Too many complaints: Alberta to ban door-to-door sale of energy products

EDMONTON – Alberta is moving to ban door-to-door sales of energy products to protect consumers from high-pressure and misleading sales tactics.

“Effective Jan. 1, salespeople can no longer ring your doorbell to sell you contracts for natural gas or electricity,” Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean said Friday at a news conference in Calgary.

“They can also not come to your door to sell you furnaces, hot water tanks, air conditioners, windows or energy audits.”

McLean said the government is taking action based on complaints from consumers.

She said too many seniors and families have been tricked or pressured into buying products and signing contracts from aggressive salespeople.

Calgary resident Ruth Zink, 88, said a salesman last year managed to sign her up to a new power contract even though she said no.

Zink said the salesman manipulated the contract by using the name of her husband, who had died more than a year before. After calling a phone number that was routed through Guatemala, she managed to cancel the contract, but the experience left her shaken.

“I accepted the brochure. I said I would look at it, but I was not interested in any other contract or any other supplier than the one I had,” she said.

“I was able to get out of this difficulty, but it was scary. I have become very, very apprehensive about anybody coming to my door.”

Gordon Voth, president of the group Seniors United Now, said it supports the government’s plan. Seniors are often the target of misleading, high-pressure sales people, he said.

Supt. Guy Rook said the RCMP welcomes the change as well.

“Real financial and emotional harm is often the result from these tactics, particularly among vulnerable persons in our communities.”

Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen, of the Better Business Bureau, said there are plenty of legitimate businesses that sell door to door, but it is important to call out unethical business practices.

The provincial government is expected to announce details in the spring of energy efficiency incentive programs for households and businesses as part of Alberta’s climate change plan.

McLean said the ban will help protect consumers.

“We want to make sure that when Albertans are engaging in looking at what efficiencies they can have in their home, that any help they receive in that way is sincere help and not help that is looking to simply throw you under the bus.”

Earlier this month, the Ontario government introduced legislation that would put similar restrictions on door-to-door sales. Ontario lawmakers are to study the legislation. There is no proposed date for when the policy would go into effect.