Phony Appliance Repair Scheme Has to Stop, Says Attorney General
The defendants took payments upfront from customers but did not make repairs
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper says that a couple who charged customers in Charlotte and the Triad hundreds of dollars upfront for fake appliance repairs is now prohibited from business and may even owe refunds.
"Consumers paid good money and still didn't get their appliances fixed," Cooper said. "Avoid similar problems by being skeptical of any business that asks you to pay for repairs in full up front."
At the request of the attorney general, Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood issued a court order against Crystal Spear and Ronnie Griffin from Lexington prohibiting them from collecting payments from consumers to fix appliances and then neither finishing the work nor returning the customers' money.
While the case moves forward in court, the defendants are barred by the temporary restraining order from the following: accepting payments from consumers; either advertising, offering, or entering into contracts for any product or service; and either destroying, hiding, or transferring any records or assets.
An investigation performed by the North Carolina Attorney General's Office revealed that the defendants refused to refund their victims' money, which leaves the customers with broken appliances as well as additional repair fees. Attorney General Cooper asked the court in a lawsuit filed last week to cancel all the contracts that the defendants entered into with consumers and to order the defendants to pay refunds to the victims and civil penalties to the state.
The lawsuit alleges that the couple advertised appliance repair services online on such sites as Craigslist, ncappliancerepair.com, ncservicecenter.com, appliancerepairnearyou.com, and AHome.Services@yahoo.com. Consumers residing in Alamance, Davidson, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Randolph counties were targeted.
The complaint claims that consumers found the defendants online and made appointments to obtain estimates on refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, oven, and stove repairs. In several instances, the defendants claimed to make the necessary repairs there and then; at other times, they claimed that a new part was needed. They repeatedly demanded payments as high as $520 before they would leave and they insisted on being paid either by cash or check, which they would immediately cash.
Consumers who filed complaints with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office reported that the couple left with their payments but never returned to make the repairs. Attempts to contact the couple by phone, text, or email were either ignored or received such false excuses as a technician had been in an accident, a death in the family had occurred, or a spouse was injured and on life support. Thirty-seven consumers in total have filed complaints about the couple either with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office or their local Better Business Bureaus.
A.G. Cooper believes that the defendants each used several aliases—including Crystal Hope Spear, Ronnie Allen Griffin, Allen Griffin, Ronnie Spear, and Allen Spears—and also operated their business under numerous names: NC Appliance Repair, Piedmont Appliance Repair, NC Service Center, Charlotte Appliance Repair, Service Today, Service X-perts, Service Experts, Gastonia Appliance Repair, Home Pros, and A+ Home Services.
The North Carolina Attorney General's Office offers the following tips for avoiding problems when hiring help to make repairs:
- Never pay the full cost of the repairs upfront. Pay the final payment only when you are satisfied with the result.
- Always request a written contract detailing the necessary repairs, the cost of the repairs, and when the repairs will be finished.
- Know your right to cancel. North Carolina law dictates that transactions taking place at your home can still be cancelled for up to three days after signing the contract.
- Research and shop around before picking a repair company. Request recommendations from trusted friends, neighbors, and family. Check with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau to find out whether or not other consumers have filed complaints about the company.
You can file a complaint against an appliance repair company with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.
Update: The court order banning Spear and Griffin from operating the appliance repair business in North Carolina has been approved, extending the original temporary ban.