Pointe-Claire woman feels U.K. company took advantage of her desperation during Quebec ice storm

Categories: Canada


Charge for emergency electrician to disconnect house from downed power lines: $680 for 20 minutes work

Posted: April 27, 2023
Last Updated: May 10, 2023

Pointe-Claire resident Deborah Fairchild is warning others to be careful after she was charged $680 for an emergency call out by a U.K.-based company during the ice storm earlier this month. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

UPDATE MAY 10, 2023: After this story was published, Deborah Fairchild was offered and accepted a refund of $300. She also received an invoice for the work. In an email to CBC, the UK-based Best Technicians, which runs the web site https://247-emergencyelectrician.com, confirmed it had refunded Fairchild a portion of the bill. “We believe that this resolution not only ensures our customer’s satisfaction but also reaffirms our commitment to providing excellent service,” the email said.

A Pointe-Claire homeowner is warning people to do their research before hiring an electrician after she was charged what she feels is an “astronomically” high amount for an emergency callout during the ice storm.

“I assumed it might be slightly inflated because that’s what people do, but I did not expect the very next day to get a phone call and be told it was $680 for 20 minutes,” said Deborah Fairchild. “I was shocked.”

When some tree branches knocked out the power line and the supporting mast at her home during the ice storm earlier this month, Fairchild’s insurer told her to call an electrician.

Finding one proved difficult. The storm had left hundreds of thousands of Quebecers without power.

Most of the electricians Fairchild called either didn’t answer or were too busy.

She finally came across an online listing for Montreal emergency electricians 24/7 and called the toll-free number.

A customer service agent told her the standard dispatch fee was $60 and it could have an electrician at her home in an hour.

Deborah Fairchild had to call an electrician when some large branches fell on top of the power lines connected to her home in Pointe-Claire, Que. (Submitted by Deborah Fairchild)

Fairchild said the electrician disconnected her home from the main in case there was a power surge but couldn’t do anything else until Hydro-Québec did some work across the street first.

Fairchild said the electrician did not tell her how much the work cost and did not provide her with an invoice.

At most, Fairchild anticipated the bill would be $200 or $300 and was stunned when the company called to tell her it was more than double that amount.

She was even more surprised when her credit card company told her the company was not located here, in Quebec, but in England. The company’s name also did not match the online link she’d originally found.

“I thought it would be good to get the word out to other people so that they wouldn’t be taken in,” said Fairchild.

Online marketing platform

The company that billed Fairchild is called Best Technicians, a digital marketing company based in the United Kingdom that acts as an intermediary between customers and technicians around the world.

Electricians can sign up for free by providing their information and credentials.

Of the several dozen online reviews (predominantly from the U.K.) for Best Technicians, several allege problems with billing, hidden fees and poor customer service.

One of the online reviews CBC News found from a customer that used Best Technicians in the United Kingdom. (Trustpilot)

In an emailed response to CBC News, Best Technicians said it takes steps to “ensure our pricing is transparent and fair.”

“During the recent ice storm, we experienced an unprecedented volume of emergency calls, and electricians worked around the clock to address these issues,” said the email, from someone who identified themselves only as Emma.

Fairchild says she agreed to the $680 charge because the company had her credit card information and she was worried about what might happen if she didn’t pay.

But when she told the electrician about how much she was billed, Fairchild said he told her it was way too much and he would have only charged $150.

But Best Technicians said the price is discussed with the customer before accepting payment.

When asked why Fairchild was not provided an itemized invoice or receipt, Best Technicians said fees regarding the work should be agreed to with the electrician, who has the expertise to evaluate the job properly. The company said it was also up to the technician to provide a receipt.

There is a complaint procedure, which customers can access on their website.

When Deborah Fairchild found a listing for emergency electricians in Montreal, she had no idea she was speaking to a digital marketing company in the United Kingdom that acts as an intermediary between customers and electricians. (besttechnicians)

Fairchild’s credit card company told her to get an invoice from Best Technicians, but she can’t get through on the toll-free number she’d originally called. The number is no longer in service. Fairchild and CBC were also unable to find the web link Fairchild clicked on, which had advertised emergency electricians in Montreal.

Although prices can vary during an emergency, some other electricians CBC News spoke with also thought the price Fairchild was charged was a bit high. They said customers should always ask for an invoice before they pay any bill. 

Recourse possible even with foreign companies

Consumer protection experts say customers should make their own verifications before hiring someone, be it for plumbing, electrical work or construction.

“It’s easy to have a nice website and to get trapped in something that is either illegal or abusive,” said Charles Tanguay, a spokesman for the Office de la protection du consommateur, a Quebec-government agency that educates — and advocates for — consumers.

Tanguay said this is especially true in emergencies when services are at a premium and people may be under pressure to make a quick decision.

“Flooding, ice storms, those type of situations makes a very good ground for scammers,” said Tanguay.

It’s possible to find out if an electrician is licensed by checking the Corporation des maîtres électriciens du Québec (CMEQ)’s website. In Fairchild’s case, the electrician was licensed. Customers should also make sure the electrician has a valid licence with the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ) before any work is done.

Clients can also check online reviews and ask for an estimate before agreeing to any work.

Tanguay said it is unusual that Best Technicians is based overseas, but there are provisions in the province’s Consumer Protection Act that prevent consumers from being abused. If the customer receives an invoice that seems out of line with the work done, the invoice can be contested.

If the customer has already paid, they can ask their credit card company for a chargeback, but customers should avoid sharing their credit card information over the phone.

Proceed with caution

Fairchild said she has emailed Best Technicians to let them know she is dissatisfied with the amount she was charged.

The supporting mast on Deborah Fairchild’s home was completely bent when large tree branches fell on the power lines. (Submitted by Deborah Fairchild)

She does not blame the local electrician. She was happy with his work and hired him to do followup work at her home after the ice storm.

But she wishes she had asked more questions at the time and feels Best Technicians took advantage of desperate customers.

“Make sure that you get a bill ahead of time,” said Fairchild. “Don’t just take it for granted that you’re very, very lucky and you’ve got an electrician in a very bad circumstance.”


Leah Hendry is an investigative reporter with CBC in Montreal. She specializes in health and social issues. She has previously worked as a reporter for CBC in Vancouver and Winnipeg. You can email story ideas or tips to montrealinvestigates@cbc.ca.

With reporting from Benjamin Shingler

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