Orillia resident Duncan McDonald, like many others in Ontario, recently fell victim to a scam that has left him frustrated and fighting for justice.
The 61-year-old responded to a Facebook ad in September promoting a tankless water heater. After connecting online, representatives from the company that calls itself Ontario Green Savings showed up at McDonald’s home armed with aggressive sales tactics and an in-a-hurry attitude.
“I was interested in the product, and it was the same price you would pay for a water heater,” he said. “What they didn’t tell me is they get you to sign into a 12-year contract, but they don’t give you a physical copy of the contract, which was a big mistake on my part.”
McDonald was sent the contract electronically and he signed it. The next day, the company came to his house and ripped out his old water heater.
“They turn around very quickly because they know they have to do that to keep this going,” he said. “By the time I found out what was going on, it was too late.”
The day Ontario Green Energy left McDonald’s property, it put a lien on his home so he can’t sell his house without the company recouping all the money it's owed.
“They put that in the fine print, and they don’t tell you,” he said. “They came back and pulled this whole new deal where they said I need to put a water softener in, and that’s when I went, ‘Nope. Get out.’”
To make matters worse, McDonald says the tankless water heater works poorly. On a cold day, it takes three to four minutes to get hot water out of the heater, he said, stressing it’s not worth what he had agreed to pay.
“I would recommend that people don’t respond to any Facebook ads of any kind,” he said, “unless they are a local company, and you know who they are.”
McDonald says the incident could happen to anyone, explaining he has a master’s degree, he did research on tankless water heaters, but he still got scammed.
He hired lawyer Denis Crawford to investigate. Crawford assured McDonald that he is not alone, saying thousands of people have fallen prey to the same scam.
“We’ve all been subjected to high-pressure sales tactics and bought things we’ve later regretted,” Crawford said, “but the problem is after they install this equipment at your house, they don’t tell you is that they are going to then sell the contract to a finance company who is going to register a lien on your house without telling you that.”
There is a one-year cooling-off period under the Consumer Protection Act, which McDonald could avail himself of. However, Crawford says companies like Ontario Green Savings that are running a scam are not honouring the cooling-off period.
“I have written to these companies to delete the lien, come pick up their equipment and honour the one-year cooling-off period,” he explained. “What they did in Duncan’s case is the finance company deletes their lien, but the door-to-door company who sold the water heater in the first place just registered their own lien the next day.”
Crawford says homeowners have paid $10,000 to $20,000 to get out of such liens because they don’t have the time to fight it in court. The sad part is unless people can afford to pay out of the lien or hire a lawyer, they are stuck with the sub-par equipment, he said.
Because McDonald signed the Ontario Green Savings contract without his wife, a registered homeowner, being aware of it, McDonald will make a case for the lien being illegal, which he hopes will result in the lien being removed and the equipment removed from his house.
Ontario Green Savings did not respond to OrilliaMatters’ request to comment in time for publication.