BBB: Summer Scams

July 18, 2013

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In the last year, more than 90,000 people contacted the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois seeking assistance for HVAC work. However, caution is the word when choosing a contractor.

Homeowners faced with an inoperable or poorly functioning air conditioner often fall victim to the scare tactics used by unscrupulous contractors. In an effort to line their pockets, some contractors will make unsolicited phone calls with offers of free service then make recommendations for expensive and unnecessary repairs and upgrades.

In addition to the 90,000 inquiries received by the BBB, more than 300 complaints were filed against heating and air conditioning contractors.

"At this time of the year, when temperatures can rise to dangerous levels, we see more advertising for different air conditioner services," said Steve Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "As in any other industry, air conditioning contractors are honest and fair but there are some unethical contractors that will try to persuade customers to purchase unnecessary services."

The BBB offers the following tips to avoid air conditioning contractor scams:

Research the company's background and licensing. Visit for the BBB Business Review of any AC service company you plan to hire. Learn more about its reputation and history of complaints. Always confirm that the company is licensed and insured.

Compare prices and service packages. Get at least three estimates for any air conditioning repair or maintenance 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.

Review warranty coverage. Find out if the company offers any type of warranty or guarantee. Make certain you understand the terms and conditions of the coverage. Also, be sure to check the warranty on your current air conditioning unit to determine whether any repairs or replacements may be covered.

Ask about energy efficiency. Many new air conditioning units are manufactured to be more energy efficient than others. Look for the ENERGY STAR label to find out more about products that may cost a little more up front, but save you in energy costs over time. Some models may even be eligible for a tax credit. Ask your HVAC contractor (heating ventilation and air conditioning) to verify tax credit eligibility and provide the Manufacturer Certification Statement for the equipment you plan to purchase. For more information, check out these government sites:

For more information on choosing the right HVAC contractor, visit

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