Chatham-Kent residents are being approached by a door-to-door firm renting heating and air conditioning units which could cost as much as $37,000 over the life of the equipment.
Ron Postma of Postma Heating and Cooling and Dave Cabral and Cindy Brooke of Absolute Comfort say they’ve been busy dealing with phone calls over the past few weeks from concerned residents who have been approached by the Ontario Energy Group.
“If even half of what we’re hearing is accurate, homeowners are being completely misled by some door-to-door sales people,” Postma said. “We’ve been getting calls from our customers wondering why they need their furnaces replaced when there’s nothing wrong with them.”
Postma said homeowners are being led to believe the firm is affiliated with the government and that they have to let salesmen in to inspect their furnaces.
“They’re afraid if they don’t let these people in, the salespeople will alert the government and have their furnaces or air conditioners shut off.”
Cabral said a resident in Tilbury had to get a neighbour to come and eject the salesperson after he refused to leave.
“We’re being told that once they get in the door, they’re relentless. People have signed cheques just to get them out and try to cancel the cheque the next day.”
Calls and emails to OEG seeking comment haven’t been returned.
Norm and Darlene Stall of Chatham said they felt strongly pressured to sign an agreement.
“They came at five o’clock on a Friday, stayed for two hours and told us they wanted to install the furnace right away.” Darlene said. “Norm signed a form just to get them out of the house but we wouldn’t give them any cheque. When they came back Saturday, Norm had to tell them to quit bothering us.”
Norm said the couple’s furnace is currently located in a crawl space beneath their home but when it’s replaced they want to re-locate it to an upstairs closet.
“The salesman told me they would put it in the crawl space and after a couple of weeks once they were sure it was running properly they could move it to where we wanted it,” Norm said. “It was pretty obvious they just wanted a quick job.”
The couple called Postma, who had installed their furnace, because they were concerned about the legitimacy of the OEG salesperson’s claims.
“The last thing we wanted was to find out we were without air conditioning or heating,” Darlene said. “We called Ron (Postma) and he assured us our system is fine.”
Postma said the salespeople target homes with black ABS piping coming from it. “They show up unannounced and tell people the black piping is illegal and they have to replace their furnace and air conditioning,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with ABS for existing homes unless it’s been altered but the standard now is white PVC.”
Cabral said he’s trying to help a Wallaceburg man who entered into an agreement with OEG.
“I was contacted by a family member who is asking for our assistance.”
Cynthia Hiatt contacted Cabral to examine the questions quality of work done on a vacant property.
“There are just too many questions about the way the work was done and the contracts involved. We wanted a professional opinion before we take the matter further but we’re not happy about the way things look right now,” Hiatt said.
Cabral said due to calls from customers, he began researching OEG and found the firm has had 54 complaints with the Bettter Business Bureau, 22 of which remain unresolved.
He provided more than 20 pages of complaints on the firm, including information about it receiving a $102,000 fine by the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (later reduced to $54,000) for nearly 4,000 violations of the do-not-call list.
“There is no such thing as an unscheduled door-to-door government furnace inspection,” Postma said. “There is no way any of these firms have any right in your home.
“There are many reputable heating and cooling contractors in Chatham-Kent. There is no reason to use someone from out of town with a door-to-door sales pitch.”
Fiona Dunbar, Dispute Resolution Manager of the Better Business Bureau’s Central Ontario office, said the OEG is not accredited by her organization.
“There has been a significant number of complaints but there are other firms in the sector which have more,” she said. To date, the BBB hasn’t received any complaints about the firm from Chatham-Kent.