Air duct company with complaints in Illinois, doing business in Wisconsin

A business, banned in Illinois, has jumped the state line, and is now operating in southeast Wisconsin. However, it can't get past FOX6's Contact 6!

In an undercover investigation, Contact 6's Katrina Cravy shows what hidden cameras found.

A home was rigged with multiple hidden cameras, all because of a coupon. You may recognize it from your mailbox, just like Laura Jansson did.

"Air duct Fall cleaning special - $25. It states 'one furnace, any number of vents,' and I assumed that involved cleaning the whole duct work of my house," Jansson said.

Jansson got a coupon from a company called United Duct Cleaning, offering to vacuum all vents, give a free camera inspection before and after, a free dryer vent cleaning, and a free heat system inspection - all for the price of $25!

When workers arrived, they wanted a lot more than $25!

"They saw enough to know my ducts were really dirty, of course, and went down into the basement to do further investigation about my furnace, at which point they offered to do the full job for 10 times the price," Jansson said.

Jansson's price went from $25, to nearly $400!

Jansson's concerns are like carbon-copies of others received by Contact 6, the Better Business Bureau, and the State Bureau of Consumer Protection: homeowners being told that what the coupon covers, won't be enough to get all the ducts clean, and then getting charged hundreds more.

There's also a 2010 lawsuit against the company in its home state of Illinois, where it operated as American Pure Air.

The company cannot do business in Illinois for two years, as a settlement over allegations of deceptive business practices, over-charging, and undisclosed limitations on advertised prices.

FOX6's Contact 6 had United Duct Cleaning come up from Arlington Heights, Illinois, to see if the experience would be any different.

Undercover video shows workers hold up a negative-pressure machine to suck dust from the vents, and open vents to clean them out, just as the coupon states, but they only open about half of the home's vents, not all of them.

Plus, they used a basic wet-dry vacuum - not industrial equipment typically used for vent-cleaning jobs.

The video shows one worker go to the furnace in the basement, where most cleaning work typically takes place, but took no equipment and left after less than a minute.

Then came the sales pitch Contact 6 was waiting for.

"I prefer to cover my expenses, so if you want me to clean your vents, for example, I will charge you - the minimum is $300," an employee said.

FOX6's homeowner is a FOX6 News employee. He asks why workers won't clean all of the ducts for the price on the coupon.

"Coupon may say for $25, but the deeper cleaning is gonna cost more," an employee said.

FOX6's "homeowner" declined the deeper cleaning, paid the $25, and the workers promptly left, less than 30 minutes after they arrived.

Contact 6 then invited Tom Morgenroth to view the hidden camera video, and tell us what he thinks about what we experienced.

Morgenroth is a 17-year air duct cleaning veteran, and a member of NARI - the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

"There's no such thing as partial duct cleaning.  Either you clean all the ducts or you don't clean them. You don't clean ducts with a Shop Vac. That may be duct cleaning equipment, but it's not being used the correct way. This is a consumer's worst nightmare," Morgenroth said.

Then, Contact 6 called the owner of United Duct Cleaning, Gal Yarimi, who said customers are told over the phone about the coupon's restrictions.

"They can get the $25 coupon, but it's going to be only a basic cleaning.  If they want to get more than the basic cleaning, we have other services, and when people call, they know this," Yarimi said.

However, Contact 6 was not given that information when we called. To this, Yarimi says he'll make a change.

"Now, maybe, to get less headache, I'm going to write it on the coupon as well. What I'm gonna do next month, I'm gonna write on the coupon that the $25 is only basic cleaning, on top on what the lady says over the phone," Yarimi said.

It is a change Jansson wishes could have been made a long time ago.

"I would do a lot of investigation before I hired another company to clean my duct work!" Jansson said.

That's exactly what Contact 6 always recommends - doing your homework to avoid a headache!

You should always check the air duct cleaning company's background with the Better Business Bureau, and make sure to get at least two estimates before bringing workers into your home.

Complete air duct cleaning is typically in the $300 to $400 range, and should take a couple hours to complete.