Members say Tampa-area HVAC company sold useless warranties and unnecessary work
Before joining Angie’s List, Carol Ann Fratina of Sun City Center paid Clearwater-based World Class Heating & Cooling $600 to replace her system’s blower. Over the course of a two-year contract she signed with the company in 2010, she says she paid them $4,200 but believes they never replaced the blower and charged hundreds of dollars for filters. When her unit broke down last year, she hired another company to fix it, and says the technician told her she’d been overcharged. “The A/C was covered in oil, rust and mold, even though I’d only had it three years,” she says.
Fratina learned upon joining the List that the company has an overall F from members, with nine straight F reviews since 2006, including three in 2012. Of their 11 reports, only two — an A and a D, both in 2006 — are higher than an F. Angie’s List ultimately named World Class one of Tampa’s Worst Contractors of 2012.
The company responded by calling Fratina’s report “ridiculous.” “We’re a reputable company,” World Class owner Tom Pursley told Angie’s List Magazine. “We’ve handled every one of these complaints.”
Clients also filed 23 complaints in the past four years with the Pinellas County Office of Consumer Protection and seven complaints with the Florida Attorney General. Angie’s List members reported that the company subjected them to high-pressure sales tactics, unexpected charges and entreaties for unnecessary work. The company resolved one 2012 Pinellas County complaint by repairing the work; another, filed in August, remains pending.
Member Jim Sullivan says he hired World Class in 2010 to install a new A/C for $5,400 after receiving a marketing call. The St. Petersburg member says the unit works well, but the 10-year warranty included with the purchase proved worthless. “They won’t honor the parts and labor warranty they sold me,” he says, adding that the company continues to pressure him to buy expensive upgrades.
Doug Templeton, chief investigator for the consumer protection office in Pinellas, says most of the 23 complaints the company has received since 2009 involve aggressive sales techniques and unfair charges. He says the county only takes action against unlicensed companies and attempts to mediate complaints, referring cases for prosecution if consumers allege criminal activity. Molly McFarland, spokeswoman for the state attorney general, says her office received seven complaints about World Class, but none resulted in an investigation.
The company holds a state air-conditioning license. They registered the license in Hillsborough County, but Pinellas County regulators say Thomas Hackney, who is responsible for all work done under the license, withdrew his name from the registration on Aug. 9, and the license remained closed as of press time. Citing legal concerns, Hackney declined to comment.
Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board investigator Don Balas says the company can’t legally work in the county without a license. “I can’t recommend or not recommend a company, but personally, I wouldn’t use them,” he says. Templeton says the complaints don’t necessarily constitute illegal activity. “There’s no price control in Florida, so the company can charge what they want for the work,” he says. “No matter what company it is, if they’re offering something like a $3,000 UV light, you should ask around and get second opinions.”