Monday, April 09, 2007

Fraud or not?

New job, hectic life equates to no posts for 3 months. Oh well, this little thing called "Life" often gets in the way of our best laid plans.

So, what calls me out of my self imposed blogging hibernation? A little thing called business fraud to which I (well my wife really) fell prey.

Whether actual fraud was perpetuated or not, the story I'm about to relay is deceptive at the least - and in my opinion intentionally deceptive. Which is why I have no problem posting it here for all to see.

I also feel free to state the name of the company and owner here - to caution others who may encounter them - although I have changed the names of any other parties referenced. This is not a new, or fly-by-night company, but by their operation you'd never know it.

So, what you'll get below is a copy of the complaint I've filed with the Ohio Attorney General's office. To me, this issue is tantamount to telephone fraud. I hope they take it seriously. Enjoy.

Ohio Attorney General
Consumer Fraud

If the following account is not fraud, it is at the least deceitful and I believe has the intent of deception.

The company in question here specifically is Crane Heating and Cooling. The business practice in question is their cold-calling to "schedule your annual service".

Last August, my wife received a call from Crane asking her if she wanted to "schedule her annual service". Knowing we have an annual contract for furnace/ac service she scheduled the service call. As scheduled, the technician arrived and went straight to work and did perform the service (although he also broke the furnace filter bracket tabs in the process).

At the conclusion of the service, he had my wife sign a form stating that the service was completed.

Only then did he inform her there would be a $118.50 charge. A charge that had never been previously communicated, and wasn't even on the form she had just signed. When she complained that we had an Annual Service Contract, he checked and said that was not the case - and left her with the bill.

My wife was correct - we do have an annual service contract. The problem is that it was with another company, not Crane.

Not once was she presented with any indication there would be a charge, nor what that charge would be. Had she been, the entire situation would have been avoided as the mistake would have been realized. And again, even the form she signed at the conclusion of the service had no indication of cost.

Basically, we believe we were duped by the fraudulent telephone call.

When I called to protest (August 2006), I initially spoke with {name withheld}, the billing representative who said I had to speak with the owner - Frank. I left four phone messages for Frank. I also faxed a letter to Frank (at Crane's office) describing what I believe were fraudulent business practices (not giving any estimate or indication of cost prior to service being rendered). I asked for a response, or that no response would indicate that Crane would terminate the bill. I received no response.

Several weeks later I received a bill from Crane. I again called and left a message to be called back. I received no response. Five no-response messages at this point.

Now, almost 8 months later I received another call from Crane about the outstanding invoice. I again called and left a message for {name withheld} in billing to call me back. Again, no response.

Today, I called and did finally get through to {name withheld}. Her claim is that she knows nothing about this, and that the service was provided - regardless of "how confused your wife was" - end of story.

She also stated that providing the service with no indication of cost up front (nor on the signed service completion form) and calling people simply asking to "schedule their furnace service" with no other commentary are standard business practices and Crane is at no fault. She disagrees that someone would have said they were calling to "schedule your annual service" instead that their script reads to "schedule your spring service", etc. - but I find that point irrelevant.

She also said she knows nothing about my previous 6 voice messages I left, nor about my fax (for which I do have a copy of the transmission receipt) from last August - nor does it make a difference to Crane.

At this point Crane's threat is that they are going to submit the bill to a Credit collection agency, and in their words: "which you know goes against your credit report." They are willing to drop the price to $99 and offer to fix/replace my broken bracket (a $10 part) - but I find that an unacceptable offer to make up for the deception.

That's it. I can't believe that cold calling and offering simply to "schedule your required service" and then going all the way through performing the service while never indicating any estimate or anticipated cost is acceptable business practice. While not everyone has annual agreements it is extremely easy to see how this practice is geared towards deceiving those who may have them with other companies. To that effect, I have *never* received a similar call from any other heating/ac company.

If you find this a worthy topic and want any additional information, feel free to contact me by any of the methods provided.

So, what do you think? Fraud or not? Feel free to comment.



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