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New Reforms to Curb Fraudulent Door-to-Door Sales of Water Heaters in Ottawa

Good news from Ontario’s new Minister of Consumer Services! New protection reforms announced to protect you from aggressive and fraudulent door-to-door sales tactics, particularly for the sale and replacement of water heaters. Read all about it!

April 22, 2013 Edition of HRAI Industry News

On April 11th, Ontario’s new Minister of Consumer Services, Tracy MacCharles, announced some important consumer protection reforms designed to protect homeowners against aggressive and fraudulent door-to-door sales tactics, particularly for the sale of water heaters. As part of its plan to strengthen consumer protection, the province intends to introduce legislation that, if passed, would impose new rules for dealing with door-to-door sales fairly, including:

  • Doubling the existing 10-day cooling-off period to 20 days for water heaters, providing consumers more time to consider their decision;
  • Banning delivery and installation of water heaters during the new 20-day cooling-off period;
  • Creating rules requiring companies to confirm sales by making scripted and recorded telephone calls to the customer and that key contract terms are disclosed in clear, easy-to-understand language;
  • Providing new consumer protections when the rules are not followed, such as requiring the supplier to pay all cancellation fees when the 20-day cooling-off period is not observed.

These proposed changes come as a reaction to the more than 3,200 written complaints and verbal inquiries about door-to-door water heater rentals received by the Ontario government in 2012, the second most common source of complaints and inquiries.

The Minister’s reforms were applauded by HRAI as an appropriate and overdue response to the problem of door-to-door selling of rental appliances. In a letter to Minister MacCharles, HRAI praised the changes but cautioned that the proposed policies may be too narrowly focused on water heaters. The regulations should also apply to all major purchases at the door, since some companies are now selling furnace and AC systems at the door in addition to water heaters.

The matter of door-to-door selling practices was brought up as an issue at the 2012 HRAI Contractors Division Democratic Assembly. Concerns were expressed then that, even though it is a very small number of players that use misleading door-to-door tactics, the behaviour has the potential to shed a bad light on the overall HVAC industry.

In response to these concerns, HRAI developed a three-part strategy for action. First, HRAI worked with Enbridge Gas Distribution and other stakeholders last year to revise the terms of the utility’s contracts for billing services that would better allow Enbridge to penalize companies that engage in unethical sales tactics.

Second, HRAI developed a consumer education campaign advising Canadians to exercise caution when making large purchases of any kind at the door. The simple message of this piece was that “water heaters should not be purchased in the same way as Girl Guide cookies.”

To fully protect consumers from abuse of this kind, however, HRAI had proposed that regulatory change was needed. The third part of the plan, therefore, was to seek changes to the Consumer Protection Act in Ontario in the hope that stronger regulations would curb fraudulent activities.

While hopes are high that the Ministry’s proposed regulations will help resolve the issue once and for all, only time will tell whether these initiatives, in combination with the utility bill changes and the public education campaign (ongoing), will have the desired effect.

If you have any questions about hot water heater rentals give us call and we will be more than happy to answer them.

Click Here to learn about Ottawa Home Services Hot Water Heater Rental Program.

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