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AC stopped working after being serviced

I hope you can settle a matter between myself and Custom Climate Control (CCC) in Clearwater. On April 24 CCC gave me a $860 estimate on cleaning my air conditioning unit. The work was to be done the next day. Since the serviceman might be finished before I got home from work, I was asked to sign a credit card slip.

Next day when I got home, my mother mentioned that there had been a terrible explosion in the attic while the serviceman was up there. When she'd asked if he was all right, he said there had been a problem with freon.

The serviceman left behind the credit card slips and a day later I got a call from CCC asking if someone could pick them up. I was also asked if my air conditioner was working well. I said I hadn't even turned it on yet. When I did turn it on, by golly, it wasn't blowing any air. I called Bob Quinn at CCC and, after talking me through a circuit breaker check, he said someone would come to check on it.

Within the hour the same serviceman who had been out to clean the unit was back to pick up the slips. I asked him why the unit was not working. He looked it over and announced that the compressor had grounded out. But there was no way that the explosion from the day before could have hurt the compressor, he said. (I have since learned from two air conditioner experts that this is exactly what happens if the system is overcharged with freon.)

The serviceman admitted he was new at this sort of work, that he did not like working for CCC, and would I like to have the name and number of a friend who could fix us up with a new unit. He asked us not to tell CCC that he had recommended this friend.

I certainly was not going to call anyone he recommended and I decided not to give him the credit card slips, hoping that CCC would send over another serviceman. No one ever came from CCC and I ended up calling another company to replace the unit at a cost of $1,400.

Bob Quinn now maintains that his company is in no way responsible for what happened to my unit. When I told him that his employee had given us another company's name, Bob said he would fire the man. He then agreed to give us two free visits at a value of $95 each to check on our unit during the coming year.

I am afraid to let people from this company back in my house. I didn't know my bank account would get a more thorough cleaning than my vents.

Even though they don't have my credit card slips, they used my credit card number to charge me $860. However, I have asked the credit card company to place a hold on it while I dispute the charge.

I would appreciate your help.

Leslie K. Waters

Response: According to Bob Quinn, custom climate control customer relations manager, the explosion you mention occurred when the serviceman "bumped the ferrule compression fitting of the suction line to the evaporator coil" releasing the freon from the suction line fitting. He repaired and recharged the system.

The serviceman had two years of experience as an installation mechanic and service technician, Quinn says. The man was new at duct cleaning but had been thoroughly trained by the company.

Quinn claims that your unit was working when the serviceman left. He recalls talking you through a breaker and thermostat check the next day, but claims he did not learn that your unit was out until May 29.

It is virtually impossible for a compressor to get grounded out due to an overcharge, Quinn says. There was a terrible storm in your area April 25, and that is what likely caused your compressor to fail, he says.

Quinn says you were told that, because of the condition and age of your unit, you should have it replaced. As for the serviceman, he was fired April 29 for "being grossly unprofessional" in his recommendation of another company.

In short, he says, CCC's position is that it completed the job and the failure of your air conditioning unit is not the company's fault. Therefore, you still owe the $860.

We checked with the Better Business Bureau and learned that there have been 20 complaints filed against CCC during the last three years. Most of the complaints alleged misleading selling practices, and most of the folks who complained were not satisfied with CCC's response.

You might consider Small Claims Court.

ACTION answers questions, opens government doors and fights consumer battles for residents of and visitors to the Suncoast. Given sufficient information, we process or refer every serious inquiry, but we cannot guarantee response. Requests will be accepted only by mail. We cannot be responsible for returning personal documents, so please send photocopies. If the complaint concerns a mail order, we will need copies of both sides of your canceled check. Upon request, names will be omitted from items used in the weekly column. Address your letter to Action, The Times, P.O. Box 1698, Clearwater 33517.

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