Attorney General Gansler's Announces Final Order
Against Maryland Locksmith
Around the Clock Locksmith Ordered to Pay Restitution and Penalties
BALTIMORE, MD ( May 12, 2011) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that his Consumer Protection Division has issued a Final Order against a Maryland locksmith, Around the Clock Locksmith, and its owner Joseph M. Horton. The Division ordered the company and its owner to pay over $132,000 in restitution to consumers and $274,800 in civil monetary penalties.
The Consumer Protection Division concluded that Around the Clock Locksmith and Horton violated the Consumer Protection Act through a “gauntlet of unfair trade practices designed to coerce consumers into paying their inflated fees. " These practices included refusing to provide consumers with estimates or providing low ball estimates and then using unfair tactics to force consumers to pay high fees. For example, the Division found that Around the Clock and Horton charged $1,056.76 to unlock a car, when the quoted price was $85.00; $953.72 to unlock a truck, when there was no quote at all; $1,761.86 to open a single house lock, after refusing to give a quote; and $4,348.19 to drill and replace a lock and deadbolt. When consumers protested the company's charges, Horton used a variety of tactics that the Division found to be unfair and deceptive, including blocking consumers' vehicles, refusing to return consumers' keys, credit cards and other personal items until they agreed to pay the inflated charges, charging the consumers' credit cards before the charges were authorized by the consumers, and falsely reassuring consumers that their insurance policies would cover the costs when, in fact, most carriers provide little or no coverage for locksmith services.
“You can't provide a low estimate to get your foot in the door and then charge multiples of that estimate to perform the service," said Attorney General Gansler. “The Order requires Around the Clock Locksmith and its owner to provide accurate estimates and to stick by them. "
In addition to overcharging consumers, the Division found that Around the Clock Locksmith and Horton made a number of false statements concerning their status and experience, such as falsely claiming to be a former police officer and member of the military; exaggerating professional experience; falsely claiming to be a member in good standing of the Better Business Bureau; claiming licensure that they did not have; and using the name of a competitor to steal its customers.
Consumers should always ask for estimates before purchasing any service and to be wary of companies that will not provide estimates. Consumers may contact the Consumer Protection Division to find out if there have been complaints filed against a business by other consumers. For more information, consumers may call the Consumer Protection hotline at (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free.