BBB Investigation: Consumers allege Austin-area business taking payments, not completing work

investigationComplaints allege Bright Fence charges upfront, leaves consumers hanging

Some consumers who hired Bright Fence have reported making upfront payments for fences that were never built.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin, received similar unresolved complaints about Bright Fence in the last year. Complainants told BBB that the owner took upfront deposits ranging from $790 to $1,200 and did not start or complete their projects.

The company also goes by the names Bright Fence Company, Brightwell Fence and Welding, Brightwell Fence Company and Centerline Fence & Welding.

Bright Fence does not have a website, but is listed in online directories with several addresses. BBB sent a letter to the business about their pattern of complaints to a P.O. Box in Pflugerville that is listed in online directories, but the letter returned undeliverable. Correspondence sent to the business’s email address went unanswered.

A BBB investigator contacted the owner about their unanswered complaints. He at first gave the P.O. Box in Pflugerville as his address and said he “didn’t do email.” When the investigator told him BBB received return mail from the Pflugerville address, he said to send mail to 11606 N. Lamar Street in Austin. BBB has not yet received a response.

“[The owner] gave a quote on our fencing job and I said go ahead and get it done,” said Karen Courter of Round Rock, who said she thought she could trust him based on previous work he performed for her and her neighbors. “I was going out of town and he said he was short on cash. He asked if I could pay upfront so he could buy materials. I trusted him and paid $835. He never showed up and didn’t call back.”

Melonie Malone of San Antonio said she and her neighbors lost their deposits after hiring the company to work on their fences. She said she paid $900. “He said he wanted half down to buy materials,” she said. “He took half down from each of us. He cashed the checks within minutes.”

Malone said the company’s owner gave excuses, but never did the work after several weeks. Malone said she was able to get a partial payment of $450 from the owner after reporting him to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. She said a detective with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office had made an informal arrangement with the owner, who agreed to return the rest of her deposit, but that he had missed a deadline set by the deputy to return the money.

BBB offers the following advice when hiring a contractor:

  • Do your research. Check the company’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org before signing a contract. For a list of Accredited Businesses that meet BBB Standards for Trust, go directly to checkbbb.org.
  • Get a list of references. The contractor should provide names, addresses and phone numbers of at least three clients who have projects similar to yours. Ask about their experience with the contractor. Also, tell the contractor that you’d like to visit jobs in progress.
  • Don’t pay cash. Pay by credit card if possible. You may have additional protection if there is a problem. Otherwise pay by check so your cancelled check can provide proof of payment. Consider using an escrow company.
  • Spread payments out. Never pay too much up front. Make payments during the project contingent upon completion of a defined amount of work. Do not make the final payment or sign a final release until you are satisfied with the work and have proof that the subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.
  • Shop around. Get at least three bids in writing based on the same specifications, materials, labor and time needed to complete the project. BBB’s Request-a-Quote service is free to use and contacts BBB Accredited Businesses to give you an estimate on your job.
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