I was tied up yesterday and missed the announcement. But I knew DE would have to stop forcing customers to accept contract changes they didn’t want.
The protest was too loud. I’ve seen nothing like it since the revulsion against Rogers’ negative option marketing of cable TV channels in the 1990s.
Canadians aren’t as vocal about consumer abuses as Americans are. But they can be pushed only so far. When they’ve had enough, they scream.
Direct Energy said it made the decision to drop the new contract. I don’t believe it. I’m sure the Ontario and federal governments had a role in forcing DE to back off.
Ontario outlawed negative option sales in 2005. What good is a law if it’s not enforced?
Meanwhile, Ottawa just announced that financial institutions would have to stop providing new features (like credit card balance insurance) and making customers call to opt out.
Rob Comstock, senior vice-president, was on TV last night, talking about the service enhancements the company hoped would offset the cancellation charges.
This strategy of sugar coating a bitter pill almost worked — until the media got involved. We warned people to read those letters carefully to the end, since DE was hiding the truth.
The company obviously didn’t do any research on consumers’ reaction to negative option marketing. If it had, it wouldn’t have made such dumb mistakes in this misguided campaign.
DE is now run by British and U.S. executives who don’t understand the Canadian mentality. Even the PR spokeswoman is in Houston, Texas.
It’s a victory for consumers in Canada, who finally found their voices and rose up. This DE story will be used in business courses as a case study in what not to do.
I normally get lots of email, but I’ve never seen anything like this. I had about 1,000 Direct Energy emails and phone calls in the past week. I couldn’t keep up.
I still find it hard to believe that DE could write to 500,000 customers, giving them a tight deadline and only one phone number to call.
When people couldn’t get through to the company, they asked the media to help — and we told them to fight back.
Luckily, they did fight back. And DE was forced into a humiliating apology.