A travelling salesman who used a bogus water safety test to sell seniors grossly over-priced water filtration devices has been banned from operating in B.C. and must repay his victims thousands of dollars, CBC Investigates has learned.
The case of Lloyd Schell Jr., 60, of Maple Ridge, B.C., was first revealed by CBC News back in June, after he left a trail of complaints across northern B.C. and Alberta.
The CBC learned Schell, who shifted operations to Alberta after being banned from selling vacuum cleaners in B.C. for five years in 2005, and was using his Maple Ridge base to sell water filtration devices through his new company, Vin Water Systems.
CBC News spoke to several people who bought under-the-counter water filter systems from Schell after a test known as the "Precipitator" apparently revealed hidden contamination in water.
Record ban on direct sales
But scientists told the CBC the "Precipitator" was bogus and the scum comes from electrodes placed in the water, not the water itself. The industry's own Water Quality Association labelled it "misleading".
Now Consumer Protection BC has handed Schell a record 15-year direct sales ban in B.C. and has ordered him to repay thousands of dollars to his victims.
Vice President of Corporate Relations Manjit Bains said their investigation clearly confirmed Schell was using misleading tactics and it was unacceptable.
"He was providing information that just wasn't complete, accurate and truthful," said Bains. "He was misleading consumers in the quality of his product and the quality of the water."
Bains said the length of the ban was a significant decision for the corporation, which wasn't reached lightly.
One of Schell's victims was Ruth McClounie, 72, of Quesnel, who said she felt scared of drinking or washing in her water after Schell conducted his bogus test.
"Based on his business practices, his history, his unwillingness to comply voluntarily and his unwillingness to refund consumers in a timely basis, we took this matter very seriously and feel that the 15-year ban is very appropriate."
Schell charged McClounie $2576 for a water filtration device, but she later discovered a similar device would only have cost $400 online.
McClounie complained, alongside other customers who reported a high failure rate, but Schell refused to honour his "lifetime guarantee" and didn't return calls.
Victim wanted to protect others
McClounie is now ecstatic Schell has been effectively been put out of business for 15 years, and won't claim any more victims in B.C.
"When I was first in touch with Consumer Protection BC...my main goal was to get him off the streets...to protect and prevent other people from falling for his ways," said McClounie.
McClounie says by the time Schell's ban expires he will be as old as she is now — and she doesn't think he'll be starting another business then.
"He's got to take another look at life....We don't any longer have to deal with Lloyd Schell traipsing round the province."
Schell is ordered to pay McClounie back for the money she spent on his water filtration device, but she's skeptical he will make the payment.
Nevertheless, she hailed the work of Consumer Protection BC, saying she had them to thank for even the possibility of getting the money back.
"You could say I'm on top of the world! And the most important thing is that Lloyd Schell is finally going to go down.
"You can only fool so many people for so long."
Schell did not return CBC's phone calls on Wednesday. He has 30 days to appeal the ban.
He has also been fined $1000 in Alberta, after being charged with conducting direct sales without a licence and failing to give a refund as required by law.
Alberta court records show he has only paid $100 of that fine.
Reading on mobile? Click here to see the Prohibition and Compliance orders against Lloyd Schell.