Customers charged hundreds of dollars for defective water heater fix

“How much did you say that water heater repair bill was, $885?!”
Customers charged hundreds of dollars for defective water heater fix
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 4:36 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - It was still freezing outside when Mike Obrien’s 2-year-old Rheem water heater failed. He called the closest plumbing company he could find. He had two choices, take a teeth chattering cold shower, or pay the plumber $885.

Mike chose option B, “I had no choice, I needed hot water,” he told CBS46′s consumer investigator Better Call Harry.

Obrien is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Rheem customers who bought new water heaters with defective gas control valves. The valve controls temperature, but it also ignites the pilot light.

Rheem admits that it did have a problem with residential water heaters manufactured in 2020 and 2021, but says it only affected a small percentage of customers. Rheem is offering full coverage on the valve and said it is issuing $100 credits to repair businesses to replace the defective part, a job that plumbers tell us takes under an hour.

So why was Mike charged $885? Cool Air Mechanical and Plumbing charged him $400 for the part and $485 for the labor.

When a claim is made, Rheem sends the new valve directly to the customer. But, if a customer doesn’t want to wait and the plumber already has the part, the customer can pay for the part up front. Once the customer receives the replacement valve, they can turn it in to the plumber to get that money back.

Cool Air Mechanical refunded Mike for the part, but what about the labor cost?

“The labor is not warrantied,” a Cool Air Mechanical employee said in a conversation Mike recorded.

“Do you watch CBS46 News,” Mike questioned.

“I did see that. I did see that,” the employee admitted.

“You can see the written statement from Rheem that they pay for parts and labor,” Mike said.

“I did not see that one,” the employee responded.

Even though Rheem is offering plumbers $100 credits for labor, Cool Air Mechanical said $100 is not enough to cover the overhead expenses.

What do plumbers charge for the repair? As CBS46 found out, smaller plumbers are able to charge less, but some of the larger plumbing companies say upwards of $500 dollars is not out of line.

A spokesman for Cool Air Mechanical told CBS46 that they’re just as frustrated about the charges as Rheem. He says Rheem has offered no guidance on how to handle the claims and has issued very few credits.

Once the company received the Rheem credit, they should have deducted it off the customer’s bill. Once CBS46 got involved, the company issued Mike a full refund.

If there’s something you would like CBS46′s Consumer Investigator Better Call Harry to look into, fill out this submission form.