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I have a long relationship with the home service company now called Enercare. From 2002 to 2014, it was known as Direct Energy. Before that, it was owned by Consumers Gas, also known as Enbridge.
Many Toronto Star readers buy Enercare service plans to cover heating and cooling equipment, plumbing and drains, even major appliances. Many readers also rent water heaters from Enercare.
Here are a few recent cases involving the company’s business practices, where I helped reach a resolution with the help of media contact Perry Schwartz.
Overbilled for service plans: Maria Benson signed up for a cooling plan at $ 23.24 a month and a plumbing plan at $ 17.74 a month ($ 40.98 in total).
She called Enercare on Aug. 29, when her air conditioning didn’t cool properly. The phone rep said if she switched to a plan to cover her furnace too, she would pay only $ 1 more per month.
The company did restore her original plan. But Benson believes the complaint wouldn’t have been resolved without a media nudge.
“The remaining installments owing on your previous plans were billed out in the amount of $ 99.23, plus HST,” said Satyaki Sen, customer relations manager in the office of the president, explaining what happened.
“This installment bill out was an error, as you were not cancelling these plans, but rather upgrading instead. We apologize for the error.”
Slow appliance service: Jatinder Diwan wrote to me in August seeking help with a stove that didn’t work. He pays almost $ 100 a month for Enercare service plans (including one for appliances).
Diwan, who has small kids at home, found it stressful waiting for service. He had been told to wait until late September for the parts to arrive and another week for them to be installed.
After I wrote to Schwartz, the family’s stove was fixed on Sept. 8. This was a month earlier than the date originally given.
Lack of information: Barbara Suen has a total home protection plan that includes appliance repairs. Her six-year-old washing machine needed service.
“Enercare sent a repairman who came to view our appliance four times in August and September, yet did not repair it. He didn’t leave any documentation explaining what work he might have done,” she said.
Later, she learned that her washing machine could not be fixed since it was not cost-effective. She would get a residual payment of $ 110 to help with the purchase of a new appliance.
Finding it hard to throw out a washing machine after six years, Suen kept asking for reasons and getting no satisfaction.
“Your involvement resulted in action,” she told me. “The next day, I received a written report of the work completed. It explained why a decision not to conduct further investigation was made.
“Enercare said the residual payment would be $ 300 after I sent the sales receipt. That made me feel much better, since it was 50 per cent of the purchase price (minus taxes, not factored in).”
Poor communication: Mike McAra removed his rented hot water tank and tried to cancel his Enercare contract. But no one would answer his calls, despite promises to do so.
“All was resolved in less than 24 hours after contacting you,” he said. “I returned the tank to the dropoff centre without a problem. They couldn’t have been more helpful, turning on a dime from worst to best customer service.”
Dency Pararajasingam, customer relations manager in the office of the president, promised to credit back any rental charges incurred after McAra first contacted Enercare to return the water heater.
Leak repair falls short: Carol Kosta, a rental water heater customer for 25 years, had a leak last June. Enercare’s restoration company came to remove the wet carpet underlay and the bottom part of the drywall in her basement.
“Now we’ve been told that we have to find our own people to do the repairs,” she said. “Two companies came in to assess the damage and the lower quote was $ 3,950. Enercare’s offer of $ 2,000 is not enough to cover the loss.
“Enercare advertises peace of mind by renting. Our ‘worry-free’ hot water rental should not cause us this inconvenience.”
The rental supplier did raise its offer after I intervened. Kosta still isn’t happy about having to find tradespeople on her own, but she’s glad the claim is settled.
My advice: If your rented water heater leaks, your contract will cover drying out your home and replacing the tank. But the cost of new paint, drywall and carpets is often left out.
Enercare’s terms and conditions deny liability for loss as a result of water leakage. “We shall not be responsible for any indirect, incidental, special or consequential damages, even if reasonably foreseeable,” the company says.
Make sure you catch leaks and report them quickly. Do not accept the first offer of compensation. But if you want full coverage of your costs, you may have to make a claim on your home insurance policy.
Ellen Roseman appears Tuesday in Smart Money.