The Critical Eye!
Radon Mitigators - Preferential Referral Conflict of Interest
I climbed up on my soap box again today and wrote a letter to the State of Utah official over radon at our Department of Environmental Quality regarding an added revenue program that affects their squeaky clean reputation.
NOTE: This information is not meant to reflect badly on John Seidel and/or Radon Be Gone, Inc..
Mr. John Hultquist:
John, this is Michael Leavitt, a home inspector from Orem Utah. A stinky situation has come to my attention regarding the business practices of a service entity that is directly linked to from the Utah State DEQ radon website found at http://www.radon.utah.gov/. If you look at screenshot 1 you will see that your DEQ “Order Radon Test Kit” link takes Utah consumers directly to the “Dr Home Air” website at http://doctorhomeair.com/utah/ (Alpha Energy Laboratories) so that consumers can purchase very low cost radon test kits. $7 for one and $29.95 for two seems very reasonable, especially when you figure the consumer is paying the mailing for the $7 kit while a 2 day FedEx is included with the 2 pack. In fact $7 is way too cheap when you add in the postage to ship out the envelope. As a radon tester I have to buy in huge quantity to get anything close to that kind of a deal.
QUESTION #1 – Is the Utah DEQ subsidizing Dr. Home Air to get out the $7 kits cheaply to the consumers? I ask because normal non-Utah consumers have to pay $11.95 to get the same single test kit. Is Utah paying the $3.95 difference? Or is Dr. Home Air getting the preferential link on the DEQ site in trade for the $3.95 discount. I do not have an issue with this, but I think there needs to be some transparency since this huge discount pricing really corners the Utah market for cheap do-it-yourself radon testing kits. NOTE: Even Home Depot’s cheapest kit is $9.98.
QUESTION #2 – Are you aware of the extended marketing revenue source that Alpha Energy Laboratories is garnering from the radon mitigators? They have an interesting vendor program for Utah radon mitigators that gives them the opportunity to have their contact information sent along in a formal letter on Alpha Energy Laboratories letterhead to each Utah person who sends in a test that results in an over 4 pCi/l result. That’s right, for just $5 per letter, the mitigator’s information and advertising brochures can be included. The letter can include up to 4 mitigators, each with his own page and brochures in the snail mailed letter. There are discounts, but each letter can include $16 or more of revenue for the lab from the initial $7 test kit promoted by the Utah DEQ website. That is quite the money making vendor program, wouldn’t you say? This is anything but transparent on your website and really is just a slick way of extracting money from the mitigators from the fear of NOT participating, which results in higher mitigation fees to offset added advertising revenues. And yet all of this is done to first lessen the impact of testing kit fees for the Utah consumer. What started as a goodwill program on the part of the DEQ ultimately generates huge private revenues at the expense of the Utah homeowner installing a mitigation system.
I have included page two of the recent letter a Utah County resident received after using your website link, performing the radon test, and then sending it in to the lab. Obviously Alpha Energy Laboratories loves Radon Be Gone Inc. and this radon mitigator will obviously be the preferred first choice of the home owner receiving the letter. Let me remind you that I am not a radon mitigator. Instead, I am a radon tester that is concerned when I see preferential treatment of any firm licensed by the State. As I view this scenario and dig deeper, it doesn’t pass the smell test. I do not know the details from your DEQ end, and I do not know the agreement you have with Dr. Home Air/Alpha Energy Laboratories. What I do see is preferential referrals that appear to be endorsed by the State of Utah DEQ, and that is NOT right. The back end of this deal stinks.
Either you are aware of this, and that is part of the discounted test kit fee program they contracted with the DEQ, or you were not aware of the added revenue source for the lab. They state in their letter that “We have no affiliation with…” the mitigator, but by definition they have a financial affiliation that creates a direct conflict with the DEQ’s contractor referral neutrality. This turns out to be a shakedown by the lab to get mitigators to either pay or not be represented.
Please let me know your take on all of this as I think is walks like a duck, smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck. I think this practice is unfair for the consumer. They end up receiving the name of a mitigator who is licensed by the State of Utah and highly endorsed by the laboratory as the first point of contact to get their needed mitigation system installed. I discussed this with another mitigator and to my surprise they were not thinking it smelled at all. Instead, they wanted to get their company added. To them, $5 to obtain preferential treatment that would lead to gaining a prospective $1,200 to $3,000 job was chump change marketing. “Where do I sign up?” was their only question. But unfortunately the consumer opens up the follow-up letter from the radon lab and the wife says, “ We should be using Radon Be Gone Inc. because they are endorsed by both the lab and the State of Utah.” And I believe the preferential recommendation of one radon mitigator over another was never your intent when you agreed to add the “Order Radon Test Kit” link to your website.
And finally, I have no issues with the lab doing this program when their test kit sale is generated from other than a State of Utah website.
Looking forward to your perspective.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?