Heat pump company in hot water

Dunedin pensioner Madeline Clark was among those who complained. Photo: ODT files
Dunedin pensioner Madeline Clark was among those who complained. Photo: ODT files
The Commerce Commission is taking legal action against a South Island heat pump contracting company which it says misrepresented its services to the public.

Ocean Contracting - also trading as Ocean HeatMaster - is facing 10 charges under the Fair Trading Act for "representations made during servicing of heat pumps."

The charges relate to complaints from Otago and Southland customers, who received cold calls from Ocean Contracting in 2016 or 2017, with subsequent visits to service their heat pumps.

The majority of complainants were pensioners.

The Commission alleges that Ocean Contracting misled consumers by telling them that their heat pumps were leaking refrigerant gas and that it would cost between $180 and $400 to "top up" the refrigerant gas.

"The commission alleges that none of the complainants’ heat pumps required a refrigerant top-up and the evidence gathered by the commission suggests that Ocean Contracting did not actually carry out the gas top-ups which it held out as necessary," it said in a statement.

One former customer, Madeline Clark of Halfway Bush, complained about Ocean Contracting services in 2017 after the two service technicians advised her the pump had a gas leak, which would cost an additional $350 to replace.

She agreed and the work took "around 10 minutes" she said.

Davies Heat & Cool manager Peter Chettleburgh said the heat pump would simply stop working if it had a refrigerant gas leak.

"It would also have taken much longer than 10 minutes to clean and fix it - we'd estimate around two to three hours work including the gas which should cost around $250 plus GST for a full replacement."

Ocean HeatMaster subsequently waived Ms Clark's $350 fee.

Christchurch based Ocean Contracting owner and manager Mithun Naidu declined to return calls today.

McClelland Refrigeration owner John McClelland said a unit service should cost around $125 - $140 depending on whether it was a high wall or a floor unit.

He said there were "no surprises" that the company had been hauled up.

"It's an ongoing issue. A lot of these contractors actually do jack sh**,"  he said.

He warned consumers against using companies that "cold called", suggesting that people should seek out a reputable company who also sells and installs them.

"Otherwise you get someone who basically takes 20 minutes, cleans the filter and wipe the unit down - nothing you couldn't do yourself," he said.

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