Locksmith complaints stem from upselling, false advertising
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In October, the Pennsylvania attorney general filed a lawsuit against a locksmith and home repair company Always In Service, charging they misled consumers by offering low quotes and then demanding exorbitant fees upon arrival. They are also accused of falsely advertising "certified master locksmiths" (Pennsylvania doesn't license locksmiths), using numerous fictitious business names and more than 300 phone numbers routed to a single office in Abington, Pa., to convince customers they were contacting a local company.
The Pennsylvania lawsuit is just one attempt to crack down on deceitful locksmiths around the country. In May, the operators of Dependable Locks were indicted in Missouri on federal charges and were the focus of an Angie's List Magazine story (read "Locksmiths complaints are on the rise"), and in August two owners of a North Carolina locksmith company were banned from doing business using a similar business model.
Always In Service and Dependable Locks did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Angie's List has logged more than 140 negative reports about locksmiths across the country in the past year. Many described a similar pattern of service from companies that often advertised phony local addresses and phone numbers in print and online.
When member Lella Baker found herself locked out of her Marlborough, Mass., condo in the middle of the night last October, she found Beantown Locksmith advertising $18 service calls online. She says the company operator promised her the added fee for an emergency lockout would be $45, but the technician who showed up demanded $365 after drilling out her lock.
"I was absolutely exhausted because I had just flown across the country and I didn't think to call the police," says Baker, who discovered the company is based in New Jersey.
She's now disputing $300 of the charge through her bank. A representative at Beantown's number hung up when Angie's List Magazine called multiple times for comment.