Pest exterminator Orkin is swatting some pests of its own. A consumer lawsuit seeks to represent 65,000 Florida customers and the state's attorney general is reported to be investigating racketeering allegations against the company.
To make matters worse, a federal judge also recently upheld a multimillion-dollar arbitration judgment in favor of an Orkin customer from Ponte Vedra, Fla., and it's reported the firm has been the target of 15,000 complaints in Florida over the last four years.
Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist has issued a subpoena for Orkin's records and documents, but won't discuss the case. The Orlando Sentinel reported that complaints include hard-to-decipher guarantees, inadequate termite treatment and inspection, routine denial of claims and failing to require subcontractors to get required building permits for termite repairs.
The consumer lawsuit accuses Orkin of deceptive and unfair trade practices. An Oct. 14 hearing in Hillsborough County Circuit Court will hear the plaintiffs' argument that the suit should be a class action representing 65,000 Orkin customers in Florida.
Just last year, Orkin settled a $6.7 million lawsuit involving a termite-damaged apartment complex in Hillsborough County. Terms of the settlement are confidential.
In the arbitration case, customer Collier Black presented evidence that in making termite repairs to his home, subcontractors had not obtained the required building permits. He won a $4.25 million judgment at a 2003 arbitration hearing, which a federal judge later reduced to $2 million.
The arbitration panel ruled in Black's favor after Black's attorneys uncovered hundreds of similar cases in north and central Florida.
It was apparently Black's case that caught Crist's attention. He opened a racketeering investigation in April, issuing a subpoena requesting company records and documents.