South Carolina

How many complaints against Terminix have been filed in South Carolina?  How does the State of South Carolina rate as a public agency in providing information to the public and/or in their own knowledge of pest control companies that spray toxic chemicals in homes?

State of South Carolina Responsiveness

I sent an e-mail letter to the State of South Carolina, Department of Consumer Affairs, on February 28, 1999, asking several questions. The response, March 8, stated, “In South Carolina, pest control companies are regulated by the Clemson University Extension.  Your questions probably should be directed there. The phone number is (864) 646-2150.”

Three days later, March 12, 1999, a Clemson University News Brief included the following information:

CLEMSON PUBLIC SERVICE NAMES
NEW ADVISORY BOARD CHAIRMAN
CLEMSON -- Thomas Nelson Fortson Jr., of Columbia has been named chairman of the Public Service and Agriculture Advisory Board at Clemson University.  He will serve a two-year term as chairman, with a third year as advisor to the incoming officers of the advisory board.
The Public Service and Agriculture Advisory Board provides a free-flowing dialogue between the university and people in South Carolina and across the United States. Members represent agricultural and forestry production, business, the service sector, government and the public interest.  The advisory board provides input on a braod array of issues with the potential to impact the university’s research, extension and regulatory programs.
Fortson is president of Terminix Service Inc., which operates 42 branches in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.  He also serves on the South Carolina Pesticide Advisory Committee and the South Carolina Regulatory Review Committee.  He is past president of the South Carolina Pest Control Association and the North Carolina Pest Control Association and is past executive board member of the National Pest Control Association.

While transferring information from an old software program onto a new program, I realized I never followed up on the Clemson University lead.  In an attempt to obtain the answers to my previously unanswered questions, I submitted an online feedback form on September 9, 2001, to the Clemson University Extension, the regulating agency in South Carolina.  Below are the comments I submitted and the resulting communications:

Comments:  On February 28, 1999, I sent an e-mail letter to the State of South Carolina, Department of Consumer Affairs, requesting the following information:

1. What is the name and address of South Carolina's pest inspection/pest control licensing and regulating agency?

2. How many years does South Carolina's licensing and regulating agency maintain records of complaints against pest control/pest inspection companies?

3. How many Terminix branches are currently operating in South Carolina?  (My records, taken from the Yellow Pages on the Internet, indicate there are currently ten Terminix; aka Terminix International; aka Terminix Service; aka Terminix Services, Inc. branches operating in South Carolina.)

4. In South Carolina, does each Terminix branch operate under a separate license or do all the Terminix branches operate under one license?

5. How many complaints, if any, have been filed in South Carolina against Terminix International (and its aka's); including the nature of the complaints, name and location of Terminix branch involved; and disposition of complaints (dismissed, settled, fine, suspended or revoked license, probation, etc.)?

An e-mail response on March 8, stated, "In South Carolina, pest control companies are regulated by the Clemson University Extension. Your questions probably should be directed there.  The phone number is (864) 646-2150."

I'm hoping I reached the right office in South Carolina this time and that you will answer the questions above. I now have three more questions as well:

1. How many Terminix employees are on the Regulatory Board?

2. What are the names of the Terminix employees on the Regulatory Board?

3. What positions on the Regulatory Board do the Terminix employees hold?

Subject:

Fwd: email

Date:

Mon, 10 Sep 2001 10:22:32 -0400

From:

Cam Lay <clay@CLEMSON.EDU>

CC:

BETTY SCHOEN <BSCHOEN@CLEMSON.EDU>, BEACH@CLEMSON.EDU, tracy Outlaw <tracyo@CLEMSON.EDU>, vmccskl@CLEMSON.EDU

Ms. Virga:

The answers to your questions are as follows:

1) We are the Dept. of Pesticide Regulation. We are housed within the Division of Regulatory and Public Service Programs at Clemson University.  We are not the Cooperative Extension Service, and we are not part of the Department of Agriculture.

2) We keep records "forever."  In our case that's since November 1980, when the legislation under which we operate went into effect.

3) You can get a detailed list of our Terminix branches at http://regfocus.clemson.edu/.  Terminix International per se does not operate in South Carolina - all of our branches are franchise shops and operate as Terminix Service. I count 28 branches, including those from NC that are also licensed here in SC.

4) Our regulations are available at http://drpsp.clemson.edu/dpr/rulesrgs.htm. We license the business and the applicator. Al business is a location where records are kept and the day's activities begin.  All pest-control businesses are required to have a Pest Control Business License issued by this department, and are required to have a Designated Certified Applicator permanently assigned to that location on a full-time basis.

5) Some of our enforcement records are already on the web at http://cufp.clemson.edu/dpr/Pco/Greenbook.pdf. We are committed to providing the rest of them, up-to-date, as soon as we get some security and database-linkage issues ironed out.  In the meantime, if you would like the enforcement histories for all of our Terminix branches we will be happy to provide them to you. We charge 25 cents per page.  If your request could be made more specific (if you are interested in the enforcement history of a particular branch office or applicator, for example) your request would be less costly to you and easier to fulfill for us.

With respect to your three additional questions, we do not have a "Regulatory Board."  We do have a "Review Committee" composed of two PCO's and two representatives of our agency that reviews and can comment on cases in which civil penalties are proposed.  Positions on the Review Committee rotate among members of the Board of Directors of the SC Pest Control Association, the industry trade group here in SC. At the present time one of the members of the committee is an employee of Terminix Service, Mr. Tom Fortson.  Warning letters and criminal prosecutions are not subject to review, and the vote of the vote of the Review Committee is not binding even in the case of civil penalties. It is worth noting that in the several hundred cases reviewed in the last few years there has been only one disagreement, and that concerned a case where both industry rrepresentatives argued for a more substantial fine. The pest-control industry does not regulate itself in South Carolina, in other words.  There are no foxes guarding the henhouse here.

Please let me know how you would like to proceed with respect to the enforcement histories.

Please feel free to contact me through this email address or at 864 646-2150 if you have any questions.

Regards,
Cam Lay
Assistant Dept. Head

Subject:

Fwd: email

Date:

Mon, 10 Sep 2001 11:54:08 -0400

From:

Cam Lay <clay@CLEMSON.EDU>

One of my ever-alert staff has pointed out that several years ago we decided to keep records for only 15 years. We thus have enforcement records since 1985, not since 1980.

Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Regards,
C

Subject:

Re:  Fwd:  email

Date:

Tue, 11 Sep 2001 00:26:37 -0700

To:

Cam Lay <clay@CLEMSON.EDU>

Thank you for your response, which obviously took some thought, time and composure.  Because I believe you were truly trying to be helpful, I am giving you the opportunity to assuage some of my reservations before I post your letter and my comments on the South Carolina page of my web site at http://www.syix.com/emu/html/sc.html.

  1. I asked for the name and address of South Carolina's pest inspection/pest control licensing and regulating agency. The reason I asked for both is to give dissatisfied Terminix customers in South Carolina the knowledge of where to file a complaint with a regulatory agency.  A telephone number and/or e-mail address for filing complaints would also be helpful.
     
  2. I merged your two responses to this question; and will post as your response, "2) Several years ago, we decided to keep records for only 15 years. We thus have enforcement records since 1985."
     
  3. The URL you provided yields the following response:
    • Temporarily Unavailable

      This site is currently being transferred to a new server and should be back up in a couple of days

        Return to Pesticide Regulation
        Return to regulatory services
        Return to Clemson University

    I am currently in the process of updating my site, which will probably be ready to republish in about a week. If the site at http://regfocus.clemson.edu/ is online then, fine.  If not, I will so note it; and the question I have of why only the URL'd site is being transferred to a new server and the others are not.

    The issue of all Terminix branches in South Carolina being franchise offices raises another question.  Is Terminix International liable for anything done by the franchisees; or do the franchisees hold total responsibility for the actions within their branches?

  4. Perfect!
     
  5. The enforcement records already provided on the web are meaningless since they do not show the nature of the complaints.  Do you issue a warning letter if a family if poisoned and forced from their home for years? Or perhaps a civil penalty of $1,500 is assessed?  There's no way of telling based on what is shown. I was hoping to get information such as that supplied by California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, and a number of other states. In effect, I got the answers provided by Texas and Massachusetts. At least it's better than the non-responses of states like Florida and New York and the ridiculous answers provided by Alabama and Georgia where I can view the records in their offices.
  6. As stated on the South Carolina page of my web site (and each state in turn), "How many complaints against Terminix have been filed in South Carolina?  How does the State of South Carolina rate as a public agency in providing information to the public and/or in their own knowledge of pest control companies that spray toxic chemicals in homes?

    I do not have money to purchase the enforcement histories. The information provided is what will be posted.

Your response to my additional three questions is encouraging. I'm glad to see the foxes are not guarding the henhouse in South Carolina! I just hope someone is.  Other than seeing licenses are issued and there are regulations within your state, I can't be certain of anything more.

Sincerely,
Carla

Subject:

Re:  Fwd:  email

Date:

Thu, 20 Sep 2001 09:08:02 -0400

From:

Cam Lay <clay@CLEMSON.EDU>

CC:

vmccskl@CLEMSON.EDU

I am trying to be helpful. There is no reason for you to adopt a tone of confrontation or suspicion regarding this agency.

The address for our main office is on the front page of our web site.  The addresses and phone numbers of all of our field inspectors are available from the front page by clicking “Directory" and then "Regulatory Specialists." Their email addresses and phone numbers are also listed there. A map of the Regulatory Specialists' territories can be found by clicking on "homeowners" from the front page, and then clicking "Territory Map."

We will be making up to date enforcement information available on the web soon.  I appreciate your patience.  I did not say that the site was being transferred to a new server, I said that we had some security concerns to iron out and were having some difficulties getting all of our databases linked together.  In the meantime South Carolina consumers can continue to contact their local Regulatory Specialist by phone or email to review the enforcement histories of companies they are considering doing business with. There is no charge for this. Most consumers find that knowing the number and nature of violations a company has committed is very helpful to them in making their purchasing decisions.  We do not, of course, make recommendations regarding which company a consumer should employ.  The questions you choose to formulate and post regarding why a particular section of our site is not active at the moment are beyond our control and interest; I would appreciate, however, your also posting the preceding information regarding our willingness to review enforcement histories for consumers.

We do not cite Terminix International for violations committed by the branch offices of Terminix Service in South Carolina.  These are separate companies, and Terminix International does not do business in South Carolina.  We cite the responsible applicator and business licenses of the branch offices.

I am sorry that you find the enforcement information already posted "meaningless." There is explanatory information included, but I do not disagree that the format could be clearer.  As it stands now I do believe that it meets our goal of providing consumers with information to evaluate the performance of different companies and make a more informed decision regarding whom to purchase services from.  You may wish to review our Enforcement Matrix with respect to your specific questions "...if a family is poisoned..." etc.  It is not possible for me to predict the enforcement response for a hypothetical situation.  I can tell you that we are considered one of the more effective pesticide-regulatory agencies in the U.S. Many of our field investigators are commissioned law-enforcement officers, and it is not unusual for offenders to do jail time for significant pesticide violations in our state.

As I noted, Terminix International does not do business in South Carolina. I will anticipate your question, however, and provide you with a summary of the enforcement information for Terminix Service in South Carolina.  Please understand that the number of complaints and the number of violations reflect not only a company's performance but also the accessibility, investigative expertise, and willingness to prosecute of the state regulatory agency.  For these reasons, I do not believe that comparisons across states are valid.  Since 1993, the earliest date available in our computerized database, we have investigated 305 complaints against the 28 Terminix Service branches licensed in the state.  These investigations resulted in 125 enforcement actions.  Of those 125 actions, 58 were for sub-standard subterranean termite treatments, 37 were for improper Wood Infestation Reports, 3 were for pesticide misapplications, 3 were for applying an insufficient amount of termiticide, 5 were for failing to obtain a waiver-of-standards form before beginning a subterranean termite treatment, and 1 was for failing to correct a deficient treatment within the required 30 days.  That is an average of .56 violations per branch per year. If you choose to quote this material on your website you have our permission to do so but only if this and the other paragraphs are quoted in their entirety.

Please let me know if you require any additional information.

Regards,
C

Tennessee