Stairlift

West Cape resident Allison Ellis has been frustrated with his Acorn Stairlift ever since it was installed at his home in December 2018. The device continues to malfunction, stopping suddenly when in use. Mr Ellis has had seven service calls in seven months to his house to fix the problem, but the issue persists. Now he wants the company to remove the nearly $10,000 stairlift from his home. Melissa Heald photo

Allison Ellis has had nothing but issues with his Acorn Stairlift since having the device installed at his West Cape home back in December.

The costly $9,800 stairlift has a habit of stopping suddenly whenever its being used to climb the stairs to Mr Ellis’ upper floor.

“When it stops, everything goes dead,” he said. “The switches are dead and the remote won’t work or nothing. After a little while, it will start to chirp when its not sitting on a charger. It won’t go up, but after a couple of pushes I can bring it down. It will come down three or four feet and then it will go up until it stops again and you have to go through the same process again.”

Mr Ellis, 84, has had surgeries on his back and wears a brace on his right knee.

“I’ve always had concerns coming down the stairs,” he explained. “I drag my shoulder on the wall and my arm on the armrest so I wouldn’t fall.”

For that reason, Mr Ellis and his wife, Melba, decided to purchase a stairlift. Initially, the device was just for Mr Ellis, but after her own recent health issues, Ms Ellis now requires assistance up the stairs too.

On Dec. 28, 2018, the Ellis’ had an Acorn 180 Curved Stairlift installed in their home. Seven days later Mr Ellis made his first phone call to the company, Acorn Stairlifts Canada in Burlington, Ont., for service because the stairlift wasn’t working properly.

The stairlift is supposed to take the Ellis’ up a 14 step staircase to the above landing, where they can get off and ascend another step to the upper floor. It was determined there wasn’t enough room to place a curve in the stairlift track so it could carry the Ellis’ the full length of the staircase.

On many occasions, the stairlift can’t get passed the first few steps without stopping suddenly, jerking the rider.

“It always stops on the slow speeds before it speeds up to climb the stairs,” said Mr Ellis. “When it stops a break comes on and you stop with a smash.”

The stairlift is also supposed to work when the power goes out, but during a recent power outage, the device wouldn’t operate.

Mr Ellis has made repeated calls to the company, speaking with various people, including the operations manager, only it took the manager two weeks to return Mr Ellis’ message.

The company’s operations manager finally phoned back when the Graphic was interviewing Mr Ellis on Aug. 1.

“Two weeks before last Thursday he called and asked me to return his call and tell him when he could reach me because he wanted to talk to me,” explained Mr Ellis. “I told him you’re not very efficient. I called you back twice... It took him two weeks to call back.”

There has been seven service calls to Mr Ellis’ home since January, where a service person has inspected the stairlift, but hasn’t found any issues with the device.

In April, the whole mechanism that makes the stairlift go up and down the track was replaced, but the issue persisted.

Mr Ellis has documented each time a service person has come to the house and has kept his copy of their work report.

The latest service call was on July 31. Since that call the controls on the armrests have stopped working altogether and the remote has to be used to get the chair to operate.

On the evening of Aug. 1, the stairlift stopped 11 times before Mr Ellis was able to get his wife to the top of the landing.

Once at the top, the stairlift wouldn’t come back down the stairs and Mr Ellis had to climb the stairs in order to go to bed.

In recent weeks, the couple has began making videos of them using the stairlift. Each video shows the stairlift stopping suddenly and the effort it takes to get the device to take them to the above landing. The videos were shown to the service person who came on July 31 and copies were sent to the company for review.

Mr Ellis demonstrated the issue with the stairlift when the Graphic was at his home. It took three or four attempts, the device stopping each time, to make the stairlift glide up the entire staircase.

A former TV repairman, Mr Ellis said he believes there’s a design flaw with the model 180.

“To me it never stops when its light, only when it’s going up with a load,” he said. “That tells me one thing, either the motor that’s driving it is too small or the sensor that shuts it down is too sensitive.”

The Graphic reached out to the Atlantic offices of the Better Business Bureau of Canada (BBB).

Kristin Matthews, a spokesperson with Atlantic BBB, said Acorn Stairlifts Canada currently has an A+ rating and has been an accredited business with their BBB office in Kitchener, Ont. since 2017, while their parent company in Florida has been an accredited business with that state’s own BBB since 2003.

The company has only had three complaints filed with the BBB in the last 12 months and 12 complaints in the last three years. But a lot of those complaints are similar to Mr Ellis’ own experience with his stairlift.

Ms Matthews said all those complaints were resolved.

“In order to close a complaint, the consumer does have to accept the resolution that the business has given,” she said. “They are still maintaining their A+ rating because they have made an effort resolve these issues.”

Ms Matthews recommended that Mr Ellis file a complaint with their office in Kitchener because since Acorn Stairlifts Canada is an accredited business with the BBB they have to answer complaints.

“If they don’t answer their complaint, they can have their accreditation revoked and their rating put down,” she said. “So, they would be obligated to answer that complaint.”

Mr Ellis was requesting his $9,800 model 180 be replaced with the less costly model 130 and be refunded the difference. With his frustration growing though, he began asking the entire stairlift be removed entirely and he be refunded the whole total. But now he’s told the company he wants the stairlift removed and he’ll get another company to come and put one in that works and he would get his money, or as he put it, ‘his pound of flesh’, later.

“It has been a total disaster,” said Mr Ellis.

The Graphic’s repeated calls and emails to Acorn Stairlifts Canada for a comment went unanswered.

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