Henry Kleemola is warning you not to make the same mistake he did — a mistake that ended up costing him thousands of dollars and months of his life fighting to get out of a water heater, furnace and air conditioner rental contract he signed with Green Planet Home Services.
The company has long been on the radar of The Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services due to years of customer complaints, but Kleemola didn't know that in September of 2013 when a door-to-door salesman showed up at his home in Thorold, Ont. in the Niagara Region.
That ignorance would end up costing him almost $20,000 in utility appliances that he would never actually own.
Kleemola says the salesman at his door told him he was affiliated with Enbridge, and offered to do a water heater and furnace assessment.
"They were saying it's aged and everything else, but I don't know how they got that information," Kleemola told CBC News. "They were very insistent. They would pressure you. It was 'Let us take a look at your water heater and your furnace.'"
Even so, the salesman's pitch seemed appealing, he said. For monthly payments of around $136, Kleemola was offered a new furnace, water heater, and air conditioning system. The logic was that he didn't have to worry about maintenance or repairs — if something failed, Green Planet would replace it.
I wouldn't recommend it to anybody, at all.
- Henry Kleemola
But there was a red flag Kleemola wishes he would have seen. The contract didn't have an out clause, or an end date.
"I signed the contract with them, and I'm willing to accept that it was a bad deal. It wasn't a smart deal," he said. "But when you want to get yourself out of it, and I was willing to pay the full price to get out of it, still they don't cooperate. They don't provide you with a buyout figure."
Green Planet did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.
Searching for a buyout
The products were installed, and Kleemola paid Green Planet each month, to the tune of just over $6,500 over a four-year period. Then in 2017, he tried to sell his home — but no interested buyers wanted to take over the contract.
So, he started calling Green Planet in an effort to get a buyout figure, so he could move on from the ordeal. No one would respond.
"No one answers the phone. You can call and call until the cows come home, and you don't get any sort of satisfaction with them."
According to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, 77 people have contacted the province about Green Planet's business practices since 2015.
The ministry says that of those 77 inquiries, incidents and complaints, the most common allegations are of misleading or unfair business practices, contract disputes, billing disputes and quality of service.
The Better Business Bureau's website also lists 45 customer complaints about the company.
Back in 2015, when CBC's Go Public wrote about the company's dealings with a Toronto senior who alleged she was duped into signing a contract by a Green Planet door-to-door salesman, the company was on the ministry's "Consumer Beware List."
Though the complaints are still rolling in, the company is no longer on the list.
When asked why, ministry spokesperson Sue Carroll told CBC News that a business only appears on the list if it has not responded to the ministry after it was sent two notifications about consumer complaints "within a certain time period."
"If the business does not respond sufficiently after the second notification, it is added to the list," she said in an email.
A business can also end up on the list if it has been charged or convicted in relation to the Consumer Protection Act, or "other acts of the ministry," she said.
Holding up home sale
After threatening legal action and media involvement, Kleemola did finally get a buyout figure from Green Planet. According to an invoice he shared with CBC News, the company charged him $2,112 for his water heater, $4,210 for his furnace, $4,952 for his air conditioner and $275 for "cancellation notice of security interest."
All told, with tax, it cost Kleemola over $13,000 to buy out of his contract — and that's on top of the $6,500 he spent renting the units.
That means Kleemola spent almost $20,000 on a water heater, furnace and air conditioner, and never owned any of it.
The prices he was charged appear to be severely inflated. The company charged him over $2,000 for his water heater buyout, which Kleemola says was a 190-litre tank Rheem & Rudd model.
By comparison, a similar model is currently selling at Home Depot for $858.
Kleemola, who since buying out of his contract did manage to sell his home at the end of last month, says he would never make this sort of deal again.
"I accept responsibility for making bad decisions. I was prepared to accept it and to pay the money to get out of the contract," he said. "But when you're not even given that option and they do everything that's possible to impede you from buying it out, it's really, to me, you're not in a business relationship. It's a usery type of relationship."
"I wouldn't recommend it to anybody, at all."