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BBB: Snowplow complaints pouring in, several businesses not showing up as contracted

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Thu, Dec 18th 2014 02:40 pm

BBB offers advice to hire trustworthy services

Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York reports dozens of consumers from Rochester and Buffalo have filed complaints after the recent snow fall, stating the plow companies they hired aren't showing up to do the job.

BBB has issued an alert about Met Construction, currently rated NR because of insufficient background information. The company, located in Rochester, has generated a high volume of complaints. BBB is currently processing complaints where consumers say they paid upfront for the whole season and could not get through to the owners on the phone. The owner was arrested over the weekend.

In Buffalo, consumers filed similar complaints about Affordable Concrete, which is currently F rated. BBB issued an alert on the company's business review and contacted the owner for response on several occasions regarding complaints on file. BBB has not yet received responses to any complaints. BBB also is processing complaints for several other snow removal businesses.

"To avoid being left in the cold without service, it's critical to find a trusted, reliable business," said Warren Clark, BBB of Upstate New York president. "BBB urges consumers to check with us first and research before making payment. In many of these situations, we are reporting a substandard track record. Knowing that kind of information can help spare consumers from this kind of trouble."

BBB Business Reviews offer standard information as well as complaint history for everyone to use in their research. BBB's complaint process allows for both sides to work toward a resolution, generally allowing 30 calendar days for responses. Recent complaints filed will not be reported until BBB's process, which allows for rebuttals, concludes. BBB also reports unanswered complaints that will affect the company's business review and rating. If BBB sees a pattern of complaints with a certain company, an investigation is opened.

BBB urges consumers to keep these tips in mind when hiring snow removal services:

•Look for experience. Each home or business is different, and experience does matter. Consumers need to make sure everyone who works for a company has relevant experience, not just the owner. Price factors include: property layout, the size of the service area and whether customers request removal of snow from other areas such as sidewalks or walkways.

•Ask how jobs are scheduled. Some contractors do snowplowing as a part-time job, which may affect their availability. Always check to see if there is a schedule for snow removal.

•Get more than one estimate. There can be a lot of factors to consider with snow removal. BBB recommends consumers get at least three estimates before making a decision. Ask for all the costs upfront to avoid any surprises. Keep in mind the lowest price is not always the best indicator of the best service.

•Ask about insurance. Who is responsible if your home or grounds are damaged during the winter season? Find out what type of insurance coverage potential contractors provide, as well as homeowner's insurance. Does a municipality require the contractor to have a permit or license? Consumers need to make some calls to find out and then check to make sure the contractor is appropriately covered. 

•Review the contract. Consumers should not have to settle for a verbal agreement; the contractor should provide a written contract. A representative should come out to look at the property and make notes about services requested and potential obstacles. Find out how to terminate the agreement if necessary. Get all of these details in writing and always read before you sign. Know all the terms and conditions of the contract. Understand cancellation fees and any extra charges that may apply.

•Split the payments. Find out how the company expects payment. Most snowplow contracts take two forms: pay per plowing or pay per season. If consumers choose a pay per season contract in a light snow season, the contractor is not obligated to refund any money. If consumers are expected to pay all fees upfront, consider it a red flag. Most contractors will split fees into two or three payments: one at the beginning, middle and end of the season. Never pay cash.

Get contact information. Make sure to get contact information for the company in the case of a snow emergency, and know the policies about who to reach, standard contact phone numbers and any special number for urgent needs.

Beware of scams. Remember even if a business appears to be reliable, it does not mean it is. When a company is reluctant to answer questions, won't supply proper information or is unwilling to offer references, there could be cause for concern.

Check with BBB. BBB provides background information, complaint history and resolution to complaints in its business reviews. Check out snow removal services at bbb.org. If you can't find a business review, ask the BBB to start one.

For scam alerts, tips and other information, visit bbb.org.

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