Texas AG Shuts Down Unlawful El Paso Air Conditioning Business

July 6, 2006

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has obtained a temporary restraining order against the owner of an El Paso, Texas, air conditioning business whose faulty installation of residential air conditioning units without a building permit caused hundreds of consumers’ electrical systems to trip circuit breakers and black out services.

Defendant Rockney D. Bacchus and his company, AC Experts, which manufactures residential air conditioning units under the brand names Freus and Luxaire and sells them to the public, are also accused of misrepresenting to consumers that the air conditioning units installed in their residences were new, brand-name products that had passed inspection by a testing agency, when in fact the units had not been tested and were a different brand that often contained used parts. The defendant is also accused of advertising the units for sale at one price and then swindling consumers with a higher price later.

“With the summer heat upon us, Texas consumers must be able to rely on licensed, honorable businesses to provide quality cooling services and installation,” said Abbott. “This business took advantage of trusting consumers with a bait-and-switch scheme, and I am determined to provide relief to El Paso consumers by shutting down this unlawful operation.”

According to the lawsuit filed under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), Bacchus allegedly was notified by the City of El Paso that it would not issue building permits to him for a year after he allowed previous building permits to expire or be revoked for not obtaining required final inspections of his installation work by the City Building Permits and Inspections Department. Bacchus continued installing units without a permit, often arranging for other entities to fraudulently obtain a permit on his behalf.

The Attorney General also alleges that Bacchus failed to submit the air conditioning units for required testing by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) before installing them in residences. On numerous occasions, Bacchus allegedly sold and installed units that had not been tested, or he simply affixed an unauthorized seal or mark to the unit himself to falsely represent to the consumer that it had passed testing.

After faulty installation of a unit, the lawsuit alleges, Bacchus often intentionally neglected to ask municipal authorities for final inspection, knowing that the shoddy workmanship would not pass inspection. This failure left the unsuspecting consumer with an unapproved, dangerous air conditioning unit.

Bacchus is also accused of selling and installing air conditioning units that surpassed the size necessary for the square footage of the residence. In these instances, the units were beyond the electrical capacity of the house and caused electrical systems to trip circuit breakers or black out services altogether. He allegedly also sold and installed units that he was not authorized by the manufacturer to install.

The lawsuit also claims that deceptive billboard and newspaper advertisements offering AC Experts’ air conditioning units at a certain price in large, bold print with a small-print disclaimer indicating an additional fee for “permits (if required)” were misleading to consumers as permits are always required for installation.

The lawsuit seeks a permanent shutdown of the operation and civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the DTPA.

Source: Texas Attorney General’s Office

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