Association makes case over 'right to cancel' concerns

April 28, 2000
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Leaders of a state contractors’ organization are pushing elected officials to tone down recent legislation that makes it perhaps a bit too easy for homeowners to back out of an hvacr installation or service job.

Officers of the Northern Illinois Air Conditioning Contractors of America (NIACCA) met with Illinois Attorney General James Ryan to discuss the higher profile the state’s “Right to Cancel” law has had since the first of the year.

Chris Colditz of Laco Mechanical Services, Palatine, IL, and NIACCA president, said one aspect of the discussion was realization that contractors throughout the nation need to check for similar legislation in their home states.

For example, she noted that state laws may not be clear over how contractors can use waivers to get around options that homeowners have to cancel, within three days, an agreement to have installation or service work done. For example, in Illiniois, if it is not an actual emergency, the contractor cannot ask or accept a waiver from the consumer to go ahead and take care of the problem on that first call, she said.

The Illinois Right to Cancel ruling goes back to the days of door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen, but now seems to encompass anyone who walks through a homeowner’s door to sell something, even high-efficiency furnaces.

Adding to the confusion is ambiguity over what happens if a homeowner asks a contractor to remove a newly installed furnace. It is probable, Colditz said, that the furnace is “real property” and by taking it out, it decreases the value of the real estate. That, she said, raises questions not envisioned by the Right to Cancel rulings.

Or, she asked, what happens if the furnace is required to be taken out during an extreme cold spell? “Who’s liable for a wrongful death in a cold house?”

Colditz said NIACCA is working to get state elected officials to put more weight on parts-and-labor warranties that have long been used in the industry as being a better way to deal with customer concerns.

It’s possible, she said, that legislators would want more than 30- or 90-day warranties, but she noted that many flat-rate contractors already offer one-year warranties.

Colditz said NIAACA is sending out surveys seeking feedback from contractors over their experiences with Right to Cancel issues.

The organization is also trying to gauge how many customers cancel an actual installation when they find they can get the same unit cheaper from another contractor, especially when overtime is not involved.

Colditz said state officials might be more sympathetic to the contractors’ plight if cost was the only issue, since there is a concern among elected officials over low-ballers and fly-by-night contractors.

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