Duct cleaning ads found to deceive consumers

Duct cleaning ads found to be deceptive.Duct cleaning services, frequently advertised by direct mail, are often tools to deceive consumers, a yearlong investigation by the Better Business Bureau found.

The services frequently are advertised well below $100 -- an unrealistic price for the type of work that is supposed to be done. The ads often suggest how dirty ducts can make you sick and that the service being offered will resolve the situation.

"It is our opinion that thorough and effective cleaning can take several hours to complete at a cost of $300-$500," Barry Goggin, president of the BBB serving northeast California, said in a statement.

The group shopped with six different companies and reviewed more than two dozen complaints lodged by consumers against the companies.The BBB investigation concluded that in 26 instances the cleaning was no more than superficial. In 32 cases, the companies aggressively tried to sell a host of costly upgrades and equipments including chemical sanitizing, extended warranties, filters and Ultra Violet lights.

Sales people targeted risks to health, from asthma to headaches, and frequently cited mold as problem.

The BBB also noted a tool used by one company that the group then purchased online was the "10 Minute Mold Test." Described as the size of a large pen, the test actually was one intended to quickly determine if food processing equipment was properly cleaned.

"In our opinion, there is no practical way that this tester can be used on the spot to legitimately determine specifically whether or not mold exists," said Goggin. "This 'mold test' can yield a positive or false-positive result regardless of the existence of mold. It will also test positive for mold spores that are virtually everywhere. To determine whether or not mold exists, and to determine if the mold or mold spores pose a health hazard, you need a laboratory to test it."

After a "positive" test, the BBB took a swab of the duct and sent it to a laboratory that determined no mold existed. The BBB said the supposed tests were used to scare homeowners into paying for additional services.

Some tips from the BBB:
  • Read the fine print in the ads
  • Check the company's history in the BBB database -- or call your state or local consumer affairs office.
  • Ask lots of questions about costs and services before signing any contract
  • Get a second opinion if you are told you have a mold problem
Read Full Story