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BBB issues advisory on HomeServe

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of North Alabama has received numerous calls regarding a mailing from a company offering a program that provides water service line coverage. The mailing is sent by HomeServe USA, which provides a P.O. Box address in Birmingham on the mailing, but is actually located in Miami, Florida.

Many consumers contacting the BBB believe that the mailing is being sent in conjunction with their local utility company, however the letter does state “HomeServe is an independent company separate from your local utility or community.” Homeowners should be aware that the company is offering a service contract that only covers the main water line going from the water company’s outside connection into your home.

“This mailing provides a perfect example of why it’s so important that individuals read all of the terms and conditions of any offer they are considering,” says Michele Mason, President of the BBB of North Alabama. “By reading the fine print, homeowners will see that there are a number of exclusions that appear on the mailing that they will want to familiarize themselves with before making a decision as to whether or not the policy is needed for their home.”

Some of the exclusions include:  Acts of God; thawing of frozen pipes; repair of covered parts, equipment and/or systems due to reduction in performance caused by normal wear and tear; emergency breakdown to property having remained unoccupied for more than 30 days; repairs when parts are obsolete; costs to correct or upgrade a part, equipment and/or system in order to comply with the law; recalls, defects or class action suits; mobile homes, recreational vehicles, multiple unit dwellings, or commercial buildings or any residential home over 5,001 square feet.  

In addition, the mailing says that homeowners are limited to 2 claims per year - up to $3,000 per claim for a total of $6,000 in repairs per year.

The BBB suggests that consumers may want to check with a local, trusted plumber, to learn what types of problems could occur with a homeowner’s outside water line that are not excluded from HomeServe USA’s policy, and how likely it is that any of these issues will occur. From there, homeowners will want to determine what the maximum cost of those repairs could be to decide if the $59.88 annual fee would offset the cost of the repairs. The letter states that annual membership is automatically renewed for debit/credit card and E-Z Pay customers.
According to the BBB located in West Palm Beach, HomeServe USA is currently not being rated, because the BBB is reviewing the company’s advertising policies. During the last three years, 106 complaints have been filed with the BBB in West Palm Beach regarding HomeServe USA. In most cases the complaints were closed as resolved, although 1 matter was closed as unresolved.

The mailing indicates that AMT Warranty Corp. is the contract issuer for the service. The BBB in Fort Worth, TX shows that AMT Warranty Corp. is one of several namestyles affiliated with Warrantech Corporation, which offers service contracts and after market extended warranties on automotive and consumer products in the U.S. and internationally. The company currently has a C- rating due to 492 complaints that have been registered in the past three years, 51 of which have been determined by the BBB to be serious in nature.   Warrantech Corporation has responded to all complaints, and have resolved the majority of complaints, however 9 matters remain unresolved.  Complaints were regarding a variety of different services offered by Warrantech.

The BBB of West Palm Beach reports that two government actions have been filed regarding HomeServe USA:
On February 26, 2010 Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and his Office of Consumer Protection announced an agreement with Home Service USA and Home Service USA Repair Management regarding solicitations that were mailed to consumers in several Kentucky counties offering water line repair services.

On April 5, 2010, the office of the state of Ohio Attorney General entered into a voluntary compliance agreement with Home Service USA. Under this agreement, Home Service USA expressly denied any violation of and liability arising out of federal, state, or local law. However, in order to resolve the matter without the need for litigation, Home Service USA consented to enter the Assurance with the State, and the rights of the State to enforce the Assurance. Under these provisions Home Service USA shall refrain from using unfair, deceptive, and/or misleading advertisements, which would violate the Consumer Sales Practices Act, R.C. 1345.

For more information, you can contact your Better Business Bureau at 256-840-3888 or 800-239-1642.

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