The Alberta government has issued a warning about a purported power-saving device being sold using tactics that could give consumers a real jolt.
Service Alberta said last week it has received several complaints about the Hydro Power Saver, which is being sold door-to-door and over the telephone at prices ranging from $189 to $350. Salespeople claim the device can reduce electricity bills by more than 30 per cent, but do not provide any proof or testing to back up this claim.
Some consumers have allegedly been told the device is required by the Canadian government and if they don't purchase it, their bills could increase by $100 a month or their power could be shut off.
Service Alberta spokesperson Mike Berezowsky said that, while the government has its doubts about the device's power-saving prowess, they're more concerned about the shady sales strategy.
"From our perspective, we enforce the Fair Trading Act, so we're more concerned about the selling practices," he said, "Although we're very skeptical about the device itself."
"It's such an old piece of advice, but it still holds true: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," he added.
Berezowsky also said he knows of no such governmental regulations requiring the device.
"There is no federal requirement or provincial requirement for this device at all," he said.
In some cases, consumers have been told that, even if they refuse the sale, the company will ship the product and they must pay for it, something that really doesn't sit well with the government.
"That's considered negative billing and that's prohibited under the Fair Trading Act," Berezowsky said.
Most businesses that sell door-to-door in Alberta must be licensed by Service Alberta, post a security and have business licence numbers easily readable on their identification.
Misleading or deceiving customers is an offence under the Fair Trading Act, as are negative billing practices. Penalties include a maximum fine of $100,000 or up to two years in jail.
The sales calls have mentioned the website www.powersavercanada.com. That website promotes a product called the PowerSaver, which the site claims can "stabilize voltages and reduce currents in your power supplies. It enhance [sic] power efficiency of electrical appliances, avoid [sic] wastage of the electricity supplies and help [sic] to extend the life span of your electrical appliances."
On the Better Business Bureau of Canada's website, a search for "Power Saver Canada" turns up a business in Scarborough, Ont., with an F rating and 19 complaints in the last three years.
Electricity providers in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have also issued press releases warning consumers of salespeople trying to sell them similar devices.
To file a consumer complaint with Service Alberta, call 1-877-427-4088.
Oil and gas scam
Meanwhile, the province is also warning of another scam, this one targeting the oil and gas sector.
The government has received several reports of companies receiving invoices from the "Alberta Environmental Registry" that request payment of environmental and compliance fees via wire services. The invoices suggest the fees are associated with Alberta government programs, but the province says it has no affiliation with the program or the Alberta Environmental Registry.
The invoices also falsely state that, under provincial law, late penalties of 20 per cent can be added on to any unpaid amount.
Oil and gas operators who are unsure about the veracity of an invoice are asked to call their nearest Alberta Environment regional office.