Have you ever paid too much for an AC service or repair?
Some air conditioning repair services fail to treat customers with honesty and transparency. They may unfairly inflate an AC repair bill, or scare a customer into replacing a cooling system before it's necessary or appropriate. Keep reading to learn how to avoid overpaying for air conditioner repair and protect yourself from getting overcharged.
Seven Ways You Can Get Overcharged on AC Repairs
Explore the common ways disreputable companies may charge you too much money on your AC repair bill.
1. Baiting you with an unbeatable price
A dishonest AC repair company can trick you by advertising or quoting you a great price/rate with the intention of unfairly increasing the bill later.
One way is through
hidden charges. A company may hide the true price by adding unusual fees onto your AC repair/maintenance bill. It's common for sales tax to be added onto a bill, but you shouldn't be surprised with expensive add-on charges after work is complete.
Another way customers are tricked into paying more than expected for AC repair is by
upselling. The contractor advertises a service, such as an AC tune-up, at an unbeatable price. The advertised price is well below what's normal to entice you, the customer, into scheduling an appointment. Once the contractor arrives, he or she says that the service you scheduled is 'very basic' and urges you to upgrade to the 'premium' or 'comprehensive' service.
Another bait-and-switch scam occurs when the AC service company offers you an attractive deal on a new air conditioning unit, typically through a coupon or advertisement. When you say you want the deal, the company rep says
they've sold out of that particular product but have another excellent unit to offer you.
Note: An air conditioning business may run a promotion that is so cheap it makes little or no profit on the initial service visit. This is not necessarily an air conditioning repair scam, as it may be a legitimate effort to draw in new customers and win their loyalty with good service.
2. Taking your AC unit for ransom
We've heard stories of HVAC contractors telling customers they need to
take the outdoor unit of their AC system back to the shop to diagnose or fix it. Don't allow this!
Letting an AC repair company remove your AC from your home will:
- Prevent you from getting a second opinion on repairs.
- Give the company leverage to overcharge you.
- Make quick repair of your AC a lower priority for the company.
Note: It's possible the HVAC contractor doesn't have the part in stock to fix your AC in one visit, but he or she should return to finish the job – not haul your unit away!
3. After-the-repair conversations about price
It's normal for the air conditioning contractor to inspect the unit and diagnose the problem before giving you a total repair estimate. The
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains further:
"A good contractor will not be able to quote an exact price over the phone."
Further, an AC repair contractor should
not fix anything until he or she has provided an estimate and received consent to begin repairs.
Always get a
detailed AC repair estimate, in writing. Your home air conditioning repair estimate should include separate cost estimates for parts/materials, labor and any applicable environmental charges (common when AC refrigerant needs disposal). Also, specifically ask if there are additional charges not included on the estimate.
For an annual
AC tune-up (maintenance), you should know what the service will cost ahead of time. While it's normal for sales tax to be added to that price, you shouldn't be surprised with lots of add-on fees or surcharges that hide the true cost of the AC tune-up.
4. Pretending to be part of a well-known company
In this AC repair scam, someone lies by telling you he or she works on behalf of a particular heating-and-cooling company the scammer isn't truly affiliated with. He or she pretends to be part of reputable company to gain your trust.
5. Not fixing the problem
In this scam, the contractor says he or she repaired your air conditioner but hasn't. An example is if the repairperson tells you that he or she has replaced a bad condenser with a new part, but never actually did so. The scammer may even tell you it will take a few hours or days before the air conditioning begins working correctly, so they can leave without raising your suspicion.
Note: If your AC problem is truly fixed, you will be able to notice right away!
6. Ignoring the warranty
A shady company's technician may lie, telling you that your AC system cannot be repaired when it really can. Why?
- Because the air conditioning company can make more money by selling you a new AC unit, instead of fixing a broken one.
If your AC is still under warranty, the dishonest contractor may even ignore your existing system's warranty status or tell you it's expired when it's still valid. Why?
- Because the disreputable AC repair contractor will have a tough time tricking the air conditioner manufacturer into paying for a replacement unit when it could be repaired at much less cost. But you, the customer, is an easier target for paying for a new AC unit while it's still under warranty.
Note: At HSP, we file and track our customers' warranty status to ensure they won't pay for repairs or replace an AC system while they're still covered.
7. Telling you an expensive part needs replaced (when it doesn't)
When air conditioner parts break and need replaced, it
can be expensive. It may be difficult for you to know if the contractor is being honest when he or she says it's a part is bad, worn or broken. If you haven't worked with the AC technician before – or just don't trust him or her – you should get a second opinion before allowing a contractor to proceed with a high-cost repair.
Protect Yourself from Paying Too Much for AC Repair
It's easy to protect yourself from unfair AC repair bills with this
AC Repair Homeowner's Checklist.
Before contacting an AC repair company:
Do some basic AC troubleshooting! Ensure your home thermostat is set to 'cool' and the temperature is set correctly. If you haven't recently replaced the HVAC air filter, or furnace filter, it could be reducing the central air conditioner's air flow.
Find several experienced AC repair companies to call. Businesses with little or no history are more likely to be scammers disguised as a legitimate business.
While inquiring about an AC repair service:
Ask for the contractor's license number. In Minnesota, you call the MN Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5069 or 1-800-342-5354 to verify a license is active and to learn about any disciplinary history.
Ask for the hourly AC repair rate and what it covers. You don't want to be surprised by add-on charges or fees when you're handed the bill.
Repeat and confirm price-related information. Write down the details or record the phone conversation (if state law allows it).
When the AC repairperson arrives:
Confirm the rate/price and what it covers. Even if the HVAC company isn't trying to trick you, there can be miscommunication between the technician and the phone representative you spoke with. Confirm prices before the technician begins work.
Get all warranties and guarantees in writing.
Tell the AC contractor that you would like to keep old parts that you agree to have replaced.
If you feel you've been treated unfairly after service:
Get together all documentation. Collect your notes, recordings, photos, videos – anything that could be useful to prove you've been wronged. Write down each date and approximate time you interacted with the company.
Call the AC contractor and let them know you're unhappy. In most situations, consumer advocacy groups and government agencies encourage consumers to give businesses an opportunity to remedy the situation. Many watchdog groups require you to contact the business before they're willing to assist you.
Resources & Tools to Protect You
Summing it up, follow this advice to avoid being overcharged for air conditioning repair:
Research an AC service provider before inviting a representative into your home.
Ask questions about pricing; repeat the rep's answers and document them.
Find a company you trust, then build a relationship with its employees.
Consider a maintenance or repair plan, which keep costs steady and predictable.
Other resources to help ensure you're charged fairly for AC repair:
Live in Minnesota? Please Try Us.
We're a reliable company with an 80+ year history of
central air conditioning repair and AC sales, please give HSP a look! We also offer various
appliance repair and maintenance plans, to prevent expensive repair bills and keep maintenance costs low and predictable.
Trusted for more than 80 years, Home Service Plus (HSP) is Minnesota's largest service provider of major home appliance repair, maintenance and
replacement (installation of new air conditioners). We serve Minneapolis, St. Paul, and much of greater Minnesota (Service Areas).
Play the air conditioning repair video below and learn more about our unique approach.