It is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain information from the states and to figure out which state agency to contact for information. In one of North Carolina’s press releases, it states, “the company cannot cannot be charged under NC law, but officials may charge registered employees.” Does that mean if I do business with a company in North Carolina and am defrauded and/or suffer damages, the business cannot be charged -- only the employee who is following orders from his employer? Is this North Carolina’s law? Another state, Georgia, will not provide any information unless the person requesting information travels to their state or knows someone within the state who can get the information for them. Is this the intent of the Freedom of Information Act, or is it just another loophole used by public agencies to keep information from the public and protect the industry?
“The industries own guardians, the structural pest control regulatory officials...”
--Lisa Josof, “The Coming Storm,” PCTonline (1/98)
I have received complaints from across the country, including, but not limited to, pesticide spilled on the floor in a child’s play room that wasn’t cleaned up until the homeowner said something; services billed that were not performed until the homeowner complained. If the homeowner did not see the spillage or know the services were not performed, these problems would never be known. How often do toxic spills and unperformed, billed work go undetected?
As researched by Michael LeBoeuf, Ph.D., author of “How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life,” a typical business hears from only 4 percent of its dissatisfied customers. The other 96 percent just quietly go away. Obviously, only a small percentage of the 4% of dissatisfied customers will file a complaint.
Of the complaints that make it as far as actually being filed with a governmental agency, the numbers are further diluted by being filed with various agencies. Of the complaints left, of course they would be considered isolated incidents; and most of any of those remaining complaints would be dismissed -- not because the complaints don’t have merit, but either because no further action would be deemed necessary or there would be no way to prove an allegation; i.e, how do you prove a pesticide was spilled and left on the floor of your child’s playroom AND who did it?
In the extremely rare incidences where a State regulatory agency imposes a fine, the fines (which are paltry to a company like Terminix) are not awarded to the complainant but to the government. It is in the best interests, then, for State regulatory agencies to keep repeat violators in business. The more violations, the more money for the State; and the more it appears the State regulatory agency is needed and is doing their job. It’s quite an alliance -- at the expense of homeowners.
The September 28, 2000, Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, “Georgians rightly bugged with pest control scams,” stated:
- Before thousands more Georgians are forced to watch their dreams turn to dust, the state must step up its regulation of less-than-scrupulous pest control companies.
- It comes as a great blow, then, to learn the state often seems more concerned about the pest companies than about the homeowners.
Knowing of the actions of Terminix in California and of California’s Structural Pest Control Board, I set out to discover if the same problems exist in other states. In late 1998 and early 1999, I e-mailed each of the states and basically asked for the address of the state regulatory agency; how many Terminix branches were operating in the state; how many complaints had been filed against Terminix; and how long the State regulatory agencies maintain records. I wanted to learn how the states rated in providing information to the public and in their own accessibility to the knowledge to oversee pest control companies to see if these so-called “watch-dog” agencies were even looking. Their responses, if any, are accessible through the navigational buttons on the left or through the chart below: