A Ponoka senior is on the hook for a duct servicing bill that cost more than $1,000.
When Elsie Unger, 83, had a furnace cleaner call to offer and clean her small one story duplex in January, she thought it would be an ideal time to make it happen.
The next hour however, proved a time she wished she could forget after receiving a bill for $1,015.35 from Edmonton Indoor Clean Air.
The bill breakdown shows two separate charges:
$597.45 for duct cleaning and inspection;
$417.90 for a deluxe furnace and cleaning inspection package.
Upon seeing the first bill, Unger said the cost was too high, but was told there were several tasks done to clean the ducts. The bill checks off quite a few different tasks such as cleaning and conducting technical check ups.
“I told him my furnace and hot water tank had been checked. That didn’t matter. They just ignored it,” said Unger.
In an interview, company representative Kevin Cowan said they have been in the business for about 18 years and generally do work through word of mouth promotions. He declined to comment on this incident but said that duct work does not include the furnace and water heater cleaning, which is the second charge.
The base cost of the first charge is $349, which covers two to six hooks-ups, vacuum and air rake main ductwork and disinfectant. There is an additional $220 — and then GST at $28.45 — added, but no itemization as to what that extra cost covered. Cowan said he did not have the full work order but claimed anything in addition would most-likely be for fuel surcharge to get to the location or for aerator work or something similar.
Cowan added that all employees will explain the furnace and water heater cleaning charges before invoicing.
Unger said the furnace was cleaned last fall.
While there, the employee presented Unger with the second bill of $417 and she said it took her by surprise, and she didn’t realize what it meant. A check of her credit card bill showed the amount for two separate charges was collected and a further check of the invoice showed she had signed for both of them.
“I thought I better pay it all,” said Unger.
Friend Irene Rausch heard of the situation and offered to help. The two asked the police if they had any advice. Rausch said the police called the company to question them on the cost but said there was nothing illegal about the transaction.
A check of the company at the Edmonton Better Business Bureau (BBB), where it is a member, shows a similar complaint was filed in October, 2015. The complainant alleges an employee wrote out an authorization invoice for $576.45 and then wrote out the cheque amount and had the customer sign it. The amount charged was $994.35, which was $417.90 higher.
After a back and forth detailed on the BBB website, the customer was eventually refunded the second amount.
For her part Unger said she felt embarrassed after paying the extra charge. Her hope was to let people know to be fully informed when any contractor comes into a person’s home. After seeing the charge she changed her credit card number.
“I wanted to just forget it,” said Unger.
Cowan did say the company has done duct cleaning at her home in 2012.