick and even die. They asked about using some kind of scented product and before we could answer they had started. We stopped them. It would have been over $600 for all of the work that they wanted to do. We still ended up paying $199.00; our furnace company came out two days later and showed us that the ducts that were supposed to have been cleaned were really dirty."

Vivian Schwan of Lake Barrington, Ill. about American Pure Air: "I got a mailer that offered cleaning of unlimited air ducts for $99.00. I knew it was a scam as soon as they pulled up in an unmarked white van. Their equipment had some kind of hose but looked like some kind of little shop vac. It was nothing like the equipment that I had seen used by other companies. They asked to see all of my air ducts. They ended up cleaning three air ducts and did not go upstairs at all. I asked him why some smoky substance had started coming out of my vents. He stopped and when I told him I had asthma and allergies he suggested I leave the house. They tried to charge me over $600. I called the owner after they left and he said that he would refund part of the money but I was not sure if he really would and replaced the check with one for $340. The owner showed up at my house and demanded another $100 that was supposed to take care of his costs. I gave him the $100.00 to get him out."

The Better Business Bureau also recommends obtaining written estimates from three different companies based on the same work. Homeowners can also check if the companies are insured and members of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association by visiting the NADCA Web site at www.nadca.com

For more information on finding BBB Accredited air duct cleaning businesses, visit www.bbb.org


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