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The Better Business Bureau announced on Thursday its annual "Dirty Dozen" list of area businesses with the most unanswered complaints in 2013.
Last year, consumers filed 13,993 complaints with the BBB against businesses in the Southern Piedmont area of N.C. and S.C.
"In 2013, the BBB resolved a record-high 90 percent of complaints because the majority of businesses worked with us to address customer issues," said BBB President Tom Bartholomy. "Unfortunately though, there are businesses that don't respond to complaints at all, and those businesses are the ones that have made our Dirty Dozen list."
The top two companies with the most unanswered complaints are collection agencies that specialize in collecting payday loans taken out online.
"Payday lending is a brand new market for debt collectors," said Bartholomy, "but the debt collectors are still required to adhere to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act."
Two businesses on the BBB's 2013 Dirty Dozen list were also on the 2012 Dirty Dozen List. "One of these businesses has been on our list three times," said Bartholomy.
"When companies don't respond to complaints, they usually don't stay in business very long because consumers are doing their homework and checking businesses out," Bartholomy added. "However, some businesses, like Home Appliance Repair, repeatedly change their name and use aliases to make it difficult for consumers to find out about their complaint record."
The top 12 businesses with the most unanswered complaints from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013 are:
1. PDL Recovery Services (BBB Grade F) - Charlotte-based PDL Recovery Services is a debt collector that specializes in collecting payday loans taken out online. PDL Recovery Services had 21 unanswered complaints in 2013 and 22 total complaints in the last 36 months. Complainants from 19 states allege that PDL collectors used harassing and threatening tactics in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act which included: 1) calling repeatedly, 2) contacting their employers to tell them that the person is going to be arrested, and 3) impersonating law enforcement personnel. Complainants also allege that PDL did not provide requested documentation to prove that the debt was valid.
"With payday lending barred in many states including N.C., payday lenders have set up shop on the Internet where business is booming," said Bartholomy. "Instead of driving across the state line to Fort Mill or Gaffney to get a payday loan, consumers are going online."
2. Luchey & Mitchell Recovery Solutions LLC (BBB Grade F) – Charlotte-based Luchey & Mitchell Recovery Solutions is another debt collector that specializes in collecting payday loans taken out online. The company had 10 unanswered complaints in 2013 and a total of 10 complaints in the previous 36 months. Complainants from eight states allege that Luchey & Mitchell collectors used harassing and threatening collection calls in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Complainants also allege that Luchey & Mitchell did not provide requested documentation to prove that the debt was valid.
3. Ancestral Books LLC (BBB Grade F) – Monroe-based Ancestral Books sells historic books and periodicals online. The company had nine unanswered complaints in 2013 and 19 total complaints from consumers in 11 states and four countries. Complainants state that they purchased books and periodicals that they have not received and they have not been able to obtain refunds.
4. Asset Property Management (BBB Grade F) - Cornelius-based Asset Property Management is owned by Sky Mikesell who promotes Retireonrentals.com. This company had eight unanswered complaints in 2013 and 11 total complaints in the last 36 months. Complainants from Charlotte, Cornelius and Waxhaw have filed complaints against Asset Property Management. The majority of complaints are from renters who allege that Asset Property Management sold the home or apartment that they are renting to new investors, but they did not transfer their deposits, which average $800, to the new owners.
5. Mathis Towing & Recovery (BBB Grade F) – Based in Charlotte, Mathis Towing & Recovery had seven unanswered complaints in 2013 and 20 total complaints in the last 36 months from consumers in Mecklenburg, Gaston and Cabarrus Counties. Complainants allege that there was inadequate signage in the parking lots from which they were towed and they cite possible violations of Charlotte's towing ordinance. One complainant claims that Mathis Towing & Recovery towed their U-Haul moving truck filled with their belongings during the middle of their move to a new apartment and that they had to pay $500 to get the moving truck back.
6. Fence Masters Unlimited (BBB Grade F) – Based in Chester, S.C., Fence Masters Unlimited had six unanswered complaints in 2013 and 13 total complaints in the last 36 months. Complainants from N.C. and S.C. allege that they paid Fence Masters Unlimited $1,500 to $9,100 for fences that have not been installed at all, or only partially installed, and that they have not been able to get refunds.
7. Southend Car Store (BBB Grade F) – This Charlotte auto repair service had six unanswered complaints in 2013 and 20 total complaints in the last 36 months. Complainants in Charlotte, Matthews and Mint Hill allege that the price charged was higher than the price quoted, that the repairs took longer than projected, or that the vehicle continued to have mechanical problems following the repair work. REPEAT OFFENDER: #6 on the BBB's 2012 Dirty Dozen List
8. Home Appliance Repair (BBB Grade F) – Gastonia-based Home Appliance Repair is on the list again with five unanswered complaints in 2013 and 31 total complaints in the last 36 months. Consumers in eight counties in N.C. and S.C., (Mecklenburg, Gaston, Lincoln, Iredell, Cabarrus, Catawba, Union and York), have filed complaints with the BBB claiming they paid Michael David Henderson for appliance repairs that they allege were not done properly, if at all. TRIPLE REPEAT OFFENDER: #1 on 2011 and 2012 Dirty Dozen Lists
"According to complainants, Henderson determined that the broken appliance needed a part, collected the money for the part, but then didn't return to install it," Bartholomy said. "With his frequent business name changes, he has made it very difficult for consumers to track him down to get their money back."
Customers have not been able to track Henderson down, but the police did. In December, the Gastonia Police Department arrested Henderson on six outstanding warrants – two felonies and two misdemeanors from Iredell County and two misdemeanors from Mecklenburg County – all of the warrants were related to taking money and not performing work. Henderson's court date is March 19 in Statesville.
9. Dealer Deals Direct, Inc. (BBB Grade F) – Charlotte-based Dealer Deals Direct sells software online at www.dealerdealsdirect.com. Consumers allege that they paid $300 to $800 for Microsoft and Adobe software that they could not register or use because it had previously been registered or was counterfeit. The company had five unanswered complaints in 2013 and 13 total complaints in the last 36 months from consumers in eight states and Canada.
10. Home Energy Services, Ltd. (BBB Grade F) – Consumer complaints about Conover-based Home Energy Services focus on high pressure sales tactics used to sell home insulating products and windows. Complainants paid deposits up to $4,700 for new windows and attic insulation, but the company did not return to install the windows. Complainants cite problems canceling their contracts and getting refunds. The company had five unanswered complaints in 2013 and five total complaints in the last 36 months.
11. Sole Individual (BBB Grade F) – On its website, Sole Individual describes itself as a "street wear brand." Based in Charlotte, this company sells "SNDVL" branded clothing and accessories online. Consumers allege that they ordered and paid for merchandise, but did not receive it. The company had five unanswered complaints in 2013 and nine total complaints in the last 36 months.
12. Johnson & Associates (BBB Grade F) – Based in Rock Hill, Tamara Johnson runs Johnson & Associates out of her home. Complainants allege that she promised that she could repair their credit, modify their mortgage, get them a grant, and/or get them financed for a home loan, for an advanced fee. In N.C., it is illegal to charge an advanced fee for debt adjusting services such as credit repair, mortgage modification, loans and grants, but not in S.C. Although Johnson is based in S.C., three of the four complainants live in N.C. The N.C. Attorney General has previously sought judgments against debt adjusting services located in S.C. that have victims in N.C. Johnson & Associates has four unanswered complaints in 2013 and nine total complaints in the previous 36 months.
"The easiest way that consumers can protect themselves against bad businesses is to check a company out with the BBB, before they sign a contract," said Bartholomy. "It's fast, easy and free."
Consumers can check out businesses online at www.bbb.org or they can call the BBB (toll-free in NC and SC) at 1-877-317-7236.