When it comes to payment, Brnovich says don’t pay everything up front -- most reputable companies will only take some sort of a down payment up front.
“They cannot require you to give more than a third of the cost up front,” said Brnovich. “They can charge you that third up front and as they move along and they start actually putting it in – then they can charge you a little bit more.”
If you think you've been a victim of a scam -- contact the Attorney General's Office in Phoenix at 602-542-5763, in Tucson at 520-628-6504 or online.
Brnovich’s office released the following 9 tips:
1. Troubleshoot first: Take some time before calling for service to check a few basic things. Is the electrical breaker tripped? Is your thermostat operating? Are the filters on your unit dirty or blocked and need to be cleaned? If it’s minor, you might be able to fix it yourself.
2. Check warranty coverage: Your air conditioner might still be under the manufacturer's warranty. Be sure to check your owner's manual or warranty to avoid unnecessarily paying for repairs that might be covered.
3. Do your research: Research contractors with the Better Business Bureau to see if they have a Business Review on file at bbb.org
4. Verify license: Locally, search the Arizona Registrar of Contractors at https://roc.az.gov/ (link is external) to find the status of a company’s license and the history of complaints filed against them.
5. Online reviews: Look up third-party review sites over the company’s own webpage. Give more weight to a company with hundreds of good reviews over a multi-year period.
6. Obtain multiple bids for extensive repairs: Try to solicit at least two or three bids on large projects. Find out the proper size unit to cool your home and the energy efficiency of a new unit.
7. Get it in writing: Prior to any sale, obtain a written contract of the equipment and services the company is selling and review thoroughly before signing. Don’t sign anything that you don’t agree to.
8. Consider payment: When buying a unit, avoid paying the entire amount before the unit is installed. It’s common to pay a third to secure the contract, another third when the work is half done and the final third only when the work is completed. Under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, for a contract of more than $5,000, the contractor legally cannot accept a deposit in excess of 1/3 of the contract price, or 1/3 of the contract price plus the cost of special order materials.
9. Know your rights: Be wary if a contractor uses a sense of urgency in their selling methods. Some dishonest contractors may use high-pressure tactics to recommend repairs and replacements that are not actually needed