The Consumer Protection Office has called to order one of the pool installers, who allegedly threatened customers because they refused to pay tens of thousands of dollars in extras.
Last December, the regulatory body sent Dominic Flamand, owner of Piscines Élégance, a missive according to which the company may not have complied with the law in the course of its commercial activities.
In this notice, of which we obtained a copy, the OPC reminds him, among other things, that a merchant cannot unilaterally modify a contract and that no costs can be claimed from a consumer unless the contract specifically mentions the amount.
Our Bureau of Investigation revealed on Wednesday that Dominic Flamand and his subcontractor Patrick Laurendeau, a former drug trafficker at the head of Excava-Plus, allegedly gave several customers a nightmare during the installation of their inground pool. At least a dozen civil lawsuits involving Piscines Élégance are currently before the courts.
Dominic Flamand (left) is the owner of Piscines Élégance while Patrick Laurendeau (right) is the owner of Excava-Plus.
Referring to unforeseeable complications, Piscines Élégance would have billed extras of tens of thousands of dollars to customers, without their consent and without breaking down the additional costs. These allegations are denied by Piscines Élégance.
$175,000 in extras
Experts are surprised by the extent of the extras charged by the company, which sometimes doubled, tripled or even increased the initial invoice eightfold (see other texts). In one case, the additional costs exceeded $175,000.
“This is not an Olympic swimming pool! $175,000 in extras, regardless of the work, that's huge!” says Marc-André Harnois, general manager of the Association des consommateurs pour la qualité dans la construction (ACQC).
“You can't change a price like that”, reacts the lawyer specializing in construction Claude Coursol, who recalls that the price agreed in such cases must be respected, “unless the contract provides for it and the situation warrants.”
If additional costs were to be added, they must be “seriously estimated” and “explained to the buyer before obtaining his consent to proceed with the work”, he continues.
Clients who refused to pay the extras claim to have been pressured by Dominic Flamand and Patrick Laurendeau, who allegedly threatened them to stop work or leave with the swimming pool. Piscines Élégance denies these allegations.
For Me Coursol, it is clear that consent in cases of price increases “should not be obtained for fear of the buyer of the consequences of his refusal”.
The OPC – which has received five complaints against Piscines Élégance over the past two years – also recalls that a person cannot, in the collection of a debt, harass, threaten or intimidate, according to the Collection Act of certain debts.
An “extraordinary means”
It should be noted that Piscines Élégance has also taken steps to secure the residences of customers who have not paid all the overbilling, by lifting legal mortgages.
“The mortgage legal, it is an extraordinary means against a consumer. It's a club on a fly,” laments Me Claude Coursol, who says that an entrepreneur can lift such a notice in 48 hours, while the consumer will have to struggle for months in court and incur significant costs. he wants to knock her down.
The ACQC, which campaigns to change the law governing legal hypothecs, agrees. “It is used a lot as a means of pressure. It creates a balance of power,” laments its general manager.
– In collaboration with Marc Sandreschi
From left to right, Bobby Hamel, Nathalie Levasseur, Gabriel Marois, Hubert Brulotte, Lucie Morin and Simon Comtois, all from the greater Quebec City region, believe they have been cheated by Piscines Élégance.
Eight times more expensive
Lucie Morin fears having made the “worst mistake of her life” by doing business with Piscines Élégance, which asked her for nearly 145 $000 to repair his pool, when the work was initially supposed to cost eight times less.
Piscines Élégance was to repair Lucie Morin and Simon Comtois' in-ground pool in the fall of 2021 for $18,300. From the start of the work, the contractor reportedly felt that the swimming pool should instead be replaced, for the sum of $20,000.
With the pool installed, Dominic Flamand claimed “the exorbitant sum” of $144,972. The customers, who demanded the breakdown of this amount, reportedly received an “excessive invoice riddled with errors” from Excava-Plus, the subcontractor of Piscines Élégance.
“I I really thought at that time: did I just make the worst mistake of my life?” confides Lucie Morin, who maintains that she did not consent to these extras.
The couple agreed to pay the sums associated with the initial bid, the new swimming pool and the rental of a crane. He wrote a check to Piscines Élégance… which the company tried to cash twice, according to the lawsuit.
Piscines Élégance is suing the couple for $110,000. The clients defend themselves, refuse to pay and claim more than $12,500 in damages, trouble and inconvenience, in addition to the costs related to the repair of the land.
Lucie Morin, Quebec
- Initial quote amount: $18,300
- Total extras: 126 $600
- Final cost of the pool: $144,900
Treated “criss de Germaine”
A woman from Lévis claims that she was called “criss de Germaine” by excavator Patrick Laurendeau, because she allegedly asked about the thousands of dollars that Piscines Élégance was about to charge her.  ;
Nathalie Levasseur and Bobby Hamel had their fiberglass pool installed last spring. Surprised to learn that there would be supplements, the lady tried to clarify the situation with the contractor. It was then that Patrick Laurendeau would have insulted her.
“He called me criss de Germaine. I had no right to ask questions. They were loading additional ones and I had to say nothing,” she complains.
Dominic Flamand would have told him openly that he would stop the work if the extras did not suit him and that he had already left with a swimming pool, in Roberval, since the customers refused to pay.
< p>Nathalie Levasseur paid the full amount provided for in the initial estimate, in addition to providing, at her own expense, additional equipment for the installation of the pool. Marked by this misadventure, the lady had surveillance cameras installed on her property.
“I was afraid that they would come to our house,” breathes the one who is being sued for small claims by Piscines Élégance.
Patrick Laurendeau did not respond to our interview requests. < /p>
Nathalie Levasseur and Bobby Hamel, Lévis
- Initial estimate amount: $34,261
- Total extras: $5659
- Final pool cost: $39,920
“Illegitimate and unreasonable threats”< /h3>
A Quebec radio host claims to have received “illegitimate and unreasonable threats” from Piscines Élégance to force him to pay tens of thousands of dollars in extras.
“This story, it's a nightmare”, laments Gabriel Marois.
Last May, Piscines Élégance and the Excava-Plus team went to his home to install an in-ground pool that paid nearly $30,000. Quickly, Elegance Pools would have demanded some $48,000 in extras, without breakdown or supporting document, without which there was a threat in particular to leave with the pool.
“These illegal and contrary to good faith threats” would have vitiated the consent of Gabriel Marois and his spouse, who agreed to pay $30,000, we read in a court document.
Piscines Élégance again claimed nearly $25,000 in extras, which the couple refused to pay. The case is before the courts, with each party claiming more than $42,000 from the other.
Gabriel Marois and Hubert Brulotte, Lévis
- Initial quote amount: $28,160
- Total extras: $72,960
- Pool total: $101,120
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