BBB a Key Player in Helping Md AG Shut
Down Local Locksmith
With a generous dose of cooperation by your BBB, the
Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division announced on April 7,
2010 the issue of a Cease and Desist Order against Around the Clock Locksmith
(ATCL) and its owner, Joseph M. Horton. The Pasadena business is charged
with billing customer's excessive, even outlandish fees and deceptive practices
related to estimates of charges prior to delivery of the service.
Consumers reported to BBB unauthorized credit card charges from the business
when the consumer disputed or declined the service upon learning of the fees.
Better Business Bureau began receiving multiple consumer disputes against ATCL
in August, 2009 and to date has received 18 reportable complaints, all of which
were addressed or answered by Mr. Horton but did not result in refunds to the
consumers. In addition, BBB received letters of information by an
additional 55 consumers notifying BBB of their experiences as indicated in the
Maryland Attorney General's allegations. These letters of experience
combined with the consumer complaints enabled BBB to detect a pattern of
deceptive and misleading practices resulting in the company's "F"
Rating and ineligibility for BBB Accredited Business membership.
As every consumer is encouraged to purchase insurance as a safety net for
unexpected emergencies, BBB encourages every home and car owner to identify a
reputable locksmith within their local community. Store that contact
information in both your mobile phone and wallet, and your memory so you do not
find yourself at the mercy of someone holding the only key to entry back into
your personal property.
In March of this year, after discovering the keys to their home had remained
inside while they enjoyed an evening out, ATCL was contacted by local residents
and had the couple inside their home within ten minutes. The bill
presented for this work totaled $881 which included a $675 service call
fee. Another Marylander reported during the winter snowstorms, ATCL was
called out to assist with a locked car with no key which was blocking the snow
removal route, and the final charge for this service exceeded $1000.
BBB | Greater Maryland recommends the following tips for considering a
- Research a
locksmith before one is needed by going to www.bbb.org to search for a
reputable locksmith and verifying certification with the Associated
Locksmiths of America http://www.aloa.org/
- If a company
answers the phone with a generic phrase like "locksmith services,"
rather than a company-specific name, be wary. Ask for the legal name of
the business. If the person refuses, call another locksmith.
- Get an estimate
for all work and replacement parts from the locksmith before work begins.
In cases of "lock-outs" (being locked out of your car or home),
most legitimate locksmiths will give you an estimate on the phone for the
total cost of the work.
- Ask about
additional fees before you agree to have the locksmith perform the work.
Companies may charge extra for responding to a call in the middle of the
night. Ask if there is a charge for mileage, or a minimum fee for a
- If the price
the locksmith provides when he arrives doesn't jibe with the estimate you
got on the telephone, do not allow the work to be done.
- All service
vehicles, vans and trucks should be clearly marked with the company name
and identifying details.
- The qualified
locksmith should always ask for your proof of ID and authorization to
begin work upon arrival, as well as supply his or her own professional
identification and credentials.