A Valrico air conditioning repair company was sued by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office for “engaging in unfair or deceptive trade practices.”
And, the Hillsborough County lawsuit says, 13 of the 16 consumer complaints about Air Time Air Conditioning and Heating received by the Better Business Bureau and the attorney general’s office since 2017 involved senior citizen customers.
The lawsuit seeks $10,000 for each violation of a 2017 agreement between Air Time and the Florida Attorney General’s office, $15,000 for each violation that victimized a senior citizen.
When the Miami Herald phoned Air Time Tuesday afternoon to ask for director Anthony Gonzalez, the officer named as a defendant along with Air Time, the person answering the phone gave a throaty laugh and hung up.
Since taking office earlier this year, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has made attacking elder fraud a point of emphasis. She formed the Attorney General’s Senior Protection Team to work with the 1989-established Attorney General’s Senior vs. Crime Project.
The Senior vs. Crime Project lateraled a complaint to the Senior Protection Team from a daughter who said her 89-year-old mother had spent $21,000 over 2 1/2 years on unnecessary parts and work from Air Time. Also, the woman said, when she asked Air Time for itemized bill’s, they ignored her.
Air Time, run by Gonzalez since its initial Florida registry, already was known to the AG’s office after consumer complaints sparked a 2015 investigation into possible financial exploitation. The AG’s office found Air Time didn’t honor cancellation requests, had misleading advertisement, and didn’t get required home solicitation permits along with using high pressure sales tactics.
That’s in the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC), the 2017 agreement between Air Time and the AG’s office. Air Time agreed to respond to consumer complaints within five days; put a three-day right to cancel next to the signature portion on each service contract; refund $20,000 to consumers who had filed complaints; and get home solicitation permits as required.
Since then, Friday’s suit says, there have been the 16 complaints, including the aforementioned $21,000 beef.
Another customer said Air Time tried to sell a customer a new unit for $8,000 a year after selling that customer another new unit. A second A/C company told the customer there was nothing wrong with the first unit.
The suit says two customers said Air Time tried to charge them for “growth of micro-organisms in consumers’ air duct systems” that other companies stated didn’t exist.
And the three-day right to cancel also wasn’t included on service contracts.