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Screen Grab from CTV W5 documentary "Energy Trap"Back in the spring we warned customers about door to door furnace and air conditioner sales companies. It looks like they’re still a huge problem in spite of the growing number of complaints.

In September 2016, CTV’s investigative program W5 aired this documentary that shows people are still getting scammed. The documentary discusses the sales pitch with the victims, and even one ex-salesman who now regrets his involvement.

There are several different door to door companies, but one in particular operates across Canada under different names.

Watch the W5 Documentary >

Setting the Snare

Whatever the name of the company, the approach starts out as friendly and polite in order to get into the door. One tactic is to claim they want to do an inspection to ensure your “gas piping is up to the new standard”. Sometimes they mention safety hazards like gas leaks, or even the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. They may try to make your head spin with acronyms and technical half-truths.

The initial pitch from one company is especially deceptive – the salespeople often announce they are from “Ontario Energy” – which leads many to believe they are somehow affiliated with the Ontario Energy Board. In reality, they are a company called Ontario Energy Group and they want to sell you a furnace for predatory rates – whether you need one or not.

Once they’re in the basement and your guard is down, they start talking about energy rebates and how much you can save on your furnace. Sometimes the rebates are real, but the amounts you can save are exaggerated. They definitely exaggerate the potential energy savings – many customers were told they would “save enough to pay for the equipment”.

While that, of course, is dishonest, but what you should really worry about is the contract.

Paying 7X What Equipment is Worth

As reported in the W5 program, a Peterborough homeowner found out she was on the hook for $158 per month for the “useful life of the furnace”, typically 15 years. That works out to $28,440.00 plus tax. This was for an air conditioner model worth about $3,500 when bought from a local dealer.

Plus, the contract says the company can increase the charges by 3.8% per year, even though the equipment depreciates. Nowhere does the contract provide the total payments for the rented furnace, or what the homeowner would have to pay to break the contract.

Unfortunately, the homeowner trusted the salesperson and didn’t read the pages of fine print in the contract. She trusted that the answers to her questions were honest ones.

The Search for Justice

The Ontario Energy Group has been charged with 142 charges under the Consumer Protection Act. In a press release, OEG claims to have suspended door to door sales, but there are many other companies like it.

In part two of the W5 episode, lawyer Jonathan Foreman talks about his class action lawsuit against Ontario Energy Group on behalf of about 10,000 angry customers. Those are just the ones who are part of the suit- others are out there who may still be looking for justice.

How to Protect Yourself

How do you ensure you don’t fall victim to a hard-sell furnace scam?

Remember that reputable furnace companies don’t sell door to door. They only come to your home when you ask them.

  1. Always read the fine print for any contract.
  2. Take advantage of the new “cooling off period” – in Ontario you have 10 days (20 days for water heaters) to change your mind, even if you’ve signed a contract.
  3. Some of these companies do telephone cold calls- reputable companies do not.
  4. You can check for complaints lists on Ontario’s Consumer Beware List.

Read our earlier article on door to door furnace scams

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