20sep heat pump servicing company fined hero
8 October 2020

Heat pump servicing company slapped with $75,000 fine

Consumers misled by claims their heat pumps needed pricey servicing.

A heat pump servicing company has been fined $75,000 for telling customers their heat pumps were leaking refrigerant gas when they weren’t.

The company, Ocean Contracting, told customers they needed to pay between $180 and $400 to “top up” the refrigerant gas, and that the heat pump wouldn’t work properly if it wasn’t topped up. Some customers were also shown a gauge claiming to record low gas pressure.

A Commerce Commission investigation into 10 complaints found none of the customers’ heat pumps needed to be topped-up. During the investigation, an Ocean Contracting technician admitted falsely diagnosing refrigerant leaks.

All complainants, mostly retirees in Otago or Southland, received cold calls from Ocean Contracting in 2016 or 2017, and were later visited by the company to carry out the servicing.

Ocean Contracting pleaded guilty to 10 charges of breaching the Fair Trading Act.

In sentencing in the Christchurch District Court, Judge Neave said “this was a situation that was created by the company’s flawed policies and for which the company must accept responsibility”.

Some of the complainants were financially vulnerable and “paying for the top-up procedure was a significant expense for them,” Judge Neave said.

Several customers incurred additional costs when they hired another company to check Ocean Contracting’s claims.

Ocean Contracting has agreed to pay reparation to the customers for expenses they incurred.

Our advice

Be extremely wary about cold calls from heat pump servicing companies. While heat pumps need regular maintenance, much of it you can do yourself and you don’t need to pay hefty fees to servicing companies. Here's how to clean your own heat pump..

If you’re feeling pressured by a cold-calling sales rep, don’t feel shy about hanging up.

The Fair Trading Act also gives you rights against cold-calling sales reps.

If you agree to buy goods or services from a cold-caller and the value is more than $100, you have the right to cancel for any reason. The company must tell you this verbally and in writing.

You can cancel the deal within five working days of receiving the written agreement.

Companies risk breaching the Fair Trading Act if they fail to tell you about your rights or mislead you about the need for a product or service. Make a complaint to the Commerce Commission if this happens. Let us know too.

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Henk & Barbara P.
14 Nov 2021
heat pump cold calls and service

we had cold calls from outfits asking if we had a heat pump and how it would need a service.
Beware as we fell for the trap from the previous installing outfit claiming we needed to get checked yearly which we did, this lasted until we had heat pump replaced as the outside unit cover rusted away (10 years old) so we got a newer model same make and model but from a different installer.
This technician found that the old unit was not wired properly and not giving out the correct heat as we had pointed this out to the previous installer and the yearly servicing person said gas low or wrong size unit etc.
The next technician said you don't need yearly service, its like your fridge, suggested you keep it clean both inside and outside unit, which we do but still rusted.
Now the new heat pump is performing perfect and giving out correct heat and cold. Is it buyer beware?
Long story short is Who Do You Believe ?

Barry L.
10 Oct 2020

This sounds like the tip of the iceberg. Caught on 10 charges, but are there 799 more? This needs national media coverage, together with the full names of those responsible, so they can be boycotted for the next 50 years!

Alex A.
10 Oct 2020
more "customers"

what about those people who don't know they've been conned by Ocean - this is a situation where this info needs to be publicised