Don’t get burned by furnace fraud

  
     
September 21, 2009
Fall is the ideal time of year to have your furnace serviced - before the busy winter season starts. Better Business Bureau warns the public to be cautious about misleading door-to-door heating contractors who may use scare tactics to convince homeowners to buy a new furnace or authorize expensive, but unneeded, repairs to their existing heating system.

“Every fall we see a spike in consumers contacting us about heating contractors showing up door-to-door offering everything from duct cleaning to furnace inspections,” says Lynda Pasacreta, BBB President and CEO. “While most furnace companies are reputable, competent and fair; con artists may try to frighten you into unnecessary installations or repairs using fear as their main tactic.”

The BBB has received reports of con artists who tried to frighten consumers into purchasing a new heating with warnings that their heating system is leaking dangerous gases that could explode or poison those inside the house.

In another example, earlier this year, the White Rock RCMP reported that several residents had been contacted by a company called "Can Fix It", a gas inspection service. RCMP alleges that a representative from "Can Fix It" stated that they are designated by the City of White Rock's "Gas inspections" to do gas line and equipment inspections around the house for a standard fee of $89.00. The company had no authorization from the City of White Rock to act on its behalf.

From July to September, BBB received 1339 consumer inquiries for heating contractors in 2009 compared to 272 inquiries from last year. While this has not resulted in a higher number of complaints in the industry, BBB has noticed consumers reporting that heating contractors are showing up selling door-to-door in BC communities.

Before you choose a heating contractor consider the following tips:

Start with the BBB. You can find out helpful information like, owners, company addresses, and customer service information by visiting the company’s reliability report at: www.mbc.bbb.org.

Hire heating contractors who:

· Are licensed with the BC Safety Authority; call 1.866.566 SAFE (7233)

· Are or employ certified gas fitters

· Are bonded and insured for liability and property damage

· Can provide you a copy of the gas permit authorizing the company to work on your heating system

· Offer warranties that cover equipment, materials and labour

· Offer maintenance and service after installation and after warranties have expired

· Provide customer references

Get at least two estimates for the work. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used.

Compare more that just cost. Check the size and rated efficiency of the equipment each contractor recommends. Ask each contractor how they arrived at recommending a particular sized system. Check the warranty offered and make certain you understand it.

Report misleading door-to-door sales practices. Consumer Protection BC can help with allegations of misleading door-to-door sales practices. For complaints, contact the Consumer Protection BC at 1.888.564.9963 or go to: www.consumerprotectionbc.ca