| |On your doorstep: Protecting yourself from high-pressure sales Did you hear last month that the City of Saint John put out a public notice warning residents about door-to-door salespeople making misleading statements about the city’s water quality?
The salespeople were from a private company trying to sell residents water softeners by making claims that the city’s drinking water may be hazardous to their health.
Unfortunately, this type of incident isn’t happening just in Saint John.
FCNB is responsible for the Direct Sellers Act. This Act requires companies and individuals selling items door-to-door to obtain a licence. Several companies are licensed in New Brunswick to sell water softeners, air purifiers and heat pumps door-to-door. However, it is a violation of the Act for these companies and their salespeople to use misleading information to try to convince the homeowner to purchase their product.
Earlier this month, Natural Resources Canada also issued a consumer caution about salespeople visiting Canadian homes trying to sell furnaces, hot water heaters and other similar equipment using misleading and high-pressure sales tactics.
Door-to-door sales are considered high-pressure sales because they happen in the comfort and safety of your own home. The best way to protect yourself is to be aware of some high pressure tactics that may be used by salespeople. The scenario could look like this.
The salesperson may:
- Visit your home unexpectedly.
- Ask to inspect your furnace or hot water heater.
- Misrepresent themselves as working for your municipality, a utility company, a provincial organization or a heating/water/air purifying company.
- Make you believe they are backed by your municipal, provincial or federal government.
- Make you believe they are backed by ENERGY STAR®, EnerGuide or the former ecoENERGY program.
- Try to convince you they should inspect your equipment, your tap water or your home’s air quality.
- Tell you something is wrong with your equipment, your water quality or air quality.
- Try to convince you to buy or rent their equipment.
- May say it is a one-time offer only available now.
Know who’s knocking at your door
Did you know that someone going door-to-door to sell products or services in New Brunswick needs to be licensed by FCNB? As part of this licensing process, these direct sellers must undergo a criminal record check. This provides a screening process for individuals entering your home.
If you find a salesperson at your door, be sure to ask to see their licence. The licence will include:
- the date the licence was issued and its expiry date
- the salesperson’s name and address
- the business name and address
- the product they are licensed to sell
- the signature of FCNB’s director of consumer affairs
For more tips on how to keep yourself safe from scams and frauds, check out our tips on door-to-door sales.
Before signing a contract
Purchasing and installing a heat pump, water softener or air purifier is a personal choice. But before you sign a contract, consider the following tips. Not only will they help you choose the right product for your home, they will also help you choose the right contractor for your install.
Heat pumps: A heat pump is a big investment, starting at about $3,000 for a mini-split and up to $20,000 or more for a central-ducted system. To make sure that a heat pump is right for your home, consider these factors:
- Keep the heat in. Make sure your home is well insulated and draft-proof first.
- Not every heat pump works the same. Some are more efficient than others and will do a good job heating a home when outside temperatures fall to -25 degrees Celsius. Others lose their effectiveness once it hits -15 C, and require additional heating sources.
- Shop around. Get quotes, read up on different available brands and functions, and understand what Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF), Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) and BTU means. Make sure you understand before you buy.
- Consider your home’s size and layout. Larger houses will require higher-capacity pumps to heat and cool them properly. For ductless heat pumps, open concept layouts or large rooms yield more savings on your energy bill.
- Expect some maintenance. You will need to clear snow from the outside unit in the winter and clean or change filters regularly.
- Understand your financing options. Compare the cost of financing (total cost of credit – interest rate %) with a finance company or your local financial institution. If you plan on leasing, understand the term of the lease (term, rate, cost of borrowing, termination clause, etc.).
- Understand the warranty and coverage. Many top heat pump brands require the dealer to be certified in order to offer the longest warranties available. Ensure the compressor − the most expensive part to replace − is covered. Also, ask about the warranty on the installation job. Contractors should guarantee their work for at least three months.
Air purifiers: Research the pros and cons of air purifiers before making a purchase. In many cases, you can take some simple steps to reduce indoor air irritants. Some portable air purifiers use either electrostatic-precipitator or ionizer technology that could produce some ozone, a lung irritant. Start your research by visiting the Natural Resources Canada website.
Water filtration systems: Before purchasing a water filtration system, consider having your water tested by a laboratory accredited either by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) or the Canadian Association of Laboratory Accreditation (CALA). Some Service New Brunswick offices are also designated pick-up and drop-off points for water tests. You can find more information here. If you are connected to a municipal water system, call your local municipality to get more information about your drinking water quality.
Choosing a contractor
Selecting the right equipment to install in your home is very important, but the company you choose to do the install is equally critical. While a company may quote you a price range over the phone, you should be wary of getting an actual quote or recommendation without a home evaluation. Ask for referrals from friends and/or seek references from the company. Search online for positive feedback from other homeowners by checking the Better Business Bureau and general Google reviews. Make sure the contractor you select carries liability and workers’ compensation coverage and employs licensed tradespeople.
Before committing to purchasing from a door-to-door salesperson, make sure you’ve done your due diligence in learning about out the equipment and seeking out the installer. Don’t feel pressured by these door-to-door salespeople and sign a contract on impulse.
Before you sign, get a copy of the contract and take the time to read it. Make sure you are purchasing what is right for your needs. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.