when should (must?) the contract repairman return their fee

Are there laws or standardized professional norms (U.S.A.) in the repair trade (and here I’m not talking about informal arrangements but by professional repair businesses like plumbing or HVAC work) for when work should be redone free, or fees returned, etc?

My particular situation: I asked a firm to see why my central air wasn’t blowing cold air. They charged for the service call, for 1 hour of labor, and for 4.25 lbs of freon (total: $450). This helped for about two days and now I am back where I started. Since the same firm had replaced the freon 7 years ago and things worked fine, I assumed this diagnosis (freon had leaked out slowly) seemed correct. But now I’m wondering if (a) they mis-diagnosed the problem or (b) I have one huge leak that caused 4lbs of freon to enter our lovely atmosphere.

If (a), what should I expect to pay them for a 2nd visit? Any for labor beyond the first hour? Should I not pay for the service call fee? If (b), would this rather huge leak have been something they should have checked for (would it be easy to notice)? I.e., is there some sort of “consideration” they should give on the bill for the 2nd visit?

In other words: In my own consulting work, I wouldn’t refund money for a firm that asked me to work on the wrong thing or provide them with what they later decided they didn’t want or need, but I feel I would (should) redo for free any work that was shown to be flawed or not what was asked for. I sense I may need to point to some “standards,” if not law, that indicates that this firm should think similarly (or at least be assured that this stance is reasonable). No?

Most repair firms have a warranty that lasts 30 days or so. That normally means if the repair they make fails they fix it free for 30 days. It’s less clear if some other item needs to be repaired.

I had a car problem fixed and a few weeks later a nearby part failed. I called them up and they said bring the car in and they made the 2nd repair for free which was what I expected. I assumed the 2 fixes were related and I guess they did too. After that they gained a lot of respect from me.

Don’t most service places offer a warranty of some kind, where they will come back and re-fix it if they didn’t fix it properly in the first place? Does your receipt say anything about that?

ETA: Yeah, my experience, they usually offer a 30-day warranty, like Bijou Drains said.

Not an HVAC man, but in construction.

Call them for a return visit. While you should not need to pay the “service call fee” again (diagnosis), it may be possible that the leak is so small it did register or did not occur until the unit was under pressure blah blah. Depending on this, be prepared to pay for freon again. Of course, you need to pay for the repair of whatever the issue is.

You should discuss this beforehand (no service fee and no charge/reduced charge freon) so everyone is on the same page before the work is done. This avoids confusion and hard feelings. Ask what their policy is. It can’t be the first time they have run into this.

Standards? Pffft. It is up to the company to satisfy the customer as they see fit (or not). It’s not worth small claims court. They are fair and just or they aren’t. They know you will badmouth (or praise) them. Anyone who has been around knows that reputation takes two years to catch up to you for good or ill, but it most certainly catches up. If you plan on doing business in a town for years to come you do right. But “right” is in their experienced eyes, not your biased eyes (I want it free). To a large extent, it’s a matter of mutual trust.

Everyone must win. If my company wins (makes money) and you lose (get shafted) I lose business. You win and I lose…I go out of business and you lessen your access to quality work. The goal from all sides must be that everyone wins. True for life in general. “The shaft” is for the shortsighted.

In my ballgame (computer repair) I will generally credit any service charges from the first repair to the second.

I take 1 hour to fix on first trip, problem temporarily mitigated, but comes back.

2nd trip, 3 hours and another $100 in parts to fix. I credit the hour and still charge for the part. This is because if I would have realized those parts were needed initially I would have charged you then. So second trip is charged for 2 hours and parts, not 3 hours.

Auto repair guy here.
I give a couple of different warranties. 3 months /4,000 miles, or if we are talking about a factory replacement part it carries a 12 month /unlimited mileage warranty from the factory for both parts and labor.
I regularly write down, write off repairs due to the car had just been here for the same / very closely related repair.
Now with that said, let’s say you bring you car in because it won’t start. It has a bad ignition coil. I install a new coil and test the electrical system and all is well. I send you down the road. Three weeks later the fuel pump dies. Car will not start. Exact same symptom, but two different causes. Comes under the shit happens category.
In this case you would be charged for the second repair as it is not related even though the symptoms are the same, the causes are different. In this case I would work with the customer and cut them some slack on the price, but it is doubtful they would get the second repair for free unless there was some type of mitigating circumstance.
So getting back to the OP, there could be a second cause of the not cooling, that is unrelated to the low refrigerant level during the first visit.
A quality shop would probably re-inspect / diagnosis for free, but it is pretty much up to the shop owner to set his own policies.

There are some unknowns here. Were you advised that you had a leak and that it needed to be repaired?

This is what I would expect from a HVAC company in this situation.

When he gets there to check out the system. If I found the system low on gas then I would suspect a leak. I would then do a simple leak test to find the leak. It may be required evacuate the system and pressure testing it. Once the leak is found repair the leak, evacuate and re pressure test. Then evacuate again and recharge. If your system required 4.25 pounds for referagent that would be a major addition of gas. But before starting the work I would discuss the cost with the owner.

There are some service men who are known as blow and go guys. And there are some owners who will only pay for a blow and go job.

What I would expect if the size of the leak and proper repair was not discussed with me, would be that they would come out and diagnose the problem. If the problem is related to the origional problem then the service call would be at no expence. The parts less the gas would have a charge. If the problem was completly unrelated then they should insist on a complete service before continuing to work on you unit, I might not charge for the 1st hour.

By the way leaks normally start out small and get bigger.

Here’s what happened: He turned on the A/C in the condo, noticed it was blowing air and then went to the roof and noticed that the roof unit was not running. He took a panel off and pushed on something with a screwdriver and the roof unit started to run. He then used a meter to see if there was any freon and said it was completely empty. I asked him why the fan wasn’t running until when he pushed on it in this location (not sure what location or object he pushed on) and he said it was because there was no pressure from the freon since there was no freon in the system. He said that he then filled it with freon and charged me for the freon (4.25lbs) and 1 hour (not sure he was actually here for an hour, but I didn’t note the times). The A/C then produced cold air for a few days, but is now back to blowing very warm air. (I notice the thermostat seems to show a temperatue with no connection to reality, BTW. Not sure if that’s related. It says it is 80 degrees in here regardless of time of day, but it did that while cold air was blowing from the A/C as well as before and after.)

So…if he was to look for leaks and patch them, I don’t think he did (he didn’t mention it to me or put it on the work description).

Sounds like what is called a hack.
One should never use a screw drive to push in a relay, it can blow up in your face.:smack:

If it was completely flat he should of tried to find the leak and repaired it before adding any refrigerant probably R22 (freon is a brand name only). If there was no pressure then mooisture and air may have gotten into the system.

The proper way to do this job would have been turn the ac on by the stat to see if cold air was produced. Check the condencing unit, it it is not running get an electrical meter to see what was keeping it from starting. When he found the low pressure switch open then put a set of pressure gages to determine if there was a charge. Up on finding no pressure in the system then discuss with the home owner possable problems and possable costs.

If the home owner approves continuing work put a small amount of R22 in unit and pressurise with Nitrogen. Use the leak tester to find any leaks. Repair any leaks add a filter dryer to system, put under a low pressure to check the repairs. Then evacuate the system. Repressurise system with a trace amount of R22 and nitrogen. Do another complete leak test. If no leaks evaucate to an extreamly low pressure (a near perfict vacumn). If the Vacumn holds the recharge and bring system into proper operating perameters.

This take more time and will cost you more, but your system should keep running if done right and most good AC companies will stand behind their work at no additional charge.