Measure 9 helps consumers get money from their utility’s surge protection guarantee – WFTV

DEBARY, Fla. – Central Florida is considered the lightning capital of America, and with that title comes powerful storms that can destroy appliances and electronics in your home.

Judith Freud believed Duke Energy’s surge protection would give her the protection she needed.

“It will damage your air conditioning unit, it can damage your water unit, it can damage your TV, all your appliances, and you’ll be protected,” Freud explains of how the program was described to her. “And so I was introduced, and I said, ‘Oh, that sounds good.’”

Freudig was paying Duke an additional $25 a month for three surge protections and some damage coverage. When her air conditioner broke in a storm in early June, Freudig said, Duke told her there was nothing they could do.

“All of a sudden, insurance no longer covers repairs that only our technicians do, and I’m like, when did you tell me that?”

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She says she then had to pay nearly $6,000 out of her own pocket to buy a new air conditioner.

According to Duke, 360,000 of its 1.9 million Florida customers pay for some type of surge protection.

“The bottom line is that utility companies offer these types of contracts, these types of service programs, these types of insurance policies, because they make money off of them,” said Teresa Murray.

Murray, a consumer watchdog with the Public Interest Research Group, says these types of plans offered by utility companies are often loaded with exclusions and conditions that put consumers at a great disadvantage in getting their claims covered.

“One of the big things I encourage people to do is, don’t listen to what a salesperson tells you verbally. Read, buy what’s written, what you can see with your eyes, because that’s what matters,” Murray said.

Action 9 contacted Duke Energy about Freudig’s air conditioner.

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“This customer had already replaced the unit,” said Anna Gibbs, Duke’s communications director. “So we couldn’t determine what specifically happened in her case.”

According to Gibbs, Duke was unable to pursue the lawsuit because Froidge had not provided any documents. However, as a sign of good faith, the utility company has now sent her $2,000 in damages.

“We stand behind our programs,” Gibbs continued. “Even though we were unable to obtain or review the appropriate documentation, we still want to do the right thing for our customers.”

Gibbs also added that Duke’s protection plans provide peace of mind, and urged customers to fully understand the warranty details so they can choose what’s best for them.

While Freud is happy to hear that the money is on its way, she still regrets signing these guarantees and wants to cancel them.

“If I see too many clauses and too many exceptions, I’ll never get it,” Freudig said.

Your home insurance policy covers lightning damage, but you will have to pay your deductible on this claim.

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