DEBARY, Fla. — Central Florida is America’s lightning capital and with that title come powerful storms that can take out appliances and electronics in your home.
Judith Freudig thought Duke Energy’s surge warranties would give her the protection she needed.
Freudig explains how the program was described to her, “‘It’s gonna damage your AC unit, it can damage your water unit, it can damage your TV, all your appliances, you’re gonna be covered,’ and that’s how I was pitched, and I said, ‘Oh, that sounds good.’”
Freudig was paying Duke an additional $25 a month for three warranties to protect from surges and cover certain damage. According to Freudig, when a storm took out her air conditioner in early June, Duke told her there was nothing they could do.
“All of a sudden now it doesn’t cover because, ‘We only cover repairs by our technicians,’ and I’m like, ‘When did you ever tell me that?’”
She claims she then had to pay nearly $6,000 out of pocket for a new air conditioner.
According to Duke, 360,000 of its 1.9 million customers in Florida pay for some kind of surge protection.
“The bottom line is the utilities offer these kinds of contracts, these kinds of service programs, these kinds of insurance policies, because they make money from them,” Teresa Murray said.
Murray is a consumer watchdog with the Public Interest Research Group. She says these types of plans that are offered by utility companies are often loaded with exclusions and conditions that leave consumers jumping through hoops to get their claims covered.
“One of the big things that I encourage people is; don’t go by what some sales rep tells you verbally. Read, go buy what’s in writing, what you can see with your own eyeball, because that’s what’s going to matter,” Murray said.
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“This particular customer had already replaced the unit. So, we actually were not able to determine specifically what happened in her instance,” said Duke’s communications manager, Ana Gibbs.
According to Gibbs, Duke wasn’t able to follow through with a claim because Freudig didn’t provide any documentation. However, as a sign of goodwill, the utility company was now sending her $2,000 for damages.
Gibbs continued, “We do stand by our programs. So even though we were not able to obtain the appropriate paperwork or inspect it, we still wanted to do right by our customer.”
Gibbs also said Duke’s protection plans provide peace of mind, and she urges customers to fully understand the warranty details so they can choose what works best for them.
While Freudig is happy to hear that cash is headed her way, she still regrets signing up for these warranties and wants them cancelled.
“If I were to see so many clauses and so many exclusions, I would never get it,” Freudig said.
A homeowner’s insurance policy does cover damage caused by lightning, but you will have to pay your deductible on that claim.
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