An Essex woman says the owner of Certified Windows — who allegedly left window customers out thousands of dollars — did the same thing to her and her husband six years ago, when they ordered solar panels from his other company Certified Solar.
Customers allege that the window company had promised to refund their money over poor work or cancelled contracts, but they have yet to receive anything back. Certified Windows closed its doors last month.
It was a story all too familiar for Lori Market who had ordered solar panels with her husband from Certified Solar back in 2012 and gave the company a $30,000 deposit — but they say they never received their solar panels, nor their money back.
She explained that both Certified Windows and Certified Solar were owned by Craig O’Brien.
“It shouldn’t be happening to other people. It should have stopped back then,” she said.
Market and her husband weren’t the only ones. Back in 2012, dozens of home and farm owners in southwestern Ontario had a similar story, where they invested thousands of dollars with the company, and continued to wait for the equipment years later.
“It’s very frustrating, because if someone had been able to say, ‘Listen this needs to stop,’ or ‘We will stop this person from doing that,’ this wouldn’t be happening again.”
No panels, no money
Market explained that in 2014, after waiting two years for their solar panels, she and her husband took action.
She said they requested that their contract be cancelled, the owner agreed, and even made arrangements for monthly instalments to pay back their deposit — but aside from a few months’ worth of interest payments received, the rest of the deposit money never came.
“Now we’re almost into six years and we haven’t seen any of that money, and we never got any solar panels,” she said.
“It looks like fraud, I don’t know what else to say.”
Market and her husband filed a police report, but she says they were told that because they couldn’t prove criminal intent, it was a civil matter.
They wrote letters to the province, but she says they were consistently told there was nothing anyone could do.
They also wrote a formal complaint to O’Brien directly, but when they went to deliver it to his office, it was closed.
Their lawyer told them that taking O’Brien to court was an option, but could have negative personal consequences in the long run.
“This could take a long time,” Market said they were told.
“It would be a lot of stress on you, you’re going to age, it’s going to be a burden for you, so it’s not really worth it, because it’s going to cost you a lot of money to have a lawyer, to take him to court and you may never get anything, so, you’re just throwing good money after bad money. And they said, just try to get over it.”
‘Is this just going to continue?’
And so, they let it go — but to see a similar situation unfold years later is upsetting to Market.
“Is this just going to continue? And more people are being taken advantage of and losing their money? It’s a significant loss for people and it’s a hardship,” she said.
She added that she’d like to see laws change so that people can be protected against businesses that take customers’ money without producing a product.
“We’re still struggling with how do people get away with that? How is it that somebody can just take your money and there’s no consequence for them?”
She added that she’s concerned about O’Brien starting up a new company, and doing the same thing all over again.
In an email to CBC, a representative for the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services says most business names need to be registered with ServiceOntario, but that there’s no requirement to include past business history when registering a new business name.
Furthermore, anyone who’s declared bankruptcy can’t sit as a director on a company and they’re not permitted to incorporate a business.
The ministry advises people to visit the Consumer Beware List. It includes a list of businesses that have not responded to the ministry about a consumer complaint, had administrative actions taken against them, or have been charged or found guilty of a charge related to consumer protection.
There is no record of Certified Windows or Certified Solar when entered into the search engine.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has issued a warning to customers to not do business with Certified Windows, explaining that it is facing 14 pending complaints, with 14 others closed in the last year.
Neither the company or the owner have replied to CBC’s previous requests for comment.
Six years later, Market says she will never get solar panels from another company, and will never consider giving a deposit up front for anything ever again.