BBB warns consumers to be cautious of ads promising free Amish- made heaters this winter. Don't get burned! BBB | Greater Maryland has a history of receiving consumer complaints for Heat Surge products. Past complaints began after full-page ads ran in the Baltimore Sun.
A two-page advertisement crafted to look like an article ran in a newspaper insert in our region this month. The ad uses an 'apples to oranges' comparison about the product's energy consumption. A headline offers a 'free heater,' while costs for the fireplace mantle are buried within the text of the 'article'.
Other controversial products and services marketed by companies under the Arthur Middleton Capital Holdings umbrella, which owns Heat Surge, have included an offer of "absolutely free" $2 bills, healthcare plans and "free" digital TV converter boxes. The TV converter box ads were labeled misleading and confusing by the Columbus, Ohio, BBB in 2008.
More than 350 consumers have filed complaints against Heat Surge in the last three years. Complaints covered a wide range of business practices, including advertising, service, customer service and refunds. An additional 300 have filed complaints against Universal Syndications/World Reserve Monetary Exchange for the latest string of ads in the Mid-West. Many of the complaints dealt with concerns over misleading ads, high-pressure sales tactics, an inability to get refunds and problems with subsequent charges for additional products the consumers did not want.
Since 2007, attorneys general in at least three states have taken action against the firm. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal that year called on consumers to reject the company's "phony discount offer" for sheets of $1 bills, as advertised in full-page newspaper ads. In May 2008, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley obtained an agreement from the company to stop running misleading coin and currency advertisements. In July 2009, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett reached an agreement calling for the company to stop misleading advertising and to refund money to consumers. Corbett said the company's full-page newspaper ads offering millions of dollars in surplus cash were deceptive. "These advertisements led people to believe that they could claim cash that was 'up for grabs,' but that was not the case at all," Corbett said.