$13,698 to Unclog a Toilet?
MILWAUKEE (CN) - A 73-year-old man who called plumbers to unclog a toilet says they stuck him with a bill for $13,698. He claims that "part of the employees' job description" at Flat Rate Plumbing "is to 'upsell' the consumer."
Terrence McCaigue sued Flat Rate Plumbing, of New Berlin, in Milwaukee County Court. He says he called Flat Rate on March 31 because he had a clogged toilet, and "By April 1, 2011, one day after his initial phone call, Terrence McCaigue had a bill from Flat Rate for $13,698.12."
McCaigue says that "part of the employees' job description is to 'upsell' the consumer, i.e. to consumer to hire Flat Rate to do more work than the consumer contemplated when they called Flat Rate."
Flat Rate also wheedles its customers into obtaining financing to pay for work they don't need and cannot afford, McCaigue says.
He says the two Flat Rate employees who came to his home told him his clogged toilet "could not be fixed and needed to be replaced. Upon information and belief, this statement was false."
They asked to see the rest of the plumbing, and told him that most of it needed to be replaced too, he says.
The plumbers told him a second toilet had to be replaced because it was loose and "costing him money;" that a bathroom sink "had to be replaced because it had a small stain and a sticky handle;" that a hot water heater "needed to be replaced because it was 'outdated' and 'costing him money;" and that the area near a sink "needed to be replaced because it was not 'up to code.'"
McCaigue sais he "had not been experiencing problems with any of the plumbing in his home with the exception of the clogged toilet." He says he "never asked for additional work and even told Flat Rate that he did not have to funds to pay for any replacement plumbing."
That's when the employees told him they could help him get financing for it, McCaigue says, though they didn't put their promises in writing.
He claims that "Flat Rate regularly assists their customers in obtaining credit to finance their work."
He says they gave him a "Kwik Comfort Consumer Application," which stated that he should "read the attached credit card agreement and sign below," but there was no credit card agreement attached. And he says the pre-printed application did not comply with state law.
He says Flat Rate told him he would get 2 years of deferred interest, though the Kwik Comfort application said interest would be deferred for only 1 year.
McCaigue says the plumber charged his new credit card $6,743.12 and showed up at is house the next day and told him that "even more of his plumbing needed to be replaced and that they could help him get additional financing to pay for the work."
GE Money Bank, the apparent issuer of the Kwik Comfort credit, would not increase his credit limit, though, so the Flat Rate plumbers told him that for their second bill, of $6,955, they would take a $3,000 money order-which they did take-put another $756.88 on his GE Money Bank credit card, and put another $3,198.12 on the credit card next year.
To top it off, McCaigue says, Flat Rate never told him they needed a permit to do the work, never got a permit until after the work was done, and disputed, and that a city inspector found that Flat Rate's work had violated the building code.
McCaigue seeks rescission of unconscionable contracts, restitution of $10,529, punitive damages, and damages for misrepresentation and for violations of at least seven Wisconsin statutes. He is represented by Nicole Zimmer and Mary Kendrick of Legal Action of Wisconsin.