Can I Be Forced to Pay for a Service Fee if I was Not Informed of it Prior to the Service?

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“I own a business that needed its septic tank serviced. I found a company that was willing to perform the service. When a representative came to my business, he was unable to open the tank. He informed me that he would have to go to Home Depot to purchase tools and accessories to open the tank (for an extra charge=150.00). I told him that it was unnecessary and  I did not want the service any longer because he couldn’t open it and because I didn’t think that was part of his profession. He told me that there was a service charge of a $150.00 (the same amount if the services(not including the home depot charges) were actually rendered). I informed him that I would not be willing to pay for services not rendered. He told me it was a fee for coming out to my business. I told him that he should have informed me of such a charge prior to coming out to my business. He responded by telling me that I should have known that such a fee is customary. His attorney has sent me a letter that now has a bill of $400.00.

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

The issue, I believe, is whether the company should have informed me of the service charge prior to them coming out to my business. In the end, will I be held accountable for the bill in court?”

In general, a consumer must be given notice of a fee to provide an estimate.  The situation you describe is one for which many states have enacted consumer protection laws to prevent.  Consumer protection laws are designed to prevent unfair business practices such as false advertising and fraud.  You should consult an attorney with knowledge about the consumer protection laws in your state to determine if this company is in violation of any such consumer protection law.  Depending on where you live, you may also consider contacting a local consumer protection agency to better advise you of your rights.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.