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A/C Company Accused Of Manipulating Online Reviews

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A South Florida man claims a local air-conditioning company tried to manipulate its online reputation, allegedly asking him to remove his negative reviews as part of a service agreement.

Christian Cumberlander had Francis Air Conditioning install a new air conditioning unit at his home in December. Cumberlander's relationship with the company was anything but cool after he noticed a leak.

"The coil in the unit, that was the issue. It was leaking," says Cumberlander.

Cumberlander wanted the coils replaced, but the company disagreed about what was wrong, saying the problem was with the copper lines. Upset, Cumberlander posted negative reviews on the company's Facebook page, along with a picture of the murky liquid he claims to have collected from the leak.

"After about almost a month we were finally able to get them to come out. Because we had put bad reviews up, one of the stipulations for them to come out was for us to remove the bad reviews," explains Cumberlander.

A man who identified himself on the phone as the manager at Francis Air Conditioning denied the allegations, saying it's "he said, she said" and "everything is ok".

The representative said it's not company policy to ask for reviews to be removed, but an invoice from Francis Air Conditioning provided by Cumberlander states, "Christian has agreed to remove any negative reviews he has placed during our time doing business."

In a separate call from CBS4 News to Francis Air Conditioning, another employee confirmed the information on the invoice was accurate.

"Them responding only when there are negative reviews out there, is so that they can get that taken off so everyone sees them as being a good company and will want to do business with them," says Cumberlander.

Facebook didn't return requests for comment, but review sites Yelp and Angie's List say they have teams in place to investigate situations like this.

"As a customer and consumer you have every right to post whatever kind of review you want, as long as you're being honest, and they should never ask you to take that down. They should ask you how they can fix the issue so they can be better for other customers," says Cumberlander.

The company didn't do anything illegal, but Cumberlander thinks it's a bad way to do business. Ultimately, the company serviced the air conditioning unit and Cumberlander says it's been working well since.

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