Fall is the ideal time of year to have your furnace serviced - before the busy winter season starts. Better Business Bureau warns the public to be cautious about misleading door-to-door heating contractors who may use deceptive sales tactics to convince homeowners to buy a new furnace or hot water tank.
According to a recent warning issued by the Sidney North Saanich RCMP (which was posted August 31, 2012 in the Peninsula News Review), residents on the Saanich Peninsula have been warned “to be aware of a man going door-to-door asking to inspect furnaces and hot water tanks. The man identifies himself as the ‘gas man’ or the ‘furnace man’ and appears to be targeting seniors on the Peninsula. In some cases, the man has replaced hot water tanks and is paid for the job, typically by blank cheque…People are paying him with cheques which have the ‘payable to’ section left blank because he’s telling them he is going to use his business stamp on it…The problem is the man doesn’t have a business registered in his name.”
In another recent scenario reported to the BBB, a consumer was sold a hot water tank by a company who stated it was a 2011 model, when in reality the tank was from 2003. Reports have come in that this same contractor is operating around British Columbia and does not have proper safety licensing. This contractor also requests that consumers issue blank cheques and provides no company contact information for payments.
In the past the BBB has also received reports of con artists who tried to frighten consumers into purchasing a new heating system with warnings that their current heating system was leaking dangerous gases that could explode or poison those inside the house.
Before you choose a heating contractor consider the following tips:
Start with the BBB. You can find out helpful information like, owners, company addresses, and customer service information by visiting the company’s Business Review at: www.vi.bbb.org
Hire heating contractors who:
- Are licensed with the BC Safety Authority; call 1.866.566 SAFE (7233);
- Are or employ certified gas fitters;
- Are bonded and insured for liability and property damage;
- Can provide you a copy of the gas permit authorizing the company to work on your heating system;
- Offer warranties that cover equipment, materials and labour;
- Offer maintenance and service after installation and after warranties have expired;
- Provide customer references.
Get at least two estimates for the work. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used.
Compare more that just cost. Check the size and rated efficiency of the equipment each contractor recommends. Ask each contractor how they arrived at recommending a particular sized system. Check the warranty offered and make certain you understand it.
Inspections every year are recommended but not mandatory. The BC Safety Authority states that it is recommended, but not mandatory for a consumer to have their heating system inspected yearly. Be wary of any company that states it is calling from your municipality, or stating that it is required by law to have an inspection.
Report misleading door-to-door sales practices. Consumer Protection BC can help with allegations of misleading door-to-door sales practices. For complaints, contact the Consumer Protection BC at 1.888.564.9963 or go to: www.consumerprotectionbc.ca If you smell gas and suspect that you have a leak, leave. Contact Fortis BC at 1-800-663-9911 and leave the building, keeping the door open and any windows that may already be open.
For more consumer and business tips you can trust, visit www.vi.bbb.org