A Toronto-based home services company has been banned from doing business in B.C. after an investigation into deceptive sales practices and a failure to issue lawful refunds.
Simply Green Home Services offers heating, cooling, air filtration and water treatments by entering leasing agreements with consumers, typically through door-to-door sales. In November 2019, Consumer Protection BC issued a report alleging that the company used deficient contracts and wouldn’t provide refunds when consumers cancelled their service.
According to Consumer Protection BC documents, one consumer says he was told by a salesperson that he would be eligible for an $800 rebate if he installed a water treatment system and heat pump. Not only was there was no rebate after he had the equipment installed, but an independent contractor who later inspected the equipment said it was not functional or installed to code.
That consumer said English was not his first language and he didn’t understand the nature of the contracts he had signed. After Consumer Protection sent a notice of the complaint, Simply Green agreed to cancel the contracts and returned the consumer’s money.
That account was one of four complaints alleging the company suggested or promised a rebate if the customer accepted the contract.
Another consumer said that during a door-to-door solicitation he was told he should replace his old furnace because Fortis BC was penalizing households without high efficiency furnaces. Another complaint said the salesperson claimed to be affiliated with BC Hydro and Fortis BC.
A former Simply Green salesperson interviewed by the inspector said salespeople were deliberately deceptive and most consumers did not understand the nature of the agreement. He said English as a second language was a factor for some consumers.
That salesperson left because he was “uncomfortable with the deceptive sales tactics he was […] trained to use.”
Following the findings of the investigation, Simply Green Services has been banned from engaging in door-to-door sales in B.C. for one year and must pay an $8,000 penalty. The decision was issued June 9 and the company given 30 days to request reconsideration.
Tatiana Chabeaux-Smith, corporate spokesperson for Consumer Protection BC, says the ban will remain in place if necessary.
“The ban will only be lifted once we are satisfied that they have changed their business practices,” she said.
With COVID-19 keeping many people at home, Consumer Protection BC says it’s important the public is informed on door-to-door sales practices.
“Not only are British Columbians spending more time at home these days, but many have been impacted financially by the pandemic,” Chabeaux-Smith said. “We want people to know how to spot an exploitative transaction and be able to exercise their rights under B.C. law.”
Consumer tips include: Knowing your cancellation rights, keeping a copy of your contract, ensuring you understand any financing in the contract, taking your time, saying no if you feel pressured and being cautious of down payments and rebate or environmental incentives.
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