DE extends deadline to May 1

March 14 2012 by Ellen Roseman

After a storm of protest by its rental customers, Direct Energy said it would wait until May 1 (instead of April 2) to impose new contract terms on them.

This gives people more time to opt out, but doesn’t deal with the ethics of this campaign.

The British-owned company may be breaking Ontario’s law against negative option billing. I heard from several hundreds of readers today — much more than usual — about how they hated being pushed into a corner.

The company may think extending the deadline will relieve the pressure. This may be a misperception.

Many readers said they had written to the Ontario Premier. I hope the government steps in and makes a public statement about how DE is treating its loyal customers.

21 comments

  1. sas

    Mar 14 2012

    This is a crisis in the making. Just return home from HD. People are filling the aisle at HD to buy their new hot water tanks. I am calling DE to find out what my options are, but I have been on hold for more than 30 minutes with DE, there is no one yet come to the phone. When I try its website, it return this error “an expected error has occured. Trouble shoot with Windows sharepoints services” or “Unable to connect to database. Check database connection information and make sure the database server is running. Trouble shoot with Windows sharepoints services”.

  2. Guy Topos

    Mar 14 2012

    Ellen, great work on this DE thing, as usual. You’ve clearly have helped to slow this train wreck down. I still can’t believe that a company would implement a strategy almost guaranteed to destroy business value. Like most other customers, I couldn’t get through on any number so I decided to contact Direct Energy’s UK parent, Centrica PLC. If you enjoy irony, click on the ‘Responsibility’ section of the web site. You’ll be greeted with this mission statement: “Responsibility, our vision is to be the most trusted energy company.” Really, that’s what it says. I e-mailed their Director of Corporate Responsibility and Digital Media, Simon Henderson (responsibility@centrica.com) and provided a link to your most recent column on this debacle. No response yet.

  3. John Martin

    Mar 14 2012

    “Our primary concern is answering every customer’s questions so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to remain with their current terms.” What PR spin BS. If they were really concerned about allowing customers to decide for themselves whether to retain their current terms they would not have made it a negative option. It’s not a stretch to assume that a majority of their customers would simply have missed their little fine print notice- and the furious response to Ellen’s column is proof of that. And now we’re subjected to this offensive rationalization by their PR department when it’s obvious they’ve just been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, I mean, their customers’ pockets.

  4. John Martin

    Mar 14 2012

    Dear Frizzell:
    – Why didn’t Direct Energy allow customers to opt in to the new terms? Do you not think it’s unfair to consumers to impose new (onerous) terms on them when you have no idea whether or not they’ve had actual notice of them? What if, for example, your new terms were that customers owed you a million dollars as of April 2 unless they opted out? Would that be fair? No? Well the only difference between that and what Direct Energy has done is magnitude. What you’ve done is wrong and you know it.

  5. Sandy

    Mar 15 2012

    Thanks for the info. It was on our local news last night and we now have to decide if we continue renting or not.

    We just had it replaced by Direct Energy 3 years ago, but now I think it is time to get off the rental. I’ll certainly be opting out if I can ever get through to them.

    We have yet to receive “the Letter” that is being referred to. So much for keeping the customer in the dark. So glad the date has been extended.

  6. Simon

    Mar 15 2012

    The changes do not apply to rental water heaters installed between 2005-2010. If your tank was installed during those years you will not get a letter and there will be no changes to your agreement.

    All rentals installed after Sept. 15, 2010, have been on these new terms already.

  7. David Shugan

    Mar 15 2012

    I have been trying to get hold of Direct Energy from 10 am Wednesday March 14th through to today Thursday March 15th at 11.45 am.

    I have been put on hold, telling me that my call will be answered in order.

    Well, after spending over 30 minutes each time I called on hold, I give up!!!! What does it take to get through to Direct Energy?

    I have called both 1-888-386-1134 and 1-800-266-3939 and am unable to speak to anyone.

    I even tried after 6 pm last night, with no luck, waiting in excess of 20 minutes!!!!

    Can’t find an email address to send to Direct Energy concerning this problem.

    You call this customer service????

    Fed up in Thorold Ontario

  8. C. Ho

    Mar 15 2012

    Thanks for the information. I have been trying to get through a various numbers to Direct Energy but have had no success.

    Looking into purchasing a hot water tank now and was advised by licensed contractor to call DE number to get a Removal authorization # so that the contractor would be able to return the rental tank back to DE when they come install a new one.

    Well, it was no surprise that number the contractor provided to me for DE to get said authorization # is either busy or disconnects.

    Here’s the number: 1-877-334-1843

    Any thoughts on how to deal with this new development?

  9. jas

    Mar 15 2012

    I believe a lot of people who rent the water heater from DE in the past decade or so are like me, not really care the monthly rental and not that easily get lured away to other small companies.But What DE’s current practicing is pushing me to cut off any ties with them and looking to install my own water heater. They just weak me up by their new terms that how greedy these guys can be. They will loss big at the end.

  10. Diana Kiesners

    Mar 15 2012

    The buy-out cost Direct Energy quotes for our hot water heater is: $719 + HST. The rep wouldn’t provide the initial cost of the tank. So I looked it up on the Canadian Tire website, where the same GSW 60 gallon water heater is on sale for $359.

    So our water heater, installed in 2010, would cost TWICE as much to buy out as buying a brand new one from Canadian Tire.

    It looks as though a flood of buy-outs would be a windfall for Direct Energy.

  11. Alain Boudreault

    Mar 15 2012

    I bought my water back my water heater close to 2 years ago (I now own mine) and received their letter.

    They even have the guts to recommend I apply their sticker on “my” water heater saying it is “their” property.

    I wonder how many people are in my situation and how many will apply the sticker just because it says so.

    It took me 6 months to finally come to a conclusion (thanks to Ellen’s help). Everytime I would call customer service, they would apologize for the mistake, say it never happens, and ask me to wait one more bill before it come to a close.

    How many people in my case

  12. Guy Topos

    Mar 15 2012

    Yahoo! Just read on twitter that the whole fiasco has been cancelled. thanks again, Ellen.

  13. Liangquan

    Mar 16 2012

    Just heard that the penalty has been dropped today.
    What does Direct Energy want? I believe more people will buy out the rental. What a PR disaster!

  14. Harminder

    Mar 16 2012

    For past 5 years I have been calling the customer service number for Direct Energy as printed on my bill. Never got through or was on hold for hours.

    I wished to buy out my waterheater tank. Finally, your column printing email did the trick.

    I am buying my 10 year old tank for $113. I’ve been paying monthly rent of $20 for it.

    Had I got a working a phone number or email over past 5 years, I would have saved 100s of dollars. I am convinced the phone number printed is purposefully not answered or under-staffed.

    Thanks for your column.
    Harminder

  15. barclay donaldson

    Mar 16 2012

    After being overcharged for 5 years of natural gas usage by Direct Energy, I got out of my contract at my renewal date.

    Only after some intense reading of correspondence from these characters did I get out.

    I registered my declinement letter as I did not trust them.

    They could automatically renew my contract by saying they did not receive my letter by the renewal deadline..

    Your column at the time was my inspiration 2 years ago…thanks much!!!

  16. John Martin

    Mar 19 2012

    Thank you so much Ellen for your great work on this. It was great watching DE’s little scheme back fire on it and to have it be forced to back down. Hopefully the weasels who come up with these schemes will be fired and DE will actually try and act like a good corporate citizen for once.

  17. DE Hater

    Mar 20 2012

    I don’t accept Direct Energy’s “apology”. I think the only reason they backed down was because of public outcry.

    Contact Direct Energy yourself and let them know how you feel:

    Lisa Frizzell, Public Relations

    416-590-3210

    Lisa.Frizzell@directenergy.com