Just as you should find a doctor before you get sick, it’s a good idea to find a locksmith before you’re locked out. Otherwise, you may end up in an emergency situation with an unscrupulous locksmith.
Throughout the years, consumers have reported various problems regarding locksmiths to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Some said locksmiths caused damage to their homes or charged them hundreds of dollars more than expected. Others said that after the services were performed, they were unable to get the locksmith to respond to complaints.
In 2006, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against Superb Solutions, a New York locksmith business based in the Bronx that operated as Locksmith 24-Hour. It advertised in the Cleveland area and gave consumers the impression that it had various physical locations throughout that area.
In some cases consumers who were locked out of their cars or homes called Locksmith 24-Hour, thinking it was the closest locksmith available based on the addresses listed in the business’ advertisements.
Consumers generally were told the cost of picking the lock would be $50 to $70. They later experienced a variety of problems, such as the business sending a locksmith who drilled and replaced the lock instead of picking it, which meant a much more expensive bill than consumers expected. One consumer’s bill was nearly $1,000. Once the work was done, some consumers received receipts that failed to list a business address, which would help them in pursuing complaints.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit charged the business with multiple violations of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act. The case ended with a consent judgment noting several violations, including failing to inform consumers of their right to an estimate before starting the work, charging for repairs or services that the consumer did not authorize, and failing to provide consumers with an itemized list of repairs or services performed. The business was ordered to pay civil penalties and consumer restitution.
With the prevalence and convenience of the Internet, many locksmiths (and locksmith scammers) advertise online. They may list a local address in their online ad, but be sure to check the address yourself, using an independent online map feature or similar tool. In some cases, you may find that the locksmith’s advertised place of business is actually a busy intersection, a shopping mall, a delivery service store, or a vacant building.
To avoid problems with locksmiths:
Find a reputable locksmith before you need one. Check whether any complaints have been filed against the business with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau.
Be cautious of online ads for locksmiths. Research multiple businesses rather than selecting the first service you find online.
Be wary of businesses that operate under multiple business names. They could be using multiple names to hide unsatisfactory business practices from consumers.
Once you find a locksmith, log the business’ phone number or contact information into your phone so that you can access the information when you are locked out.
If you are locked out of your vehicle, determine whether your roadside assistance program (if you have one) offers locksmith services.
When a locksmith arrives at your home or vehicle, check the representative’s identification. Be wary if the locksmith arrives in an unmarked car or has no official identification.
Be skeptical if the locksmith says the only way to open the lock is to break it. Most skilled locksmiths can open locks without destroying them. Plus, breaking the lock could cause damage to your property and result in much higher costs.
If you suspect an unfair business practice, file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.