Appliance repair ripoffs caught on camera (Marketplace)

[♪♪♪] [Makda] This is your Marketplace! Busted! How can I help you? [Makda] Who you gonna call? The fix is in. I pull socks from the machines all the time. [Makda] Who passes, who fails? We have as many cameras as possible. It's actually $300 to do the work and not $80. [Makda] She paid just under 700 dollars. Wow. [Makda] And what's at the end of this trail? It doesn't look like any appliance company here. [Makda] Fake listings, high bills. [Makda] We've got some serious questions. There's no need for that. [Makda] Will Google shut this down? Testing appliance repairs… ..starts now. [♪♪♪] [Makda] We're on a stake out, in Waterloo, Ontario. And you're about to watch a rip-off in real-time. [Ringing doorbell] This guy is here to fix a washer-dryer that does not need fixing. [Makda] Homeowner Lisa Stockie knows she's being had, but we ask her to play along. [Makda] This technician was here a week ago, to repair a drainage issue.

[Makda] Which he seems to have fixed. And Lisa's been doing laundry just fine. But now he's back with a whole new pump he says is absolutely necessary. [Makda] How do we know Lisa doesn't really need a new pump? Because just a few hours before, we ask this other technician to look at it. And I'm gonna go in. [Makda] Dennis Gallon is certified by LG, the company that manufactures this machine. You can actually see the pump from here. [Makda] He makes sure there's good power to the pump and he confirms the pump itself is working normally. In your professional opinion, does it require any new parts? I've done an in-depth test and it is working fine, it does not need any parts at all. [Makda] But Lisa was told that she needs a new pump. I verified it three times, that the pump is fine and it's working as per manufacturers' specs. [Makda] Now, just a few hours later, our hidden cameras are capturing a different story. [Makda] Lisa's washer-dryer is just over a year old and just out of warranty.

So, these repairs are costing nearly $700 dollars. The technician is from a company called the Appliance Repair Team, that used to be called Appliance Repair Guys and Appliance Repairman. Whatever the name, the story's the same. A trail of bad repairs and bad reviews, hundreds of them. And hundreds of complaints to the Better Business Bureau about shoddy workmanship and bait-and-switch pricing. But the company pays Google big bucks and their ad usually comes first, when you search for "appliance repair".

That's how Lisa finds them when her machine stops draining properly. She's told it'll be $90 dollars to send someone out. So, when the repairman shows up, what does he say at first? He just went back and started looking at my machine and told me there was a problem with the motherboard. [Makda] He assures her that's the problem, but then… He called me in again a little while later and told me that my drain pump was heating up and that was an indicator– he said that he guaranteed that within four or five loads of laundry, my drain pump would die. [Makda] Lisa reluctantly agrees to pay the $700, including $325 for the new pump. But since that first visit, she has a revealing chat with a nearby friend. And she said to me, "Oh, we just got taken advantage of with our washing machine a couple weeks ago." And so, I asked what the company name was, and she said it was the Appliance Repair Team, and then my stomach just dropped.

[Makda] Lisa does some research and discovers all the bad reviews for the Appliance Repair Team. And she figures out something else. See that new pump he's installing? The one he's charging $325 dollars for? As these websites show, any consumer can buy it themselves for less than $80 bucks. [Makda] With the repair complete one leaves, and our first technician, Dennis, returns. So, the repair guy has finished the work and left, and this is apparently the old part that he gave Lisa. I can take my meter now, and there'll be nothing wrong with this pump. [Makda] What are you looking for right now? We're looking for ohms, between 10 and 20 ohms on the pump, and that's another verification that the pump has continuity through it.

So, I'm going to touch one lead to this and the other lead over to here and I got 14.1. That's what I tested last time, so now I confirm this pump is good. [Makda] It's a working pump? It's a working pump. This pump is good. As I said, it's got tension on it, the impeller is not broken, I verified this the last time and we put it through a test mode and at that time it drained no problem. [Makda] So, there's no need to replace this pump? There's no need to replace this pump, that's correct. [Makda] In total she paid just under $700 dollars. Wow. That's something to be concerned about, absolutely. [♪♪♪] [Makda] And there are other companies causing concern.

So, we're setting up a test house to see what we uncover. Hidden cameras will capture any questionable tactics. And one of our producers is posing as the homeowner. You'll see for yourself if the fix is in when it comes to getting decent repairs for a decent price. -Hey, Steve! -Hello. [Makda] Steve Brannan is joining us. He's run his own repair company for more than 30 years and has agreed to help with our test. Together, we'll be upstairs, keeping an eye on what unfolds in the laundry room. Okay. [Makda] But first, Steve heads down to set things up. [Makda] So, what are you going to do with the machine? All we have to do is to block the drain system ahead of the pump with a sock. I pull socks out of washing machines all the time. [Makda] That's a common problem? Very. The most common problem I run into on washing machines, be it top loading, front loading, old, new. That's where socks go. Everybody wants to know, "Where are my socks?" [Makda] That's where they end up.

They're in the washing machine. [Makda] Got it, okay. We'll just block the drain system. it's not going to damage anything. [Makda] So, a decent repair guy should be able to fix the problem you are going to cause right now? Absolutely, very quickly. That's right. This is the money shot. [Makda] With the sock and everything else in place, we're ready to make the first call. We decide to let Google point the way. I googled "appliance repairs". The first thing that comes up is an ad for the Appliance Repair Team. [Makda] Right at the top. Right at the top. [Makda] Appliance Repair Team is the same company from our stakeout in Waterloo. [phone] Thank you for calling Appliance Repair Team. [Makda] We get an appointment for just a few hours later and we're told it'll be $80 dollars for the service call, but no guesses on the actual repair. Okay, do you have any kind of estimate of how much you think it would cost for this kind of– [phone] That I do not.

[Makda] Our expert Steve says any decent company should at least try to get a sense of the problem before they show up. What I do is I ask the questions and I tell people what I charge ahead of time, so before I go out I make sure that people understand what my minimum is going to be, what my maximum should be. [Makda] From all we've heard about Appliance Repair Team, our problem today is going to cost at least $300 dollars with tax, no matter what.

Hi! [Makda] And sure enough… There's my culprit, yeah. [Makda] Just 90 seconds after the repairman sees our machine… [Makda] He doesn't even know what's wrong with it, but the $80-dollar service fee has already jumped to $280 and he wants a signature to seal the deal. So, you think it's going to be about $280? [Makda] Once he really gets his hands on the washer, there's nothing to it. He finds the sock and the problem in just two-and-a-half minutes. Okay, you got it. [Makda] He runs a test cycle to show that everything's working. And after a total of just 17 minutes the repair is complete. Back upstairs we settle the bill but question the math. So, the $80 service like you said… It's included in the price, okay. Okay, but they didn't tell me that. Do you get people who are frustrated when they call and get $80… They're told $80, and then… Their own repairman admits it's a questionable tactic. The Appliance Repair Team refuses our request for an interview…

Instead, they send a long letter defending their practices. Their $80 service fee is to cover the technician's costs for showing up, not to diagnose any problem. That only happens if you pay $280 dollars first, which is supposed to include all labour costs. Labour, though, is also mentioned when they explain why they charge four times what others charge for parts, like they did in Waterloo. As for their technician replacing a part that's not needed, they say it is, "Not a practice that we accept." Round two. I thought it was a little fishy. [Makda] Why you can't always trust Google. [Makda] Hidden cameras, fake listings, bogus names. And the men behind the maps. [♪♪♪] [Makda] This is your Marketplace. It's another day at our test house and once again, our washing machine is not draining properly. That's because our expert Steve Brannan has stuck a sock in it to see what kind of service we get when we call in different repair companies. Today, though, we're not sure exactly which company is showing up. But don't blame us. [Phone ringing] A few days back, we decide we'll get two different estimates for our washer.

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[phone] Service, Owen speaking, how can I help you? [Makda] And we set up appointments with two different companies, both of them local. Upper Beaches Appliance Repair… Monday afternoon would be great, yeah. [Makda] ..and Leslieville Appliance Repair. I wanted to get an estimate of what it would cost to fix my washing machine? [Makda] We book them for next Monday and Wednesday to see who has the best price. As a consumer, why shouldn't I call two different companies? [Makda] And get two different estimates from two different companies.

But on Sunday, we get a call back. What did you say, sorry? [Makda] From a company called Omega Appliance Repair. Who says we've booked two appointments with them and need to cancel one. I booked for Upper Beaches, and I booked for Leslieville. [phone] The main company is Omega Appliance. [Makda] But I didn't call Omega Appliance. I thought I was calling two different companies. [♪♪♪] [Makda] After much confusion we agree to one service call.

Coming! [Makda] And that leads us to today. Where we learn that even the repairman is confused. It's to the left. Can I just ask, sorry, which company are you? Okay, because I called Upper Beaches. I don't know! What do you mean, though? I also called Leslieville, and then I got a call yesterday. You're Leslieville? You're Omega Appliance. Okay, because I don't know who you are! Yes, please. [♪♪♪] [Makda] This same kind of confusion happens with Joseph Renaud of Ajax, Ontario… -Hey, Joseph! -Hello. [Makda] How are you? Good, good. [Makda] ..when he needs to repair the oven in this rental unit he owns. So, here's the stove over here and it's actually a problem with the bake element inside. [Makda] Joseph calls a company called Ajax Appliance Repair, a local business with great reviews. At the time, they had 23 reviews and all of them were five-star, so I thought they must be pretty reliable. [Makda] But when the technician arrives, the simple repair becomes over $400 dollars.

In my head, I just thought, "This sounds like way too much." Joseph asks for a written quote and is surprised to see it's not from Ajax Appliance Repair. It's from Omega Appliance. [Makda] What did you think about that? I thought it was a little fishy, so then I went and did some searching on Omega Appliances, and it had very poor reviews. [Makda] When you saw all of these complaints with Omega, what did you think? I thought, honestly, it was unethical to advertise as a local company and use a different company's name. [Makda] All this makes us wonder, does Ajax Appliance Repair really even exist? We hop into our cars and go looking for answers. [Makda] This looks like where we need to be. Yeah, this looks like Westney Road here. [Makda] There's a Shoppers Drug Mart.

Looks like a clinic. Fast food on this side. The address for Ajax Appliance Repair turns out to be this plaza. Looks like just a plaza here. Yeah, it doesn't look like any appliance company here. [Makda] When we check the address for Upper Beaches Appliances, it turns out to be this clothing store. And Leslieville appliances is another shopping mall, all of them lead back to Omega. I'm locked out of my place. [Makda] If some of this is sounding familiar, it's because of a story we did last season, on a company called FC Locksmith. We've learned that FC is owned by the same people who own Omega Appliance. [Makda] There it is. And that does not look like a locksmith company. That does not look like a locksmith company. [Makda] Nope. In that story, we discover dozens of fake locksmith locations on Google Maps all linked to FC. After our story airs, all those fake locations are removed. But now we're finding fake appliance repair listings linked to FC's sister company, Omega.

It's time to make a house call of our own… to the headquarters of Omega Appliance. [♪♪♪] [Makda] We'd really would like to hear from the owners of this company. Looks like they just locked the door. And insider tips on how to get the right fix! [♪♪♪] [♪♪♪] [Makda] This is your Marketplace . We're heading north of Toronto to Concord, Ontario with questions for a key player in the appliance repair industry… a company called Omega Appliance. [phone] Are you guys getting close to Concord? [Makda] Yeah, I'm pretty close right now. It's a company owned by people we've already investigated for using fake Google listings and fake reviews in the locksmith industry.

Just call them, see if we can get them to come outside and talk to us. We now know, Omega controls a big chunk of the appliance repair market. And there it is. Just like with locksmiths, customers think they're calling local companies. But all those calls from across Canada end up inside this building, where agents dispatch technicians. [Makda] Omega headquarters is right around that corner. We're going to head over there and hopefully We can talk to one of the owners. The owners of Omega are Eran Gurvich and Ilay Avnan. Last season, with locksmiths, they tell us they know very little about online advertising. But listen to Eran now, in this podcast. [Makda] We try for weeks to get them to talk to us, but they decline. So, we're here to ask one more time. That's the office right there. Let's give them a call and see if they'll come outside. Can I speak to Eran Gurvich? [Makda] Actually, we're right outside your office, can you please let him know CBC is here and we have some questions for him? The minutes pass.

Looks like they just locked the door. But the answer is still no. [Makda] We'd really like to hear from the owners of this company. We've got some serious questions. We offer to keep waiting and a short time later… [Tires squealing] ..a van speeds past. There was no need for that. But still no sign of either owner. [voicemail] The customer you have dialled is currently not available, please try your call again later. [Makda] Interesting. Hmm. Guess they're not taking any more calls. They shut off the phones. Instead, we get a statement from their lawyer, saying they don't think location matters when it comes to quality service.

And they hire companies to do their online advertising, but don't know how it's done or the precise content. The other player in all this is Google. When we did our locksmith story, Google promised to crack down on fake listings. Now that we've exposed similar problems in the appliance repair industry, Google says they need to do some more fixing of their own. Google tells us, because of our investigation they are, "auditing all appliance repair listings in Canada" and are already shutting down some fake listings. Meantime, here are some insider tips. Research your problem to see if there's an easy fix you can do yourself.

If not, ask people you know to recommend a repair company. And when you call, give lots of details. They should be able to guesstimate the repair and the cost. [♪♪♪] [David] Repeat offenders exposed. Will she go back to the same long-term care home? No, absolutely not. We've never seen a home charged criminally for what I think is criminal behaviour. [David] Abuse caught on camera. We couldn't believe what we saw. [David] How to fight for better care. [♪♪♪]


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