The days of answering your doorbell to find someone hawking duct-cleaning services or a new furnace will be over for Ontarians when a new law comes into effect on Thursday, but it won’t stop telecommunications companies, home maintenance services or charities from knocking on doors.
The province’s ban on unsolicited, door-to-door sales covers most heating, air and water services, but the MPP who pushed for it said it stops short of encompassing companies in other sectors because they don’t all fall under provincial jurisdiction or generate as many complaints with Consumer Protection Ontario.
“Telecoms are under the jurisdiction of the federal government…Charities who come to the door presumably aren’t selling anything so the legislation can’t apply to them,” said Etobicoke Centre MPP Yvan Baker. “Home-maintenance services theoretically could be captured under this legislation, but I focused on the products where we by far received the most complaints.”
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Data provided to the Canadian Press from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services revealed door-to-door heating, air and water services sales collectively generated 7,058 “complaints, incidents and inquiries” in the last three years. Servicing and sales of water heaters, water treatment devices and purifiers and furnaces had the most complaints.
Baker introduced the private members bill that shaped the door-to-door sales legislation in 2016 because of constituent complaints.
“I heard from far too many seniors and also concerned constitutions of all ages, who have been taken advantage of by coercive and misleading salespeople on their own doorsteps and in their own homes,” he said. “It was beyond reprehensible that there were individuals that ran a business model based on taking advantage of people, especially vulnerable people.”
He said consumers will be protected with the new law because if someone signs a contract after being approached by a company through door-to-door sales, the agreement will be automatically considered void and the buyer can keep the goods or services they were sold without obligation.
The legislation specifically targets the door-to-door sales of furnaces, air conditioners, air cleaners, air purifiers, water heaters, water treatment devices, water purifiers, water filters, water softeners, duct cleaning services or any good or service that performs or combines one or more of the above functions.
The law offers a 10-day cooling-off period for customers to cancel contracts they signed in their home without penalties and will force businesses to keep records of how contact with each customer was made.
It also bans companies who visit homes for repairs from trying to sell new contracts while on maintenance calls, but allows them to hand out promotional materials on such trips. Company staff can only discuss new contracts on a visit if their employer sought prior approval from the customer when arranging the house call.
Individuals who violate the law will risk a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to two years, less a day, or both. Corporations will face a fine of up to $250,000.
Baker said he was confident the fines would be a deterrent and added that he would be willing to push for the legislation to be broadened to more types of businesses that fall under provincial jurisdiction if there is an uptick in concerns around them.
He said, “If we have a large number of complaints the federal government should study that and consider taking action.”