Door-to-door sales of heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment prohibited in Ontario. Judge finds supplier made fraudulent misrepresentations.
The experience of Ottawa homeowner Kim Thompson with a company promising energy savings on her heating equipment provides an important lesson to anyone dealing with in-home sales representatives.
Back in June, 2021, Thompson responded to a Facebook ad by Ottawa Green Savings (OGS) offering a free in-home energy assessment. The sales representative told her that OGS was associated with the government of Ontario to help homeowners get Ontario energy efficiency rebates.
The sales person inspected Thompson’s heating equipment and said she needed to replace her water heater, furnace and air conditioner because they were old and inefficient. She was told she would qualify for an energy rebate of $40 a month if she purchased the equipment from OGS.
Thompson signed a long-term rental and financing contract with Canadian Home Improvement Credit Corporation (CHICC) to replace the water heater and air conditioner. She was not told that it would cost $28,000 to cancel the contract or that there would be a notice of security interest registered on the title to her property.
The new air conditioner did not reduce her energy bills and the new water heater did not perform as well as the old one.
Thompson later discovered that OGS registered two notices of security interest for more than $28,000 against the title to her home. That amount far exceeded the value of the equipment.
No-one returned Thompson’s calls when she tried to reach OGS and CHICC, forcing her to sue them.
CHICC discharged the security notices on title, but they were soon replaced by similar notices filed by OGS, again for $28,000.
Last month Thompson was in Superior Court seeking damages against OGS. Based on her evidence, Justice Sally A. Gomery ruled that OGS made false and misleading representations about its relationship with the Ontario government, her need for new equipment, the cost savings she would achieve, and her eligibility for energy rebates.
The judge also ruled that OGS misled her about the terms of the rental and financing agreements, and only gave her partial copies of the contracts.
“I conclude,” wrote the judge, “that OGS made fraudulent misrepresentations to Ms. Thompson to induce her to sign agreements for the rental and financing of equipment that she did not actually need, and that Ms. Thompson relied on these misrepresentations. This entitles her to an order setting the contracts aside.”
“I further find that OGS’ misrepresentations to Ms. Thompson constituted an unfair practice under … the Consumer Protection Act.”
The judge noted that unsolicited door-to-door sales of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment have been prohibited in Ontario since 2018.
“As a whole,” Justice Gomery wrote, “OGS’ conduct is reprehensible and shows contempt for the consumer protection provisions in the Act.”
Thompson was awarded $10,000 in punitive damages plus $8,624 in costs. The contracts were ordered discharged from the title to her house.
The case provides a worthwhile lesson for consumers who may want to buy HVAC equipment from in-home sales people.
Thompson v. Canadian Home Improvement Credit Corporation, 2023 ONSC 5159 (CanLII), https://canlii.ca/t/k03rt