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Emergency Situations Open Door For High Charges

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) No matter what the problem, frozen pipes, dead car, or lost keys, you may end up paying more for a service call during an emergency. What a company charges for a service is not regulated, and legally they can set the price as high or as low as they like. It’s up to you as a consumer to decide whether or not to pay that price. An emergency situation is a tough time to be making sound decisions.

Jeanie Volleberg found herself in just that sort of situation. She was the manager on duty at 70th Avenue Self Storage one evening when one of the store front businesses had a problem with its lock.

“The emergency was I could not leave the tenants unit unlocked or expect them to stay there overnight,” Volleberg told CBS4.

She needed the lock fixed fast, so she relied on the phone book. She found an advertisement that promised that the company was reliable and would respond quickly.

But when the workman showed up, Volleberg said it was a different story. He showed up in a van that was not marked with a company logo, and she said he didn’t have the proper tools for the job.

“He told me it would be right around $700, $800,” Volleberg said.

total Emergency Situations Open Door For High Charges

(Credit: CBS)

She ok’d the work, got a detailed invoice for $736, and she put the expense on her credit card. Volleberg agreed to the transaction with no real idea of how much a job like that would cost. Later, when the emergency was over, she called around to see what some other companies would charge. She got estimates that ranged from $75 to $100.

“We see a lot of problems with them(locksmiths) as far as their pricing, their service, their advertising,” said Megan Herrera, with the Better Business Bureau of Denver.

The BBB has more than 20 locksmiths in the Metro Area with F-ratings, including the company that Volleberg called. CBS4 has decided not to name the locksmith because legally the service man didn’t do anything wrong. Locksmiths are not regulated and charge whatever they like. 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks did talk to a manager of the company by phone.

“All the prices, both the receipt, the customers signs and agrees on the price. If they don’t sign and agree, we don’t do the job,” the manager said.

Volleberg did sign and agree to the work, but she disputed the charge with her credit card later. The locksmith still hasn’t been paid.

The manager of the locksmith company says he’s been in business for 6 years, and has had about 5-thousand customers. The BBB Web site shows 3 complaints and the F-rating. The manager also explained the high price tag as being a result of it being an emergency and a “lock-out” situation.

“The biggest thing is don’t, don’t let pressure get to you,” Volleberg said.

The key here is to do your research before the emergency every happens. Have a list of trusted locksmiths, plumbers, electricians and other service people. It’s always best to get several estimates, but in an emergency that may not be possible. And always asked for a detailed receipt, you may be able to negotiate the charges after the emergency is over.

RELATED: More Reports By 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks

- Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith

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