Alberta’s services minister says the government is investigating reports of people breaching a provincial ban on door-to-door energy sales, misrepresenting themselves to get into residents’ homes. The ban took effect last month.
“Since Jan. 1, we’ve received 18 complaints about sales people misrepresenting themselves to get into a consumer’s home,” said Services Minister Stephanie McLean at an Edmonton HVAC operation Tuesday afternoon. “Currently we have 10 open investigations on selling door-to-door after the ban, sales people misrepresenting themselves to sell energy contracts, and going door to door under false pretenses to sell a banned item.
“Let me be clear, misleading sales tactics at the door are against the law in Alberta.”
The Notley government implemented its door-to-door sales ban in response to over 1,000 independent complaints over misleading and high-pressure sales tactics by people going door-to-door for electricity companies. The ban includes the door-to-door sale of furnaces, natural gas and electricity energy contracts, water heaters, windows, air conditioners and energy audits.
Watch below: In November 2016, Bindu Suri filed this report about the Notley government’s plans to implement a door-to-door sales ban on utility products.
McLean said she wanted to remind companies and people who violate the ban they can be fined up to $300,000, be sentenced to up to two years in prison and could lose their licences.
“Companies know that they can still offer a great deal, they just have to do it in ways that don’t pressure or mislead people into purchasing their product,” she said.
“It has affected us at EPCOR,” EPCOR spokesperson Tim le Riche said of the reported breaches of the band. “Since the first of January, we have had 54 complaints come directly to us. Those are not complaints that were directed to Service Alberta.”
At the time, the Notley government passed its door-to-door sales ban, the RCMP and Better Business Bureau both endorsed the move as a way of addressing both high-pressure sales tactics and criminal fraud. Now, in light of the alleged breach of the new rules, McLean suggested she would be open to possibly taking the ban further.
“I would be interested in broadening the ban if need be, but we’ll look at our options and I would certainly ask my department to bring a variety of options to me to see what we need to do,” she said. “We don’t want to be playing a game of whack-a-mole, we want to try and essentially make sure businesses are following the law.
“What’s happening here is not so much that the law is not robust enough, it’s actually more an issue of companies violating the laws that currently stand.”
McLean reminded Albertans sales people can’t say they’re at someone’s door for an inspection or to offer a rebate if they’re there to try to sell a banned product. She urged anyone with a complaint to call the government’s consumer protection line at 1-877-427-4088.
“What we’re finding is that the people who are involved in this kind of thing don’t use our name, but they certainly use tactics that suggest an EPCOR affiliation,” le Riche said. “For example, they’ll show up at the door wearing a hat with EPCOR’s name on it or a lanyard with EPCOR’S name on it. They use tactics like suggesting there was a recent water main break in the neghbourhood and the homeowner may be eligible for a rebate and they’d like to come into the house and have a look.”
Le Riche said customers should be able to tell if someone is an EPCOR employee because they carry a work badge with them that has a number on it that can be verified with the company.
“We were excited about it when we saw the ban,” said Tami Lackey, owner of Acclaimed! Heating, Cooling and Furnace Cleaning, which hosted Tuesday’s news conference. “This is a way to flush out the unreputable companies that are providing services and equipment that are sub-par.
“So we were really excited about that but disappointed to see that people still are using a way around that.”
The Alberta government said in addition to reporting fraud or attempts by people to try and circumvent the door-to-door sales ban, Albertans can also protect themselves in the following ways:
· Be cautious of calls asking you to allow a home visit for an inspection, audit, prize or rebate offer
· Ask questions about the company and always verify the information with your service provider before letting someone in your home
· Get an estimate and take time to shop around, check prices and research the company
· You have 10 days to cancel a door-to-door sales contract without a reason and without penalty