Industry concerns ignored in door-knocker legislation

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New legislation in Ontario could hinder the ability of contractors to do business with residential customers, despite government assurances that industry concerns would be addressed.

“Among the specific concerns raised by HRAI (the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada) in its submission was the need to exclude from regulation the sales process that takes place between contractors and their existing customers. For reasons not well-explained, the Ministry included these transactions within the scope of the regulations,” reported Martin Luymes, HRAI director of programs and relations, in the association’s newsletter.

The Ontario government passed Bill 59, the “Putting Consumers First Act,” April 10. It gives the government new powers to tackle the problem of unethical tactics used in door-to-door solicitation for HVAC sales and rentals, specifically naming water heaters, HVAC and water treatment equipment as areas of concern.

HRAI made a submission on behalf of the industry, which supported the spirit of the legislation, but expressed concerns about some of its implications. The Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) and the Canadian Water Quality Association (CWQA) supported the submission. HRAI was assured at the time that its concerns would be addressed in the wording of the regulations.

In its submission, HRAI once again emphasized its strong opposition to any form of deceptive sales tactics, including the practice of door-to-door (or phone) solicitation, where companies present themselves as something they are not and/or offer urgently needed replacements under false pretenses.

However, it noted that the regulations, as proposed, might raise almost as many problems it is intended to resolve. HRAI urged caution in regulating any sales process that, by necessity, requires an expert review of existing circumstances in the home (age and functioning of existing equipment, changes in space heating requirements, etc.) and pointed to the fact that thousands of legitimate heating contractors in Ontario fully understand their obligations under the law – and as a matter of good industry practice – to treat customers ethically and with respect.

Among HRAI’s fundamental concerns was the need to avoid the possibility that regulations would go beyond the original intent of Bill 59 and might end up harming legitimate businesses across the province, while leaving the intended targets of the legislation untouched, said Luymes.

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