Starting March 1, 2018, Ontario bans unsolicited, door-to-door sales of certain household appliances to better protect consumers from aggressive and misleading contracting at home. Ontario is the second province in Canada to restrict door-to-door solicitation and contracts. The first one to do so is the province of Alberta.
Ontario Government enacted the law (Bill 193 – Door-to-door Sales Prohibition Act 2016) after receiving thousands of complaints about expensive, locked-in contracts signed under questionable circumstances. Over 2400 complaints were received in 2016 alone and over 7000 in the last 3 years.
The new rules will apply to air cleaners, air conditioners, air purifiers, duct cleaning services, furnaces, water filters, water heaters, water purifiers, water softeners, water treatment devices and any good or service that performs or combines one or more of the above functions.
There are many stories of vulnerable homeowners (especially senior citizens) who signed up for long-term rental agreements from agents who they believed were from a government department doing mandatory “updates” or from Enbridge (Gas company) affiliate installing upgrades. Some have had unexpected liens place on their homes or faced massive payouts to fulfill 120-month agreements.
As reported by some newspapers, also experienced by myself, the following scenarios best describe the pattern of how the agents operate:
Often working in pairs, the agents wear official looking badges or vests and claim to be “working with” Enbridge to update equipment to gain consent from the homeowner to enter the house. They use a phony test that shows the homeowner's water is discoloured and full of contaminants. They sometimes claim the proposed product will save the homeowner money because it will replace the need ever to buy bottled water.
The systems are often installed immediately and many customers don't realize they have 10 days to cancel the deal for any reason. For those who wants to cancel the deal during the cooling-off period, many were hit with a fee to dismantle the connections and removing the equipment.
As of March 1, 2018, businesses will only be able to enter into a contract in the consumer's home if the consumer has contacted the business ahead of time and invited them into their home for the purpose of entering into a contract. Contracts that are in violation of the new rules relating to door-to-door contract solicitation will be considered void, and consumers will be able to keep the goods and services with no obligations.
In addition, businesses will be required to keep a record of how contact with the consumer entering the contract was made, and all contracts signed in the home for these goods and services will also have a 10-day cooling-off period, allowing consumers to cancel the contract for any reason without penalty.
Individuals who violate the law will risk a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to two years, less a day, or both. Corporations will face a fine of up to $250,000.
While the days of answering your door bell to find someone hawking new equipment for your home is over, the law will not stop telecommunications companies, home maintenance services or charities from knocking on your door. The law stops short of encompassing companies in other sectors because they don’t all fall under provincial jurisdiction or generate as many complaints with Consumer Protection Ontario.
Just this week, CBC ran a story on how door to door sales agents from Bell Canada were making verbal guarantees to homeowners not backed up by the written contracts signed. This proves that “total coverage” to protect consumers from aggressive and conniving door-to-door sales agents is still lacking!
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