Suspicious key services
Many key services promote their work online or appear in phone books which makes it difficult to distinguish between professional and dubious providers. It is therefore very important to know what to take into consideration when choosing a key service.
Consumers are in a very stressful situation when they need a key service and therefore contact the first company the search engine shows them. But dubious providers count on this kind of behaviour and therefore buy well placed advertisments on the internet and in phone books.
A case example
A consumer who had been fooled by fraudulent key service from Germany, turned to the European Consumer Centre Austria (ECC) for help.
She ordered their service because she suddenly, for reasons unknown, couldn't open her entrance door anymore. The company "Schlüsselnotdienst 24h" is situated in Germany but offers its services also in Vienna. On the following day, two men came, cracked the door and dismantled the locking system completely. They then declared a defect and went off to buy spare parts. After two hours they returned empty-handed and told the consumer that the needed parts were only available in Germany and that they would have to order them. According to the men this would take about one week and so they promised to call as soon as the parts arrived.
The consumer had to pay 726 EUR in cash. Her door was provisionally closed and therefore couldn't be used. As a result, the safety of the consumer and her family was not ensured as it would have been easy to crack it open again.
After a week the consumer repeatedly tried to contact the key service. They promised to return her calls, they didn't. Then they even blocked her phone number so she couldn't call anymore. As she finally managed to reach someone (she used another phone), they put her on a conference call with one of the two men who had cracked her door and another employee. They agreed on a follow up appointment for the repair of her door.
They assured her that the spare parts would be delivered in the next days and that they would unlock her phone number. As a contact she got the mobile phone number of the employee which proved to be incorrect later.
One day before the appointment, the consumer received a call from a third employee who asked for technical details about the door and the dismantled locking system. The consumer referred to the first employee who dismantled it. The caller replied that he would ask his colleague and then call her back, but she never heard of him again.
On the next day no one appeared at the promised time, nor did they call her, nor could she reach somebody from the company. In the meantime, the consumer ordered another provider to repair her entry door.
Public prosecutor Vienna investigates
According to information given to ECC Austria, the public prosecutor of Vienna is currently investigating against several dubious key services. As an article on help.orf.at states, it might be an EU-wide operating network as similar cases happened in Belgium and France. The strategies are very much alike: The key services have very well placed advertisments online and in phone books which fosters trust among consumers. However, they are not working properly and charge extortionate prices. They often demand cash and the only contact possibility is a 0800-phone number but they are hard to reach anyways
Support by the European Consumer Centre Austria (ECC)
If you face troubles with a dubious key service, please feel free to contact the Verein für Konsumenteninformation VKI (if it's a national company) or ECC Austria (if it's a company from another EU Member State, Norway or Iceland). In cases of suspected fraud, please turn to the next police station.