Amid widespread of complaints from Ontario consumers that they were misled into signing home equipment contracts, efforts to ban door-to-door sales have gained momentum. In an unsurprising move, Mississauga and Markham city council have passed a motion in April to seeking a ban on the unethical door-to-door sales practices engaged by army of salespersons for years.
Many victims of the practice are immigrants who face language barriers. Karen Ras, Mississauga city councillor, has identified the most vulnerable group of people who are being affected by the aggressive and misleading practices across the province— seniors, English as a second -language residents.
Chinese News has received a number of readers’ complaints that the salespersons tricked them into signing an equipment rental contract by taking advantage of their language vulnerabilities.
There are some regulations in place that intend to protect consumers from unscrupulous sales practices. Apart from a 10-day cooling off period, companies are required under the regulations to go through a telephone verification process that seeks the consumers’ verbal consent after an equipment rental contract is signed. But some salespersons used sophisticated schemes to manipulate the process to their advantage.
The most common practices includes that salesperson who speak Chinese lied to consumers lacking English skills on the purpose of the phone call, and then misled them into giving a verbal go-ahead of the contract – such as offering a simple “Yes” answer to a question seeking their consent in English.
Chinese News investigation into these complaints has discovered some outright deceptive practices by salesperson and the cover-up scheme by company’s senior management team. The most shocking incident involved a GTA energy-company that tried to conceal the truth, after Chinese News intervened on the consumer’s behalf and made a request for the recording of the reaffirmation phone call.
As it turned out, one of the company’s executives accidentally forwarded internal emails to Chinese News that admitted that a strong language barrier had been identified during the affirmation process. However, the leaked internal emails indicated the company had decided to go ahead with the scandalous contract -- despite the finding:
“This affirmation is not good at all....The agent can be heard coaching the customer. A strong language barrier has been identified. Call center had also flagged this call from the beginning. I agree that we do not send any recording…”
Apparently, the phone call that the company denied the existence of was flagged by the company’s call centre as the salesperson was heard “coaching the consumer”, who showed a “strong language barrier”. Apparently, realizing the wrongdoings of the salesperson, the company refused to release the phone record to Chinese News, in an attempt to sweep the scandal under the carpet.
In a society governed by law, it is reprehensible to allow a business model preying on vulnerable to survive or thrive. Amid growing number of complaints from consumers, the demand for abolishing the high-pressured predatory practices has been growing and spread across the province. This week, a Liberal MPP proposed a new legislation that bans door-to-door home equipment rentals/sales altogether – including air conditioners, water heaters, furnaces, water treatment devices.
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