Unscrupulous door-to-door furnace sales have been banned in Ontario, but not in B.C., and a Maple Ridge couple is fortunate to still have a heated home as the holiday season approaches after experiencing high-pressure and suspect tactics.
They actually lost their original furnace, but are getting an early present from a local company that will also help them out of a financial jam.
Sandy Kallin said a man came to his Dunbar Street home wearing an official-looking uniform with patches identifying him as a representative of a B.C. environmental agency. The logo on their materials had the appearance of a government agency, with the Pacific dogwood – B.C.’s official flower.
The man said he needed to see the home’s furnace, and promptly declared it illegal and a fire risk.
But he told the couple they might qualify for a government rebate program.
The man said four of their neighbours were going to get a new furnace with his new plan – renting for $99.99 a month. The company would waive the installation charges under a new B.C. promotion, they said.
They signed up, and the installers were there at 9 a.m. the next day to install a new furnace.
The installers also took away the old one.
But when Kallin and his wife, Debbie Dunetz, scanned the reams of fine print with her daughter, they found the contract lists a total lease cost of $12,668 – more than double the cost of the unit.
The term of the lease was also not defined. It ends when the company determines the furnace is at the end of its useful life. If that is 20 years – not unusual for a furnace – they would make 240 payments, paying $24,000 for the furnace.
“You never own it, you just keep leasing it,” Dunetz said.
That contradicted what the man told them – that the term was five years.
She was furious and frustrated, so vented on the Protecting Maple Ridge Facebook page. She learned that the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act gives 10 days to cancel such agreements. She sent an email the next day, asking out of the deal, and for their old furnace back.
It wasn’t that simple, though. Their old furnace was gone, and wasn’t up to code, said the company.
“Our furnace might have been old, but we never had any problems, ever,” said Dunetz.
She contacted the Better Business Bureau and found the company has been the subject of numerous complaints.
Fortis B.C. has warned the public that its agents are not going door-to-door after furnace sales people posing as representatives of the gas company representatives gained entry to homes by saying they needed to inspect furnaces.
Tek Climate owner Chris Dyck has come to the couple’s rescue.
He said these shady sales tactics and outright scams were a plague in Ontario until the provincial government banned unsolicited door-to-door sales of most heating and air services in March of 2017.
Their goal was to trap consumers in a contract they could not get out of.
“They come into your house, some wear a Fortis uniform or other uniform, and they basically condemn your furnace on the spot, like your house is going to burn down unless you replace it, and rope you into this furnace rental contract,” said Dyck.
“And you spend $20,000 for a $5,000 furnace install.”
Dunetz called him to re-install her old furnace, if it could be found. But it was gone.
Dyck helped them get out of the agreement, and is now going to give the couple a furnace and install it for free.
“We like to do one nice thing at Christmas each year for a family, and this year, this is it,” he said.
According to Tek Climate, because door-to-door furnace sales companies do deliver a product, such pressure tactics may not be illegal in B.C.
Tek Climate advises people shopping for a new furnace is to get at least two quotes, or more.
The furnace that was installed in the couple’s home is an “entry level” furnace that would cost $3,800 to $4,500. Tek would install a comparable unit for $3,888 with a warranty.
Police in Abbotsford and Chilliwack issued warnings about bogus furnace inspections earlier this year, and a Facebook warning circulated in Mission about a similar scam.
Ridge Meadows RCMP Sgt. Brenda Gresiuk said the local detachment has sent out similar social media warnings in the past about unscrupulous sales tactics.
“Don’t let them in, don’t give them information, and be suspicious of pushy salespeople,” said Gresiuk.