Operator of Voltcom Electrical Services headed to jail, while owner of Voltcom Inc., a legit firm, ponders his options
A tale of two electrical contractors operating firms called Voltcom: One of them operated by an illegal contractor headed to jail, the other one the bread-and-butter of an upstanding, fully-licensed, hardworking journeyman electrician.
October 9, 2014 by Steve Payne
Greg Barwinski, an incorporated electrical contractor in Burlington, ON, is the proud owner of a legitimate, fully-licensed and insured firm, Voltcom Inc., that he founded in 2010. Now he’s facing a battle to protect his company’s brand name, since an underground electrical contractor, using a similar name, Voltcom Electrical Services, also operating in Burlington, has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined almost $16,000 for doing illegal, unlicensed and unsafe electrical work. That news story is all over the internet, thanks to extensive media coverage.
A journeyman electrician, affiliated with the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) for about five years, Barwinski’s Voltcom Inc. has been working diligently in recent years in the Burlington, ON area on both commercial and residential jobs, receiving positive reviews online and by word of mouth. Barwinski has been a member in good standing of the Ontario College of Trades ever since the organization got up and running last spring.
But how quickly a brand name can become tarnished. If you Google “Voltcom” you will see that the operator of Voltcom Electrical Services,” Richard D. Hazel, was sentenced on Oct. 2nd to 30 days in jail, and fined almost $16,000 by a Hamilton judge, for working illegally, without an electrical license and without inspections, leaving “unsafe conditions” at four Hamilton houses last year. And it’s a second offence for Mr. Hazel. In 2012 he was fined $23,750 for similar illegal electrical work in the Windsor, ON area. On that occasion, Hazel’s company was called, simply, Voltcom Electric.
Hazel is the first person to be sent to jail for an offence like this in Ontario, according to the ESA.
Barwinski, meanwhile, says that having the Voltcom Electrical Services case go viral has been tough for him. “Everything’s pointing towards us” (when people want more information on ‘Voltcom’), he says. “It went viral online, everyone has picked it up.”
“My company has received positive reviews online. I’ve never misrepresented myself, never put anyone’s life in danger. We’re with the ESA, we’re lawful and insured. It just goes to show, the underground economy, it really is a question of the buyer beware.”
Barwinksi did see the “other” Voltcom name on the ESA’s website when Hazel was convicted two years ago. “I thought it was done,” he said. “But this time the story went viral.”
Has Barwinski thought of changing his company’s name?
“I’ve worked hard for the past five years to establish this company,” he said. “At this point I want to hang onto it (the name). Although I know this news story will always show up online in the future. We’ll see.”