The “Pure Water Systems” scam

A few years ago I received a call purporting to be a survey about water quality.  Suspecting some kind of scam, but not sure what and how, I decided I may as well let somebody record my low opinions of Adelaide's horrible tap water supply, on the off chance that maybe someone is actually doing a survey that might lead to its improvement.  Of course that wasn't what was going on, and around a week or so later we received another phone call, saying how we'd won a free water filtration system, and all we'd have to do is pay for the filter cartridges that went inside it.

All things being fair, that wouldn't be a bad idea, but of course this is a scam, and the filters cost two to three times what anybody else would charge for the same thing.  Your initial costs of a free system and only paying for the filter seems okay, at first glance, but as you buy replacements every year, you're soon losing money, and quite significantly.  So I declined their offer.

Some time later, these con artists tried their routine again, this time my mother took the calls and got scammed, so we ended up with their filter system.  While this filter system was somewhat cheaper than getting bottled water delivered, and we'd been doing this for a few years, because our tap water is so bloody awful, there are still cheaper and better filtering systems around

Now, don't get me wrong, our water is awful, and their filters do make it drinkable.  But you can buy other filter systems that do the same job, and save yourself a lot of money.  For the last couple of years they wanted around $120 for the replacement filter insert, yet I could buy a complete system for the same amount from the local hardware store, or just buy replacement filter inserts for about $20–50 (depending on what grade of filtering I wanted).  And to top it off, the range of filters the local hardware store offers, includes a couple that are even better than theirs.

To put it very simply, the filter is an object full of tiny holes that the water is forced through.  The smaller the hole size, the more crap it prevents getting through.  The scammer's $120 filters were 0.4 microns (water contaminants have to be smaller than that size to pass through the filter), but I can go to my local hardware store and buy filters for less than half that price, that filtered down to 0.1 microns (they filter out even smaller contaminants than the scammer's filter).

They both sell a range of filters, that filter less, or more, than their standard offer, but only Pure Water Systems sells them to you at incredibly inflated pricing.  If I'm going to spend that amount of money, I may as well replace the entire filtration system, annually, instead of just the filter that goes inside it, and (a) eliminate any build up of contaminants within the rest of the plumbing that I can't clean out, and (b) buy something from my local shops that I can easily take back if something goes wrong with it, and (c) never have to worry about whether a new filter will fit in the old system, because I'm buying a complete kit.

Over the last couple of years I tried to intervene, and argued with them that their filters were over-priced, but they argued that their filters were special (which isn't true), and better than what I could buy (which isn't true, either), but they rang back while I was away and scammed my mother again.  This year, I thought I'd head them off at the pass, by buying a new (and better) filter ahead of time, and telling my mother that she should refuse their next call because we don't need a new one, we already have one.

Of course she forgets this, and I find out she's been scammed, again, while I wasn't there to intercept the call.  So I ring them back minutes later, and tell them to not bother delivering the thing, we don't need it, that I can get a cheaper and better replacement filter locally, and they start to argue with me that their filter is special, and better.  I've heard that spiel before, at least two years in a row, and they're very pushy.  Getting sick of it, and knowing where it will lead, I interrupt, tell them don't send it, we won't pay for it if they do, and again bring up the point that I can get a better and cheaper filter locally, their telemarketer has the afront to complain about me arguing with them.  This is the point where I hang up on them mid-sentence.

If they do bother to send one after all that, it won't be paid for, and I won't be making any effort to return it, they were told not to send anything, were told that I wouldn't pay for it.

And for anyone else facing pushy telemarketers, and being the recipient of unsolicited goods, I'll tell you this:  When having trouble with some other unsolicited goods being sent to me, many years ago, I asked the Legal Services Commission for advice, and was told you do not have to pay for unsolicited goods, it's not legal for them to demand payment, and you don't have to return them.  If they send them to you, that's their problem.  If they want to collect them back, you have to make them available, but it's up to them to go to the expense and effort.  You can simply leave them outside for them to collect, under adequate shelter/cover, you don't have to inconvenience yourself dealing with the matter.  And my suggestion would be, that if they tell you that they want them back, tell them that they can come and collect them, you're leaving them outside, but you'll dispose of them if they're not gone within a week, and tough luck if they don't like that.  If you don't deadline them, they may deliberately drag things out as part of their plot to wear you down.  Write the dates down in your diary of your conversations, when you put them out, and when you disposed of them, etc, so if they try to give you more grief, later on, you're prepared.  They may try and bluster you, they may not even know the shakey legal ground they're on, but the actual legalities of the situation are in your favour.

Here's the summary:  Pure Water Systems are scam artists.  I make no apology about making that direct statement.  They use a dodgy method to hook you in.  They sell an inferior product, at an extremely inflated price.  They lie to you about their product, and they lie to you about competing products.  They know this, but carry on doing so.  And they badger the hell out of you if you try to get rid of them.  All those things make it a scam, and a bad business to deal with, even if it is a water filter that works, albeit way over-priced.

Written by Tim Seifert on 17 Nov 2015, and last updated 02 Mar 2017.

Additional:  Fast-forward a year or so since I wrote the above, and I get several angry phone calls from the company, in a row.  I'd told them that I wasn't interested in speaking with them, and hung up, but they called back immediately.  Rinse, later, repeat…  Then they rang my elderly mother, on her phone, and started to brow-beat her, instead.  That was when I interrupted.

They had their nose put out of joint, (falsely) complaining that I'd written something offensive on their Facebook page.  Up until that point, I had never even seen their page, and my best guess was that someone else had quoted me from this page.  I've no idea who that is, other than the name they accused me of writing under.  I informed them that the only thing I'd written about them was this page, on my website, and not anonymously.  They insisted on giving us a refund cheque (for some amount that didn't quite tally with what I remember we'd paid for filters), and promised they wouldn't harrass us anymore.

Afterwards, I had a look at their page, but couldn't find the “offensive and dangerous” comment they'd complained about.  I could, however, find other complaints about their behaviour (on their facebook page, and in various other places on the internet), complaints of a similar nature to what I've written on my page.

It's obvious to everyone else, but themselves, that if they didn't mistreat their potential customers so badly, with scam artist techniques, and such shoddy customer relations, they wouldn't be getting these kind of complaints, again and again.  They've no-one to blame but themselves.

The stupidity of this is that no kind of “hard sell” is needed to push water filters where I live.  We know our water tastes horrible, and Adelaide isn't alone in that scenario.  A reasonably priced water filter, and regularly supplied replacement filter cartridges, would actually be a useful service.  It doesn't take scams, scare-tactics, or preying on the vulnerable, to get customers.  And horrendous price-gouging is inexcusable under any circumstances.  Bad behaviour gets you the public scorn and ridicule that you deserve, and in today's world of the internet, that can be where everyone gets to see it.  But the opposite, of good customer service, gets you free word-of-mouth advertising, along with endorsements.

Written by Tim Seifert on 2 Mar 2017, and last updated 02 Mar 2017.

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