It seems illegal for a longstanding customer with absolutely zero past claims history who receives the annual bond renewal to see a 400-to-500 percent increase,” Amy of Mobile posted on consumeraffairs.com Feb. 20. “This is widespread in the Mobile, AL area. Buyer BEWARE!”
Amy is not alone.
Dozens of similar posts have popped up on various consumer reporting websites over the past few weeks as some customers along the Gulf Coast have been notified that renewing their annual termite bonds through Terminix will come with a significant price increase.
The increases have varied in size from customer to customer, but some locals have reported annual payments jumping from $300 and $400 to as high as $1,400 in a single year. Others have claimed increases of up to 600 percent after years paying a much lower annual rate.
Reached by Lagniappe via email, a Terminix spokesperson said the increases are the result of customers being offered a more “comprehensive service” due to an increase in the number of Formosan termites — an invasive and particularly aggressive species of termite.
While a single individual doesn’t consume more wood than a native subterranean termite, Formosan termite colonies typically have larger population sizes and can cause more structural damage to homes in a shorter period of time. In letters sent to local bondholders, Terminix has previously said the climate in the Mobile area creates ideal conditions for the bugs.
“Many of our customers in the region are being given the option to switch to this more comprehensive service, which combines our two strongest termite treatments,” a Terminix spokesperson said. “It is indeed a more expensive service, and we realize our customers will need time to make this decision.”
However, in response to the company’s justification for the bond increases, some attorneys who specialize in termite litigation cases are crying foul.
Tom Campbell has handled termite lawsuits for customers and bondholders in multiple states, including several involving Terminix. Recently, he’s claimed publicly that the rate spike could be an effort to drive away customers whose homes could be a liability for the company.
“Terminix knows its customers’ homes have an extraordinarily high chance of massive hidden termite damage because it failed to previously provide its termite prevention service,” Campbell wrote. “Our law firm represents dozens of families and businesses where the injury Terminix caused to their home or place of work is many hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
More specifically, Campbell alleged recent cases he’s handled showed that Terminix performed “incomplete initial inspections” and failed to replace worn-off chemical barriers that had previously been installed — leaving some homes with inadequate protection for years.
He told Lagniappe the “wrongdoing is directed by the CEO, not local managers and employees.”
In a recent blog post, Campbell said his firm has settled around half a dozen cases with Terminix over the past six months that resulted in significant settlements.
A $1.6 million verdict against the company was also awarded by a jury in Biloxi last December. The plaintiffs in that case claimed Terminix failed to disclose significant termite repairs it had previously performed on a home they purchased in a pre-inspection report it prepared.
According to state court records, seven lawsuits have been filed against Terminix in Mobile County since 2018, including one that settled out of court in less than a month last fall. There are currently seven active lawsuits against the company in Baldwin County as well.
It’s worth noting that Campbell makes a living suing companies like Terminix and could stand to benefit from a rush of customers challenging their bond renewal rates in court. However, he’s been encouraging customers in Alabama to reach out to regulatory authorities.
Instead of ditching Terminix or agreeing to a new bond rate, Campbell said residents concerned over recent the increases should contact the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) as well as Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office.
According to Campbell, residents should ask ADAI to investigate whether the termite treatment services they received from Terminix are incomplete or have worn off. If so, he said, customers have a right to insist Terminix provide the services specified in the original contract.
A consumer complaint form can be found at both agencies’ respective websites — agi.alabama.gov for the Department of Agriculture and ago.alabama.gov for the Attorney General’s office. Links to both forms are also available at lagniappemobile.com.
It appears several local residents have already filed similar complaints.
“Currently, we are handling numerous calls and complaints relating to Terminix’s notice to their existing termite customers regarding the increase in the cost for subterranean termite services,” Joe Debrow, program director for professional and regulatory services at ADAI, said. “It is our policy that we do not comment on whether we may or may not investigate a particular matter, and we do not comment on the results of our investigative findings until the time our case has been completed, finalized or dismissed.”
Similarly, spokesperson Mike Lewis said the Attorney General’s office has received similar complaints and is “communicating with [Terminix] about consumers’ concerns.” Lewis said that was the only information the AG’s office could provide on the subject at this time, though.
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