New rules come into effect tomorrow in Ontario to deal with those aggressive sales people pushing water heater rentals door to door. It's one of the top complaints to the Ministry of Consumer Services.

Ottawa homeowner Rob Henderson admits he fell for the door to door sales pitch to rent his hot water heater a few years ago. 

‘They positioned it like a government program I qualified for,’ says Henderson, ‘They asked me how old my water heater was and I said about 9 years and they said “Great, you qualify for an upgrade.” I didn't realize the only qualification was for me to be able to pay the bill every month.”

Now he says he is stuck in a contract he doesn't want, along with thousands of others in Ontario.  The Ministry of Consumer Services had 3,200 complaints about door-to-door water heater sales in one year.

Homeowner Dennis Van Staalduinen says they have knocked on his door several times with aggressive, pushy sales tactics.

‘If you're coming to my door it's because you're pushing something that people aren't coming to you for and that's bad marketing,’ he says.

There have been charges laid under the Consumer Protection Act.  In fact, just last year a Toronto-area man was sentenced to 5 months in jail and 3 years’ probation for defrauding 33 consumers over water heater rentals.  But charges are rare and complaints high.  So, as of April 1st, the rules will change for those hawking water heaters door to door.

According to Ministry spokesperson Anne-Marie Flanagan, the new rules for door to door sales will give consumers more protection against aggressive, high pressure sales tactics for the sale or rental of water heaters.

  • They give consumers a 20-day cooling-off period, which allows them to cancel door-to-door water heater agreements and get their money back.
  • They ban delivery and installation of water heaters during the 20 day cooling off period, unless a consumer initiated the transaction or there is a safety concern that needs to be addressed
  • They provide strong remedies if the installation ban is violated, by making the supplier responsible for cancellation fees with an existing water heater supplier and prohibiting the supplier from collecting any money for the heater
  • They require suppliers to make scripted and recorded confirmation
  • They require suppliers under all door-to-door water heater agreements to provide improved, plain language disclosure documents to consumers when entering new contracts.

Victoria Harris is with Ottawa Home Services, which sells water heaters, but not door to door.  She welcomes the changes but says consumers still need to do their homework at the door.

‘They should know there is a contract that must be signed,’ says Harris, ‘and that contract should have details of what it involves and how much it costs and how to get out of that contract.’

Homeowner Dennis Van Staalduinen has a better solution:

‘If people come to your door selling you something you don't want, here's my advice,’ he says, as he slams the front door firmly shut.