British Columbia

High pressure door-to-door furnace sale leaves family steaming over $10K buy-out bill

A Delta, B.C., family was hit with a $10,633 bill — on top of what it had already paid — to break a furnace rental contract with an unsolicited door-to-door sales company that only settled her complaint after CBC News got involved.

After CBC News contacted company, Simply Green resolved complaint with confidential settlement

Harjit Sidhu, of Delta, B.C., was shocked at the price tag when she tried to get out of a furnace rental agreement with Simply Green Home Services. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Harjit Sidhu wanted out of her furnace rental contract but couldn't believe how much that would cost. 

Two years ago, she signed up to a rent-to-own agreement with a door-to-door salesperson with Simply Green Home Services. 

The total cost, she was told, would be $6,500 payable over six years. 

But when she and her husband recently decided they wanted to buy out their contract Simply Green turned up the heat on them to pay a lot more. 

"I think these peoples are scam," said an angry Sidhu. 

In the time since she signed the deal, the couple has paid monthly fees for a total of approximately $2,400.

But Simply Green's finance arm sent Sidhu a quote that she needed to pay another $10,633.73 to buy out the contract because the agreement was actually for 10 years, not six.

When she called the company, it got worse. 

The person on the phone said the contract was for 15 years and that would cost Sidhu $18,000 — three times the original amount.  

Speaking to CBC News last Wednesday, Sidhu says she and her husband felt like they were stuck and didn't know how they could afford to pay the hefty price tag. 

"It makes me very mad and it makes feel stupid," said Sidhu.  

The contract's fine print doesn't clearly define its length. 

Watch Harjit Sidhu talk about her experience:

Harjit Sidhu says she's learned a tough lesson. 0:29

After the interview with Sidhu, CBC News contacted Simply Green. 

Lawyer Alfred Apps said the company was dealing with Sidhu's complaint and her issue would be resolved. 

On Saturday, Apps said the parties had reached a settlement, the terms of which are confidential.

Apps said Simply Green is very mindful of its reputation and does an "excellent" job of resolving valid complaints to customer satisfaction 

Company under investigation 

Consumer Protection B.C., which regulates consumer transactions in British Columbia, says it has an open investigation into Simply Green's business practices. 

In the last 13 months, the agency has received 31 calls about the Ontario-based company's business dealings in B.C. 

In June 2016, Simply Green was cited for "engaging in deceptive acts or practices" and fined $1,200. 

Apps says the company stopped doing business in B.C. a year-and-a-half ago and the Consumer Protection complaints have been resolved. 

The Better Business Bureau, meanwhile, says it has fielded a total of 114 complaints against the company in the last three years from across the country. 

Apps maintains most of the complaints aren't about Simply Green but rather another company that was once financed by Simply Green. 

The initial agreement was that the Sidhu family would pay $6,500 over six years for a furnace installed by Simply Green Home Services. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Apps says Simply Green hasn't done door-to-door to sales anywhere in Canada since Ontario banned the practice in 2018. 

Alberta also doesn't allow unsolicited door-to-door home energy appliance sales. 

B.C. door-to-door ban? 

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says, if necessary, he's prepared to bring in legislation like other provinces to ban the door-to-door sales. 

He called the Sidhu case "appalling." 

Apps, meanwhile, says Simply Green would welcome a ban in B.C. to stop the sloppy conduct of other vendors. 

'Financial virus'

Ontario paralegal John Robinson says the proliferation of door-to-door sales companies in the past decade has become a "financial virus." 

He says it's a problem across Canada where these types of companies pop up, get in trouble, dissolve, then start-up again.

Robinson says governments need to enact legislation immediately to restrict the sale of door-to-door energy equipment. 

Watch John Robinson explain the problem with door-to-door energy equipment sales:

Robinson says his clients feel stuck when they try to buy out home energy appliance rental contracts. 0:53

Sidhu says her experience didn't get off to a good start right from the get-go. 

The main reason she signed the contract was because it was for a furnace, air-conditioning and regular maintenance for $13,000 which she thought was a good deal. 

She never did get the air-conditioning because the installers told her "your panel doesn't have room for air-conditioning." 

It took considerable back-and-forth, she says, for the company to agree to cut her price tag in half to $6,500. 

And, she says, in two years no one has come to do any maintenance. 

"It was a very tough lesson," said Sidhu. 

Her advice to others is if someone comes to your door, take the contract and have a lawyer look it over before you sign it. 

With files from Paisley Woodward

CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.

 

About the Author

Belle Puri

Reporter

Belle Puri is a veteran journalist who has won awards for her reporting in a variety of fields. Belle contributes to CBC Vancouver's Impact Team, where she investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now