A St. John’s company that became embroiled in a customer service controversy has apologized to a man who was told he had to pay a steep return fee for medical equipment that his father didn’t get to use before he died.

Al Rogers spoke with CBC News last week about his shock at being told that HorizonAire would take back a $2,500 portable oxygen concentrator only if he paid a 60 per cent restocking fee.

The machine had never been opened, as Rogers’ father, Albert, died of a heart attack before he could use it.

In a statement Tuesday, HorizonAire said it had made a mistake.

"We didn’t listen with an open mind," HorizonAire owner John Pike said.

"We heard the situation and enforced our no refund policy — without thinking about Mr. Rogers' grief or particular situation," he said.

"In this case, I should have approved the refund. I used poor judgment and I apologize."

Pike said his company is providing a full refund of $2,495 to Rogers, and is suggesting that the machine can be donated to the hospital of his choice in memory of his father.

'Valuable lesson has been learned'

Pike, who had initially told CBC News last week that he was retaining a lawyer because Rogers had also engaged one, said he had learned much during the last week.

"We had gotten wrapped up in day-to-day business issues. Thanks to this situation, a valuable lesson has been learned," he said.

Shortly after Here & Now carried the report, a competing company — Respiratory Therapy Specialists — stepped forward to offer Rogers a full refund for the equipment, even though it didn’t handle the transaction.

In his statement, Pike said the matter of the 60 per cent refund that Rogers said he was offered "may have been distorted by the media."

He said the company does not charge such a restocking fee as a matter of policy, because refunds are not available under any circumstances.

"The reason the restocking fee was suggested to Mr. Rogers was that if the machine were returned, it would have to be reprocessed, including infection control and bio-medical testing. This is necessary to protect the well being of patients," the company’s statement said.

It added that the box provided to Rogers had not been sealed, and that the box was provided for shipping purposes, as Rogers’ father has been planning to move out of the province.