TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 20, 2012) - Reliance Comfort Limited Partnership today reacted to a news release issued by the Competition Bureau regarding its water heater rental return policies and procedures:
"We are disappointed by this action as we were in cooperative discussions regarding our return policy. Reliance intends to vigorously defend its current practices that it firmly believes are in best interests of its customers. The action taken against us today will not clean up the well-documented problem of misleading sales tactics used by competitors' door-to-door salespeople. We believe that taking action against these unlawful practices should be the priority of the Competition Bureau," says Roger Rossi, President and CEO, Reliance Comfort Limited Partnership.
Consumer complaints regarding door-to-door tactics are well documented:
- The Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services, which is responsible for administering Ontario's Consumer Protection Act, have received at least 120 separate complaints about National's practices in the first 10 months of this year. Overall water heater rentals drove 2518 complaints representing the second largest number of complaints received by the Ministry of Consumer Services in 2011. Reliance is working with the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services on proposed regulatory amendments that will address many of the tactics used to mislead consumers approached by door-to-door salespersons.
- The Better Business Bureau of Mid-western and Central Ontario has reported 92 complaints about National's business practices in the past 12 months and 178 in the past three years. Recently, the Ontario Superior Court found that the door-to-door practices used by National breached the misleading advertising sections of the Competition Act.
- In May of this year the Toronto Police Service issued a press release indicating that two salespersons acting on behalf of MorEnergy had been charged with attempted fraud for claiming they worked for Enbridge gas and advising the homeowner's that there was a problem with their water heater to coerce them into signing a contract with MorEnergy. The Toronto Police Service issued the press release because they believe there were other victims of these fraudulent practices.
Instead of dealing with these well-documented problems that are plaguing consumers the Competition Bureau wants Reliance to accept door-to-door agency agreements in circumstances where the company believes consumers have not been properly informed of their choices. For example, the Competition Bureau cited Reliance's use of a Removal Reference Number as a source of concern.
"Reliance introduced the use of a Removal Reference Number as another measure to support consumer protection following complaints from our customers who have had their account changed without knowing it or fully understanding the terms and conditions of their replacement provider. Given these complaints, we don't understand why the Competition Bureau has not investigated and addressed these undeniable consumer issues. We use a Removal Reference Number to create a process that provides our customers with the opportunity to talk to Reliance about the facts regarding their contract and make sure that they are making an informed decision. As part of the process our customers are given a Removal Reference Number which they can then share with any third party they wish to act as their agent," says Rossi.
The Bureau has insisted on a model that provides for the appointment of the salesperson as an agent during the door-to-door sales process that would not provide any requirement that consumers have been adequately informed as required by the Ontario Consumer Protection Act, 2002. We believe that such a 'door-to-door agency appointment' is vulnerable to the same abuses and misrepresentations which are now an undeniable problem for consumers.
Reliance is willing to work with the Competition Bureau to explore alternative models that would better protect the consumer's best interests. However, any model must ensure that consumers are not misled and is fully compliant with provincial requirements to make adequate disclosure to consumers. In addition, the Bureau needs to take aggressive action against the abuses and misrepresentations plaguing the marketplace. To date the Bureau has taken no action to deal with matters despite the numerous government agencies and police forces that have documented these abuses.
Notwithstanding the action being brought against it by the Competition Bureau, Reliance will continue to take a leadership role in addressing the misleading sales practices used by some of its competitors to the detriment of Ontario's consumers and enforce lawful practices. For example, Reliance is suing National Energy Corporation (National Home Services) on account of what Reliance alleges are unfair practices and the use of misleading representations during the door-to-door sales process. Reliance believes these practices contravene the Consumer Protection Act and the Competition Act. Reliance has also now participated in making a formal complaint to the Commissioner of Competition against National and MorEnergy regarding these marketplace abuses and misrepresentations. The Commissioner is required under the Competition Act to undertake a formal inquiry pursuant to Section 10 of the Competition Act and consider charges.
Reliance is a Canadian company with its head office in Toronto and employs approximately 1100 people across the country. Reliance offers two core product areas to its over 1.6 million residential and commercial customers: Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) and Security Services. Reliance Home Comfort provides retail sale, rental, service and maintenance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment. Its water heater rental business, based largely in Ontario, is the largest in Canada. Reliance Protectron Security Services, the second largest security provider in Canada, provides security system sales, rental, installation, service, monitoring to homes and businesses across the country. Visit www.reliancehomecomfort.com to learn more.