Bad publicity blamed for franchise's failure

The HRV franchise in Nelson and Marlborough has gone under, blaming "adverse media coverage" for its downfall.

The directors of Snug Air Ltd, owner of the HRV franchise in the Nelson-Marlborough region, announced yesterday that they had put the business into voluntary liquidation. "The company's recent trading performance had been severely impacted by the adverse local media coverage it received late last year related to alleged historic business practices," general manager of marketing Justin Boyes said.

The Nelson Mail reported on the plight of Wakefield couple Laurel and Andrew Ketel, who became so fed up with being besieged by pushy salespeople from the home ventilation system firm that they started a public campaign in the hope it might stop.

The couple also posted their experiences with HRV salespeople on their Facebook page, prompting a significant response on the social media website.

Mr Ketel told the Mail last year that after being phoned repeatedly, the last straw was an unsolicited visit by a company salesman, who finally left after Mr Ketel told him in no uncertain terms to get off the property.

"He told me the company's sales tactic was that reps had to be told ‘no' at least five times, so I just said ‘no, no, no, no, no'.

"Then he saw one of our kids walk past the door, and started down the line that if we cared about our children's health, we'd install an HRV [system], at which point I told him to f... off."

Mr Ketel said the salesman walked down the driveway, still spouting his sales pitch.

"It was like the string quartet on the Titanic - it was sinking but it kept playing."

Fairfax Media reported in July last year, after talking with former HRV staff, that "aggression and pressure are part of the HRV home ventilation sales mantra".

It followed a flood of complaints around some parts of the country about the tactics of HRV salespeople. An HRV direct marketing manual obtained by Fairfax states on its title page: "Marketing is hard. People will say ‘no'. Try harder."

HRV Nelson-Marlborough franchise owner David Atoa said last year that the company took a proactive approach to any complaint and was the first to admit if a mistake had been made.

Mr Atoa said it appeared that in the Ketels' case, there was an "unfortunate misunderstanding between the consultant and the homeowner". He took steps to apologise to the Ketels in person, and they fully accepted his apology.

Mrs Ketel said yesterday that while it was a shame when any business went under, in this case it was not entirely surprising.

"I'm sorry for David, but it's good riddance to HRV. It's never nice to see people go under, but their business practice left a lot to be desired."

Chief executive of Cristal Air International, the HRV franchisor, Bruce Gordon, said that while the situation was "extremely disappointing", it was a localised issue and not a reflection on HRV Ventilation, which continued to operate "very successfully" in other parts of New Zealand.

"We will work closely with the liquidator to look after HRV customers in the Nelson-Marlborough region.

"We are also currently investigating opportunities to retain some of the staff in customer service roles in Nelson, or provide employment within the HRV network."

The company did not say how many staff had been affected by the move.

If a customer has any concerns or questions, they should call the HRV contact centre on 0800 HRV 123.

The Nelson Mail