Energy-saving device scam runs deep

2014-04-10 00:00

FAR more people have lost money, some as much as R17 000, after buying “energy-saving” devices from Durban direct marketing company United Thermal Technology.

The Witness reported earlier this week that a company allegedly using Eskom’s name to gain entry to people’s houses was selling an energy-saving device, the Intellisaver, for R2 200. The device is available for just one dollar (around R10,45) on the Internet.

The story resulted in several calls from embarrassed residents who confessed that not only had they bought the Intellisaver, but also a water-heating device to replace their geysers for R15 000, putting them out of pocket by R17 000.

Calls came from Midlands towns including Estcourt, Mooi River and Howick. The company was previously plying its trade in Durban.

Witness consumer columnist Lyse Comins said representatives of the company who went to her home said they were linked to the eThekwini Municipality.

“The sales pitch was, ‘Let us come and do an energy-usage analysis at your home’. They assured me they were not selling anything but merely providing a report that would show how much energy I could save. I played along with it for research purposes as I already have a solar geyser at home,” Comins said.

She added that a different company name may have been used in Durban, but it operated from the same address, 261 Che Guevara Road in Glenwood, as United Thermal Technology.

Some residents have gone to the police, believing they had been defrauded. This is because all their efforts to return the devices within the five-day cooling-off period allowed by the Consumer Protection Act had been blocked.

Most of the callers felt too embarrassed to be named, saying they could not believe how gullible they were. A common complaint was that the company does not have a fax or e-mail address.

There are only two telephone numbers provided — one for customer relations and the other for sales. However, all readers who tried calling were fobbed off in one way or another.

Alison Kidson was told that the receptionist was not there. Sam Liebenberg was told by the receptionist that she served a number of businesses on the premises and would pass on his message to United Thermal Technology, and they would call back; they never did. He sent a registered letter within the five-day cooling-off period, informing the company that he did not want the device, but the letter had not been picked up from the post office. Like Rob Scott, he went directly to the company’s offices and was prevented from entering by a security guard. Nobody wanted to accept the device nor sign for it. The company invoice notes the cooling-off period in accordance with the Consumer Protection Act.

Its tax invoice ends with the quote, “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of a low price has faded from memory. — Aldo Gucci, 1938”.

The company previously said it believed the complaints were unfounded.

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