Unscrupulous repairmen out there: furnace probe subject
The owner of a furnace company whose technician was videotaped engaging in questionable practices claims his employee did nothing wrong and that his company is honest, but admits there are unscrupulous players in his industry trying to talk homeowners into expensive and unnecessary repairs.
The statement comes after a Steele on Your Side probe where a CTV producer went undercover to investigate Burnaby's Pro Ace Heating and Cooling.
The company's accreditation was pulled by the Better Business Bureau in December 2011, and Steele on Your Side received a complaint from a New Westminster homeowner the same month saying a repairman tried to talk him into replacing an expensive part that another contractor said didn't need replacing.
During the probe, conducted at the North Vancouver home of a CTV staff member, a Pro Ace Heating and Cooling technician suggested a $500 fix on a furnace that was deemed "in great working condition" just minutes earlier by an independent furnace expert.
Derek Babcock of Babcock Gas Services broke a small wire to the furnace's heat signal before the hidden camera investigation, so that the furnace wouldn't turn on. Babcock said it would be a simple and obvious fix for the repairman from Pro Ace to find.
During our undercover investigation, the Pro Ace technician suggested everything from the thermostat to the gas valve needed to be replaced, at a cost of $129 and $500 respectively.
But when the CTV producer balked at the pricey repairs, the technician fixed the broken wire without telling her, and charged a simple call out fee of $89.
After viewing the hidden camera footage at the CTV studios, the owner of Pro Ace Heating and Cooling, Ali Soroush, told us that in this case his technician was unprofessional and unclear, but not dishonest, because he fixed the problem and never charged unnecessary fees.
Soroush tried to offer up evidence that his competitors are the ones tricking customers into spending money they don't need to.
He brought in a briefcase full of files he said contained evidence of unscrupulous operators at other companies that homeowners shouldn't trust.
"In this industry, we have people that are going around charging people a lot -- I've seen it. Cheating people a lot -- I've seen it. I know it's happening out there," he said.
"We try to stop as many as we can. We try to train our technicians as much as we can."
Soroush claimed he'd had only a handful of customer complaints among thousands of satisfied customers, but the Better Business Bureau said it pulled the company's accreditation after hearing from several unhappy customers.
"What we heard was gas leaks and things like that, or a new furnace and the consumer did a little bit more investigation and they found out it was way more than they really did need to do…and that there wasn't a gas leak," said Lynda Pasacreta of the BBB.
Pro Ace Heating and Cooling has appealed the BBB's decision and will have its appeal heard in February 2012.
The CTV investigation has prompted a staff meeting at Pro Ace.
Soroush said employees were called together and reminded they have to be clear and honest with customers.
Soroush told the BBB that he's going to review his business model so he doesn't have to rely on furnace contractors who get paid extra money for selling parts , to represent his company in the field.
Watch CTV for the full report from Lynda Steele. And stay tuned tomorrow for tips to make sure you don't get burned by a B.C. furnace contractor…