7 On Your Side

Sears puts illegal water heater in sales ad

Friday, June 22, 2012

There was a big sale on Sears home appliances recently but when one customer tried to buy one, the law actually stepped in to stop it.

The retailer advertised a water heater on sale, but it turns out the model is banned by air pollution laws. Sears told our consumer sorry you can't get the heater or the sale price and that's when he came to 7 On Your Side for help.

"I'm looking at an advertisement that says we have this for sale. When I got there, they didn't," William Vlahos of Danville recalled. He was a little ticked off. He'd seen the Sears ad in the local paper offering a water heater for $445. "It was the 40-gallon, 9-year, just exactly what I was looking for. When I phoned them up, I told them that I'd seen the ad and the fella said, 'Yep, we've got 'em.'"

So, he drove to Sears. The clerk pulled out the water heater, William pulled out his wallet, and then the problem. "He rang it all up and the amount he came up with was way more than the advertised price was," William said. About $150 more. So, he pointed to the newspaper ad. The clerk looked up the model number and said the heater in the ad is illegal in California. "I'm looking at the flyer. It says you have it. I called. You said you had it. I came down and now you say you can't sell it to me because it isn't allowed in California," William said.

William said it seemed unfair to advertise a product that can't be sold. Sears said it was a national ad, not a local ad, and it wouldn't give him another model at the sale price. "I thought about it for a while and I said well maybe Finney can help me," he said.

So, 7 On Your Side checked it out. Sure enough, there are pollution standards for water heaters in California similar to those for cars and factories. In the Bay Area, the Air Quality Management District has Regulation 9. It bans the sale of water heaters that emit too much nitrogen oxide, a gas linked to acid rain and global warming. Sears said the heater in the ad doesn't meet those standards. So, we asked why it was offered for sale. Sears said, "We want to apologize for any inconvenience caused to Mr. Vlahos as a result of our water heater ad. The ad's disclaimer was inadvertently omitted, causing the confusion for the customer."

And, Sears did sell William a low emission 40-gallon water heater for just $445, the same price as the one in the ad. "That's what we're looking for and so everything worked out great," William said.

Retailers generally are not obligated to give customers a sale price that's offered due to a mistake in the advertisement. In this case, it was omitting the disclaimer. 7 On Your Side thanks Sears for stepping up anyway and offering the sale price.

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Tags:
danville, 7 on your side, michael finney
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