PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – A North Texas company is trying to fine a local couple $3,500 and void their warranty for writing a negative review. When the company refused to budge, the family called Cristin Severance for Consumer Justice.

Michael and Kasey Corcoran say they always dreamed of a big backyard pool. “So I put a picture [of a pool] on my computer,” said Michael. “And I worked as hard as I could for two years.” The Corcorans hired Premier Pools and Spas (PP&S) out of Plano. “They were excited about the whole design and everything,” said Kasey.

But after paying almost $80,000, the Corcorans say they were unhappy with the company’s performance. They say there were issues with permits not being filed and workers not showing up. Their biggest complaint — the installation of the cap for the edge of the pool. “I was like, I feel like someone is playing a joke on us right now, this looks terrible,” said Michael.

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He contacted PP&S, who sent a worker to take a look. “Guy comes out [and] asked me, ‘do you have that much time to nit pick?’ I thought, are you kidding me?” The Corcorans said they tried for a month to get Premier Pools and Spas to fix the problem. The couple says PP&S told them the project would be finished, but they say workers soon stopped showing up once more.

“I’d finally had it,” said Kasey. She wrote a review on Google, which said in part:

“One star is giving them way too much credit! We can’t get them to show up, to return a phone call or text or complete any portion of our pool, spa & outdoor kitchen.”

It was AWFUL! Grout lines not matched up & thicker in some places than others. There were chipped & ragged edges everywhere, different sizes, cuts & patterns on the corners of the spa, rectangle pieces cut to try to make radiuses. It was a disaster!

We insisted that PP&S rip it out & replace it at their expense. That resulted in no one showing up for SIX WEEKS!!! No updates, no returned calls, nothing. Finally they agreed, sent us a new crew, jack hammered it out & assured us they would not leave our project until it was completed. We were beyond excited, especially when they showed up 2 days in a row!! And then day 3… nothing! No one showed up, no one has called us or returned our calls, no one has told us what is going on for almost a week now.”

“It was the truth — it was completely the truth,” said Kasey. “Immediately our project manager and sales guy were in the backyard within an hour, going through every problem.”

Kasey said the company repeatedly asked them to take down the review. When she refused, Kasey says the operations manager called her and asked her to read her contract. “[He said] it says you can’t post reviews. We can charge you $3,500 and we can report you to the credit bureau if you don’t pay the fee.”

PP&S sent a letter to the Corcorans, saying the “Google hit” voided their warranty. Kasey took down the review but posted another one on the BBB’s website. “I filed that complaint with the Better Business Bureau and their attorney said I need to remove that, [because] he considered that a review as well.”

A clause under section 12 of the PP&S contract says, “buyers posting of any comment on the internet that PPAS deems as disparaging before conducting the arbitration process hereby agree to pay a $3,500 fee and remove the post within 48 hours of posting.”

The clause appears to violate the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which voids any clause that restricts someone from writing an honest review. Companies that violate the law can face fines. Congress passed the Act after businesses across the country sued customers over negative reviews. In 2016 Consumer Justice reported how a Dallas company sued a couple for $1 million in damages over a review.

That company, Prestigious Pets, lost in court. Attorney Paul Levy works for Public Citizen, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C. He represented the couple in that case; he’s also helping the Corcorans. “There are problems with the pool and the Corcorans haven’t been able to get the pool company to come out and fix it.” The couple says the pool has broken lights and faulty drains.

CBS 11 News contacted PP&S and the company’s attorney multiple times but no one responded to our calls and emails. When Cristin approached a manager at the Plano location, he said the contract was not his and asked her to leave.

Phylissia Clark, a spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau, says PP&S BBB Accreditation is “currently suspended due to an unresolved complaint.” Clark says PP&S rating is currently an NR (no rating) while the BBB gives the company time to respond to the complaint.

Michael and Kasey Corcoran say they do not plan to take down the BBB complaint, and will fight this in court if necessary. “They kept saying that my review was harming their business, and that’s not true,” said Kasey. “It’s their customer service that harmed their business.”

* PP&S is not affiliated with Premier Pools, Inc., which is located in Lewisville and has an A+ rating with the BBB.

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