BBB on Heating Scams, Debit Card Fees

October 19, 2011 5:00:09 AM PDT
Steve Bernas of the Better Business Bureau discusses furnace-fixing scams and new debit card fees to watch out for.

Better Business Bureau Warns: Beware of Heating Contractors Offering Fake Furnace Fixes

The cool autumn weather has arrived and, for many people, now is the ideal time to have their furnace serviced or upgraded before the busy winter season starts. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns the public to be cautious about misleading heating contractors who may use scare tactics to convince homeowners to buy a new furnace or authorize expensive, but unneeded, repairs to their existing heating system.

Some heating contractors may make unsolicited phone calls offering inexpensive, even free, cleaning services only to show up with inadequate equipment and recommendations for expensive and unnecessary upgrades.

In the last 12 months, the BBB received 376 complaints against businesses in the heating and air conditioning industry.

"At this time of year we see increased advertising from heating contractors offering everything from duct cleaning to furnace inspections," says Steve J. Bernas, BBB president & CEO. "While many furnace companies are reputable, competent and fair, there are fraudulent and unethical companies that may try to frighten consumers into unnecessary installations or repairs."

Fraudulent contractors soliciting door-to-door may attempt to frighten consumers into purchasing a new heating system with warnings that their current system was leaking dangerous gases that could explode or poison those inside the house.

Before you choose a heating contractor, consider the following:

Start with the BBB. Find helpful referrals and information on companies by visiting the company's Business Review at www.bbb.org

Get three estimates for the work. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used. Request a free quote at www.bbb.org from BBB Accredited Businesses at any time, seven days a week.

Compare more than just cost. Check the size and rated efficiency of the equipment each contractor recommends. Ask each contractor how they arrived at recommending a particular sized system. Check the warranty offered and make certain you understand it.

Hire heating contractors who:

  • Are or employ certified gas fitters;
  • Are bonded and insured for liability and property damage;
  • Can provide you a copy of the gas permit authorizing the company to work on your heating system;
  • Offer warranties that cover equipment, materials and labor;
  • Offer maintenance and service after installation and after warranties have expired;
  • Provide customer references.

    For more information about hiring a heating contractor you can visit www.bbb.org

    BBB Advises Debit Card Users to be on the Lookout for New Fees

    Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers that they may be seeing new fees on their bank statement for using their debit card.

    Recent changes in banking laws capped the "swipe fee" that banks can charge retailers for debit transactions. The average fee was 44 cents per transaction, but the new law caps the fee at 21 cents. Banks estimate they will lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year in debit card transaction fees and are looking to recoup that money from customers by modifying various checking account fees.

    Some of the nation's largest financial institutions already have announced a flat monthly fee of $3-$5 for debit card use, although some may go to a per-transaction fee, particularly for infrequent users.

    BBB is advising consumers and business owners to be on the alert for notices from their financial institutions about changes in the terms of their accounts. "If you don't understand a notice you receive or see a new fee on your account statement that you weren't expecting, contact your financial institution and ask for an explanation," said Steve J Bernas President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau.

    Account holders may want to ask their bank if there are programs to waive the fee for accounts with a minimum balance. It also pays to shop around; some financial institutions may keep no-fee debit cards.

    For more consumer information you can trust, visit www.bbb.org http://www.bbb.org/


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