Houston firm under investigation

May 10, 2009 9:49:06 AM PDT
A long list of scathing complaints sparked an investigation by the state attorney general. He's looking into a company many homeowners use to help fight property taxes in the Houston area.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The Texas attorney general is looking into numerous complaints from customers of O'Connor and Associates who say they feel deceived after hiring the company to fight for lower property taxes, and in some cases, attorneys didn't even show up in court.

The Consumer Protection Division of the Texas Attorney General's office is spearheading the investigation that was launched after the AG's office received more than 100 complaints about the company's business practices.

O'Connor and Associates bills itself as the largest property tax consulting company in the southwest. Jennifer Coselli says while they promised her they'd fight for big tax savings, she claims the agent failed to appear at the scheduled protest hearing before the appraisal review board.

Coselli explained, "I was a little bit ticked off because, while I wasn't out any money, I didn't pay O'Connor any money, but at the same time the value of my house was now appraised at a higher value."

Coselli is among the scores of consumers who flooded the local Better Business Bureau with complaints over the past three years.

"It's like the ultimate non-performance," said Dan Parsons with the Better Business Bureau. "They've engaged you. They've solicited you in most cases. You've gone in, you've hired them and they're not at the hearing and you end up losing because you are 'ungunned.'"

The Texas attorney general's office sent a letter to O'Connor and Associates. In addition to looking at claims that O'Connor and Associates failed to appear at scheduled hearings, the Texas attorney general's office is investigating the company for a host of alleged violations including misrepresenting its ability to obtain tax savings for the consumer. We asked if any of the statements in that letter were true.

Patrick O'Connor, President, O'Connor and Associates, responded, "They may be true in the sense that someone has made an error. Last year we did 140,000 appeals. So is there human error in 140,000 appeals? Sure there is."

O'Connor says he's consistently done a good job for years representing his client and that if any mistakes were made, they were not intentional. Coselli to this day claims O'Connor and Associates never gave her a straight answer as to why no one showed up at the hearing.

"That was even more frustrating," Coselli said. "It proved to me they had glitches in their system."

The Better Business Bureau says the majority of the disputes involving O'Connor and Associates have been resolved. The company's president says he's sorry to anyone who may have experienced any inconveniences and is more than happy to work with them to resolve it.

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