Putting consumers first

As of March 1 consumers are in for a break and it’s about time.

A number of years back Wellington North led the charge locally to limit the seemingly incessant flow of door-to-door salespeople pitching anything from furnaces to hydro rebates. Other townships supported the move to introduce a licensing system to make it more difficult for strangers to parachute into town and sign people up.

This year consumers will be put first, as the name of some new legislation suggests.

There are other areas the government has attempted to regulate to safeguard consumers, particularly the elderly or easily tricked. Online and telephone solicitations are subject to CRTC regulations that allow consumers to opt out of email offers and phone calls. A do-not-call list has been around for a long time, giving the homeowner a break from unwanted solicitors.

Admittedly we haven’t subscribed to that service for a number of reasons. First of all the nature of our work is such that at all times it is helpful to have a pulse on what is going on. But second, most legitimate firms who are simply trying to generate business will readily remove our number from their call list when asked. They don’t want to pester people who for example have windows not needing replaced or a roof re-done.

There is one repeat offender that seems impossible to shake. His service is duct cleaning.

After a sound tune-up on one occasion the calls finally ceased at home. Now he likes to call the cell phone. It has almost turned into a game on his part, calling at different times of the day and night hoping someone else will answer to hear his pitch.

Unfortunately this same firm continues to pester other people we know. The more egregious case involves an elderly couple pestered for months on end until they broke down one day and said yes. Fortunately their children stepped in and put a lid on it before the company showed up for what we are sure would have been a base charge plus extras. They wouldn’t be the first people to suffer from a pushy on-site sales pitch once in the door.

Luckily not all duct cleaners work this way. We have a longstanding customer in the same business that prints and distributes flyers with us. There is no pressure, no phone calls, no fast-talking sales pitch – just an offer to clean your ducts. He is busy all the time and just does his thing. His marketing efforts are what we would term respectful and judging by the number of years he has been at it, people like him. He doesn’t need to impose on people on the phone.

It’s disheartening to see victims of over-billing on the television News where some guy or gal showed up at the door and put the pressure on. Unwittingly people get sucked in to purchasing items or services they do not need, often at inflated prices or terms that essentially double the price.

Certainly in the case of furnaces, water heaters and the like, people are always best to ask a local company for a quote or advice before signing anything from an out-of-town or high pressure firm.

Like most changes in law, the Putting Consumers First Act was caused by unscrupulous door-to-door sales. Too many people got greedy.

Now if only they could find a way to get that duct cleaning guy to quit calling …