A travelling salesman who was once banned from selling in B.C. for five years is back in business and back in trouble with regulators.
Lloyd Schell Jr., 59, of Maple Ridge, B.C., has left a trail of complaints across northern B.C. and Alberta, where he's been charged with conducting direct sales without a licence and failing to give a refund as required by law.
Schell’s latest venture is Vin Water Systems, which is registered in Hinton, Alta., but most recently operating in Maple Ridge.
CBC News has spoken to several people who bought reverse osmosis water filter systems from Schell after a test known as the "Precipitator" apparently revealed hidden contamination in water.
Ruth McClounie, of Quesnel, B.C., took Schell up on an offer to test her tap water for free.
The 71-year-old says the device turned a glass of her water into sludge.
"It turned colours right before my eyes. And the black all rose to the top, and underneath was kind of a greeny colour," she said.
"I felt really scared of drinking the water, washing in it, the whole thing."
But scientists say the "Precipitator" is bogus and the scum comes from electrodes placed in the water, not the water itself.
"This is not a valid test. No one would use this," Lucio Gelmini, a chemistry professor at MacEwan University, told CBC News.
The "Precipitator" is shunned by reputable filtration companies. The industry’s Water Quality Association states, "the likelihood is considerable that the use of this test will mislead the public."
McClounie paid $2,576 dollars for the under-the-counter water filter system — which her daughter later found online for $400 dollars.
"I feel absolutely robbed, absolutely robbed."
‘Nothing I did wrong’
McClounie tried to cancel with Schell within the allotted 10-day period. Her registered letter affirming the cancellation was delivered on the 10th day but not picked up until after the deadline. Her cheque had already been cashed.
Subsequent attempts to contact Schell by phone were fruitless, and McClounie's messages were never returned.
She eventually had the water filtration device removed by a plumber.
"It was just like a Lloyd Schell ghost sitting on my sink," she said. "I simply couldn't stand the sight of it."
When CBC News reached Schell by phone, he shrugged off the complaints.
"I don’t think anything about it because there’s nothing I did wrong," he said.
He went on to accuse CBC News of "digging up garbage" about him.
"You know something? You should be a salesman because you're trying to screw things around and come around corners and different things," Schell said.
In 2005, Schell was banned from selling in B.C. for five years after complaints from seniors about his high-pressure sales tactics.
Consumer Protection B.C. found he "used undue pressure on vulnerable seniors," "charged grossly exaggerated prices" and dodged "the 10-day right to cancel by not returning or answering calls."
"We were very seriously concerned about the repeated nature of the violations, and the egregious nature of some of the violations at the time," said Manjit Bains with Consumer Protection B.C.
In 2010, the B.C. government took the unusual step of issuing a warning that Schell’s ban was about to expire.
Schell is scheduled to appear in provincial court in Vegreville, Alta., on July 8.
Consumer Protection B.C. is investigating the latest complaints against Schell.