A 90-year-old Coquitlam woman has come forward with a warning for the public, telling CBC News that she's been told that she was grossly overcharged by a plumbing company for a hot water tank replacement and maintenance she didn’t even know was needed.
Kay Alexander says that she received a phone call at her home in August from a man she says she thought was with energy company FortisBC, saying they needed to check on her gas-fired hot water tank.
No one from FortisBC ever came to her home. Instead, a plumber from a North Vancouver-based company called Seven Standards Services — which also operates under the name Advantage Plus Heating and Plumbing — showed up, saying her old tank was corroded and needed to be replaced.
Alexander says she hadn’t noticed the corrosion prior to the plumbers visit, and that a replacement tank was brought to her home within the hour.
“It seemed awful fast to me. I look around, and here’s a tank coming in the door.”
The final bill for the new tank was just short of $1,800, almost double the going rate according to veteran Metro Vancouver plumber Bob Mitchell, who was contacted by concerned neighbours of Alexander's after they heard about the bill.
“I couldn’t believe it, being in the business this long. I couldn’t believe how they could rip a senior off like that,” Mitchell says.
To make matters worse, shortly after the new hot water tank was installed, pipes near the unit began leaking.
Alexander said she called Seven Standards Services back and asked them to repair it, unaware at that point that the company had charged her double the industry standard for the hot water tank.
The bill for the repairs amounted to about $2100, bringing the total for the tank and maintenance to over $3900.
'I couldn't believe it, being in the business this long. I couldn't believe how they could rip a senior off like that.' - Bob Mitchell, veteran plumber
Afshin “Sean” Pourian, the owner of Seven Standards Services, refused an on-camera interview with CBC News, but said that he can charge whatever he wants for the work his company does.
But B.C.’s consumer watchdog — Consumer Protection BC — says that Pourian isn’t necessarily correct, as provincial law prohibits ‘unconscionable’ charges.
“One of the things that is defined as an unconscionable act is grossly exceeding the price that may be set out there as an industry standard,” says Manjit Bains with Consumer Protection BC.
The B.C. Safety Authority is currently investigating the plumbing work completed by Seven Standards Services at Alexander's home, telling CBC News that it appears that proper permits were not obtained prior to installing the new hot water tank.
Alexander says she hopes to recover some of the nearly $4,000 she paid to Seven Standards Services , and that she will have to save to survive.
“Don’t do any business over the phone,” she advises the public.
“Now I’ll have to eat beans and wieners for a couple of months.”
Below is a letter sent to Seven Standards Services from concerned neighbours of Kay Alexander regarding her bills from the company.