Ontario Bans Door-to-Door Sales of Heating and Air Home Services and Appliances

“When was the last time you got your furnace maintenanced?” This is the sort of question you won’t have to answer to the door-to-door salesperson who knocks on your door while you’re sitting down for dinner. There was a time when door-to-door sales was convenient for most people, they were reminded of things they might want to buy and didn’t have to line up at a store to get it. We’re talking about makeup and skincare products and of course the chocolate and cookie sales. These are reasonable things to purchase on-the-spot at the door, while the kids are making noise, and the dogs are barking. Having an unexpected visit at the door can be hectic for most households, which is why over the past 3 years, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services as well as the Ontario Energy Board received over 7,000 consumer complaints regarding the sale of energy contracts and other household appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, and air conditioners. It’s a good indication that door-to-door contracts have been among the top complaints received by the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and something needed to be done about it.

As of March 1, 2018 a ban on unsolicited, door-to-door sales of select household appliances — such as furnaces or water heaters — will take effect across Ontario. The Bill was first introduced by Etobicoke Centre MPP Yvan Baker after hearing stories from seniors who experienced aggressive sales tactics from salespeople at their door. They wanted to make sure that people were feeling comfortable opening up their doors. Ontario is the second Province to practice the new legislation, Alberta being the first.

The ban covers the sale of:

Air cleaners
Air conditioners
Air purifiers
Duct cleaning services
Water filters
Water heaters
Water purifiers
Water softeners
Water treatment devices
Bundles of these goods and services

There are some exceptions to the new rule. Businesses can still offer and sign you into a contract at the door if you called and invited them over prior to them arriving and specifically for the purpose of buying or leasing one of the restricted products and services. Now, one thing to note is that if you called a business for any other reason such as repairs or maintenance, they cannot transition the visit into a sales opportunity by providing a pitch or offering a contract. They can only offer you promotional material. Any contracts signed under these circumstances would not be considered binding and should be cancelled without penalty. The same rule applies to consumers who are currently in an existing contract with a business, they can still visit contact you by phone and schedule a repair or maintenance service and enter into a new contract however, the business must tell you and you must agree to one of the products listed on the ban prior to them visiting your home.

In addition, businesses who do enter into a contract with consumers will be required to keep a record of how the consumer learned of their products. All contracts signed in the home for goods and services will also have a 10-day cooling-off period which allows consumers to cancel the contract for any reason without penalty.

Individuals or businesses who are in direct violation of the new legislation can face hefty fines and sometimes even imprisonment. This sort of penalty who likely serve as a major deterrent for those who might want to stray from the law and we may even see the legislation spread to other types of businesses such as telecommunications. Any area of business that experiences a large volume of complaints is something the government may study deeper into and take action as needed. The new rules do not apply to telecommunication companies as well as charities.

While a lot of people are turned off by the idea of buying anything at the door, remember that not all offers are scams, but what consumers can do to protect themselves from entering into an agreement they don’t understand is whenever you open your door to a salesperson, remember:

  • Certain products and services can’t be sold or marketed door-to-door
  • Always ask for photo ID and get the name of the person and the business
    never share personal information (e.g, an electricity or gas bill)
  • If you ask a salesperson to leave, they must leave right away. If you feel unsafe, call local police
  • Look at the company name on the salesperson’s business card and promotional material and see if it matches the company name on the proposed contract
  • Do not rely on a salesperson’s opinion that your water heater is unsafe or should be replaced
  • Local utility companies, municipalities, government agencies or regulatory organisations don’t send salespeople door-to-door
  • You do not have to sign a contract on the spot, take the material to review and you can always call the company later if you decide it’s something you’re interested in.

Learn more about door-to-door sales and home services contracts here. Find out how you can protect yourself from common scams for water heaters, furnace maintenance and repairs, and other services. Know your rights and obligations as a consumer.

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