On March 16, 2016 I had a toilet flush valve replaced by D.R. Francis Plumbing and Heating. I didn’t enquire how much it would cost when I booked the appointment because this was a simple repair and I have a service agreement with them so assumed it would be reasonable because of this. I had already ordered and received the part from the toilet manufacturer so all that was needed was installation.
The toilet is a model requiring removal of the tank to replace the flush valve. The replacement part was shipped with detailed illustrated instructions (see instructions attached) and even a wrench to unscrew the nut underneath the toilet tank. There are also several YouTube videos online showing how to replace the flush valve on this very same toilet and I watched the video with the plumber when he arrived. It was a straightforward job requiring about a half hour of work for an experienced plumber.
Before getting started, the plumber informed me that the cost of the repair would be $184 plus tax. I told him I thought that was high given the fact this was such a straightforward job as evidenced by the instructions and the video but he said that it was a flat rate. Reluctantly, I gave him the go-ahead but only because it is a tax deductible expense for me since this is income property.
The work was performed without issues just as shown in the video and the instructions and took about half an hour as expected. I was charged $184 plus tax or $207.92 with tax. Before the plumber left, I asked him how much it would have cost without a service agreement and he said 25% more. That would be $230 plus tax or $259.90 with tax for replacing a toilet flush valve!
After the plumber left I contacted Francis Plumbing and Heating. I spoke to Caroline and asked her what the cost of replacing the flush valve was for someone without an agreement. She said that it was $600-$700! I was shocked by that and told her it was unbelievably high.
The next day, I contacted six other leading plumbing firms in Ottawa. I asked them to price the same job and indicated that I was supplying the part. The quotes ranged from $120 - $150 plus tax. The other firms were up front about their hourly rate which ranged from $85 - $100 and explained that they charged a minimum of 1.5 hours of labour even for a small repair like this one.
Armed with this information, I contacted Francis Plumbing and Heating again to discuss my concerns. I spoke to Ellen. I told her about the $600-$700 quote I had been given. She said that was a worst case scenario. So I asked her what the regular cost was and she said that it was what I had been charged. Then I pointed out that the plumber had told me I was charged 25% less because of the service agreement so I asked again what the cost was for someone without a service agreement. She refused to tell me. I then asked what the hourly rate was. She wouldn’t tell me that either saying they only charged a flat rate. When I suggested that the service agreement might be a gimmick she denied it. I then added that they were not showing much transparency but she denied that as well.
Based on my research, Francis Plumbing and Heating is one of the most expensive plumbing firms in Ottawa if not the most expensive. True, they employ only licensed plumbers but the other firms I contacted have licensed plumbers on staff as well. Furthermore, Francis Plumbing and Heating shows a complete lack of transparency in its pricing and its dealings with consumers.