Let’s ban door-to-door energy sales

April 14 2009 by Ellen Roseman

I think I pulled my punches in calling for an end to auto-renewal of energy contracts last week. Today, I’ll go further.

In my view, allowing an army of pushy salespeople to trick people into signing contracts adds no value. It should be outlawed in Ontario.

Companies can continue selling their fixed-price deals, but only online or by phone (as RiteRate does). Doing it face to face just leads to abuses.

The reason I’m so angry is the sheer volume of complaints I get about deception at the door. I also hear from people who can’t seem to contact these companies on their own. They’re frustrated talking to call centre robots, who listen but don’t follow up.

Bell and Rogers, you’ve been outgunned by Direct Energy, Universal Energy, Summitt Energy, Superior Energy and Ontario Energy Savings Corp. That’s the new normal for me and I’m blazing mad to hear how many people are getting duped.

139 comments

  1. KC

    Apr 14 2009

    I have been associated with OESC for couple of years now. Here is how it works:

    1) They do not tell you that the price they offer is higher than the current market price by at least 20 per cent.

    2) They make it look like you have to do it then and there. You don’t even realise that you are signing a contract which you cannot get out of.

    3) It’s like paying $200-400 more with the hope that the prices will rise eventually. This never happens, as the price of gas is a small percentage of the bill.

    4) Over a period of 5 years, you end up paying nearly $1,800 more than if you would have stayed with your utility.

    5) DO NOT SIGN NO MATTER WHAT OR YOU ARE GOING TO BE KICKING YOURSELF.

    6) And yes, did I forget to mention another fact? If you do not renew with them, they can renew you for a year at a rate that is 50 per cent higher than the current market price. You end up paying a much higher price for a year, which is equal to the increase over 5 years.

    How can a company be allowed to exist that just rips off the consumer?

    Why doesn’t Enbridge say anything? The bill comes through them and they must see the discrepancy between those just with Enbridge and those who have been scammed through OESC.

    I can’t afford it but the company won’t even let me out of my contract now.

  2. JA

    Apr 14 2009

    A man came to my door from Ontario Energy Savings and requested to see a copy of my hydro bill from the last 6 months.

    When I asked him who he was with, he said he was working with Horizon Utilities, my current utilities provider. Since the government was no longer going to be providing general service, I would need to sign up for a private service.

    He tried to rush me and told me that if I signed he would leave all of the information and I could cancel within 10 days by a phone call.

    Since signing, I have read over the contract more thoroughly (I will never sign something without thoroughly reading it first), and I definitely do not want to sign up for this service.

    I will definitely call them to cancel within 10 days and fax a written request to cancel, but I was wondering if there was anything else you could do for me. It seems like your influence helps get things done in these matters.

  3. DM

    Apr 14 2009

    I have always thought that I was with Enbridge Gas. I just recently found out that I am with Direct Energy.

    Apparently, the change to Direct Energy was done in March 2006 without my knowledge.

    I did get a call from Direct Energy asking me if I wanted to sign a contract. At that time, I was very preoccupied because my father was on life support at St. Michael’s Hospital.

    I remember telling them I would consider it and to please call me back in two days. I said at that time that I would like to see something in writing. I heard nothing more.

    A few weeks later, I called Enbridge and they told me that there had been no change to my account. Now I see in small print Direct Energy’s name as a commodity contract contact number.

    I telephoned Direct Energy and told them that I had not made an agreement with them and I had signed nothing. They told me that they would look for a taped conversation.

    I have not received the taped conversation yet and I do not believe I agreed to this contract because I had no details.

  4. DJ

    Apr 14 2009

    My complaints about Direct Energy are numerous and complex. I have had problems for many years with this company.

    I no longer trust this company and I firmly believe they have been giving me the runaround. Their ability to respond to pleas for help from customers is almost non-existent.

    To my way of thinking, not responding to phone messages is the pinnacle of bad manners, but it seems to be standard operating procedure at Direct Energy.

    I will begin by summarizing my previous problems:

    I signed a 5 year gas contract with Direct Energy in July 2008 for 33.9 cents per cubic metre. But I was still paying the old rate of 39.9 cents nearly 6 months after signing this new contract and I could get no response from the Direct Energy person, Justin Raymond, who had persuaded me to sign the 5 year contract in July.

    In November 2008, I received a renewal letter from Direct Energy offering me a new 5 year contract at 43.5 cents per cubic metre, with a clause saying that if I did nothing, I would be put on a 1 year contract at the then current rate.

    Since I had a 5 year contract already for 33.9 cents that I had signed in July, I was confused about why I had been sent this letter. Another problem was that I could not get any advice from Direct Energy about this letter.

    After your intervention earlier this year, I received a phone call from Manav Karwal in the office of the President. She told me that my gas bill would show the correct rate of 33.9 cents as of Jan, 1, that I would be reimbursed for any excess I had paid since July 2008, and that I should ignore the renewal letter that I had received last year.

    At that time, I also complained about my electricity contract with Direct Energy since she asked what else she could do to make me happy. I subsequently got a call from Rob Filomena, a member of the executive team, who confirmed that my electricity contract would be terminated as of Feb. 1 with no cancellation charge, and that I would be reimbursed any excess that I was charged after this date. He also confirmed that I should ignore the renewal letter for my gas contract.

    At that time, I was naïve enough to believe that all my problems with Direct Energy had been resolved, and indeed I did receive a refund from DE for the excess charges I had paid, although the initial refund was way too low, and I had to complain several times both to Manav and Rob before I finally received the correct amount.

    The gas bill in March did also show that the gas rate had been changed to 33.9 cents, although a small portion (43 cubic metres) of the bill showed a rate of 49.9 cents.

    When I received this bill, I surmised that the rate had been changed to 49.9 cents because I had ignored the renewal letter that I had received in November 2008, the same letter that both Manav and Rob had told me to ignore.

    I complained, yet again, to both Manav and Rob, and finally did elicit a response from somebody called Kelly Balch, who claimed that she worked in the office of the President. She gave me her phone number, which I later found was located in Austen, Texas.

    Kelly told me that Direct Energy owed me a big apology for once again screwing up my account, and that the rate on my gas account would be corrected to 33.9 cents. A refund would be issued and a small gift would be sent to me as a form of compensation.

    She asked for my e-mail address and told me that she would immediately send me her contact details. After waiting over 2 weeks, I tried to contact her, only to discover that the phone number belonged to somebody called Kelly Monex, who also worked for Direct Energy in Texas.

    I have left messages on this person’s voice mail, and also tried again to contact Manav, but of course, I have not received any replies. Once again, all my attempts to contact these people are being ignored.

    I just received my recent gas bill which, of course, still has the incorrect rate of 49.9 cents. For this one bill, I have been overcharged over $50. Obviously I want this problem corrected immediately.

    My patience is now at an end with regard to Direct Energy. I have had problems since January 2001, when I was conned into signing a new contract with them, which I cancelled 2 days later, although it took over 1 year to get me back on the correct rate.

    Direct Energy seems extremely sluggish to act with regard to rate changes when the rate change favours the customer. But rate changes that are in their favour take effect almost at the speed of light.

    Direct Energy seems to treat their customers merely as sources of revenue, and not as people. I look forward to the time when I can end all my business with this firm.

  5. VP

    Apr 14 2009

    My spouse and I signed a 5-year contract with Universal Energy in 2007. We live in 3-room, 2-storey corner apartment with one and a half bathrooms.

    From Oct. 21, 2008 to Feb. 23, 2009 we paid $962.07 for hydro. As we were alarmed by our last bill, we sent an email requesting release from this contract, complaining about the high rate per kilowatt hour (0.832 cents) and our growing inability to pay due to income reductions (early retirement on my part and economic downturn on my spouse’s part).

    Naturally, they said no and advised that if we wished to cancel our contract it would cost us $690.95 for the Early Termination Charge.

    We mailed our cheque with a notice of contract termination on March 16, 2009.

    At the time we signed, we did not know about the Regulated Price Plan which was being developed by the Ontario government. We believed that we would be subject to market-value pricing and that this was our only protection from runaway prices for home hydro.

    Big mistake as you can see!!!

  6. RP

    Apr 14 2009

    I was very saddened to see by your article of April 12 that the tricks are still going on.

    It seems absolutely nothing has changed since I was stuck in a long-term contract signed by one of my employees and I couldn’t get out without your help.

    I only wish, since nothing else seems to work, that you could get a continuous front page headline: “My advice is not to listen to people who come to your door promising savings. Send them packing.”

    It is an incredible disservice to the people of Ontario to allow this activity to continue unabated.

    I only hope that through your ongoing vigilance and reportage that the Government will “stop the nonsense”.

    Keep up the good work.

  7. Gord Potter, executive vice-president, OESC

    Apr 14 2009

    About KC: One of her employees had signed the initial agreement years ago and she had reaffirmed it.

    WE had contacted her and confirmed she had received the renewal package at the time of renewal.

    However, I understand she is upset and we have agreed to terminate the agreement and waive the exit fees associated with it.

  8. Gord Potter, executive vice-president, OESC

    Apr 14 2009

    About JA: We spoke with her and received the agent’s name and contact information and will take enforcement action with him.

    J said she was pleased with her experience with us, except for the agent interaction.

  9. KC

    Apr 14 2009

    I am writing to you on behalf of my parents, who are not proficient in the English language. They received a letter from Superior Energy Management several days ago, asking us to verify the authenticity of a contract we supposedly signed in January of 2007.

    After taking a look at the contract, we were shocked to find that not only was it our first time seeing it, it was a complete fake.

    They had filled it out with our information and on the signature line was my youngest sister’s name printed.

    This contract was for a 5 year program for gas at 41.9 cents per cubic meter, which is way more expensive than what some of our neighbours are paying right now.

    This contract was completely fabricated because the handwriting did not belong to anyone in our household and the person who apparently signed for it was only 15 years old at the time.

    After much research on the internet and reading some of your past stories, I’ve come to be educated with how these gas suppliers work. (They come to your door try to get you to show them your gas bill so that they can obtain your account number.)

    But the funny thing is in our case we have NEVER showed anyone our bills and have ALWAYS declined any offers at our door (since my father is completely paranoid about these things, he is ESPECIALLY cautious).

    We are completely stumped as to how they obtained any of our information and how they were able to access our Enbridge bill.

    A couple days later after telling a few family members to check their gas bills, we were stunned to find out that one of my uncles had dealt with a similar company. When he asked to be played back the confirmation phone call, where he had supposedly agreed to the contract, he was played back a tape where all he says is a simple “OK” (it was cut out of its original context and pasted into a conversation between a rep and him discussing a contract).

    We are skeptical about calling Superior Energy and do not want to disclose any more information to them because they seem to have very poor business ethics.

    Also after speaking to some family members, we discovered that another uncle of mine has falled victim to the same scam as he also found Superior Energy on his Enbridge bill.

    Not trusting anyone, we contacted the Ontario Energy Board and submitted a complaint and was told that Superior Energy has 21 days to respond to us for a possible reimbursment and cancellation of contract.

    After reading some of your past stories, I decided to write to you to see if you could give me some advice as to what more I could do to get us out of this situation as soon as possible.

    It baffles me that these people are still in business after they seem to have signed people up on contracts that they are completely unaware of. This is not legal practice at all and there should be more that the consumer can do to protect themselves.

  10. Greg McCamus, president, Superior Energy

    Apr 14 2009

    We proactively approached this customer, as we had evidence that the sales agent involved had created other problems.

    Our practice is to contact all customers sold by the agent in question to ensure that the sales were done properly.

    In this case, based on our review, we have cancelled the contract and rebated the customer.

  11. Kent Evans

    Apr 15 2009

    For what it’s worth – I work for a company in Louisville, KY – our name is Summit Energy – we are not the company based in Ontario, Canada, nor do we have any affiliation with them (note: their name has two t’s, “Summitt”). We are routinely confused for them – you should see my email inbox – and, I just want to make sure that our name’s not associated with less that scrupulous business practices. If you wish to contact them, they can be found at 877-222-9520 or http://www.summittenergy.ca.

    Our company is an energy management firm that works for industrial and commercial end users. We do not provide any residential energy management service whatsoever.

    Thanks.

  12. JM

    Apr 15 2009

    THANK YOU for taking on this subject! I am a Realtor in Mississauga and I care deeply about my clients. Recently there have been two horror stories brought to my attention as people sell homes before the contract’s end.

    Last fall, the sale of a rental property, where the owner had purchased a contract for both a home and the rental property, resulted in a $1,000 cost to the seller.

    Incidentally, the homeowner had received $50 cheques, which were never cashed, but the contract went into effect anyway.

    Secondly, with a deal that fell through (the purchaser did not close), the hydro utility notified the contract company that the house would be sold, but didn’t tell the seller (who had moved to another province, so could not transfer the contract). The seller still owns the house, and is overseas, but found out that his $700 bill has been put into collection — all for a contract he has never cancelled!

    From now on, I am going to personally warn each home-buyer of the pitfalls of these contracts.

    Thank you for taking this project on!

  13. Susan

    Apr 15 2009

    Keep up the great work, Ellen. You’re needed now more than ever!

  14. SGW

    Apr 15 2009

    We all must immediately put pressure on the provincial government. We must send copies of all our complaints to our provincial members of parliament, as well as to Premier Dalton McGuinty (www.ontario.ca) . We need to complain directly to the government and to ask them to make such contracts illegal.

    Remember that the government is the enabler of these extremely unfair practices! The government has given these companies a license to steal.

  15. MM

    Apr 15 2009

    Last October, I allowed a Direct Energy sales agent into my home to discuss their Electricity Price Protection Plan.

    Mr. A was pleasant, polite and seemed quite informed when he answered my many questions. I was hesitant to change from our utility, but agreed to the contract in good faith believing that the fixed price would hedge our exposure to higher prices.

    I asked the sales agent what rate we were being charged by PowerStream, and I was told that we are currently being charged 7.9 cents a kwh. By signing up at 8.9 cents with Direct Energy, we would only see a very nominal increase, if any, as “within the next few months, our utility would be charging more than 8.9”, since energy costs were on the rise.

    Another important question the sales agent answered without hesitation was the fact that we have the smart meter. I asked whether our rate would fluctuate based on consumption and time of day usage, as specified by the smart meter literature. Mr. A assured me that the 8.9 cent rate that we were signing up for was for high consumption time and that there would be a cost break based on time of day usage.

    He said he did not have specific information, but we would be receiving it from Direct Energy should we decide to go ahead with contract.

    I trusted that Mr. A was providing factual information, honestly, and I was happy to see that Direct Energy was providing a green plan alternative.

    In my recent conversation with Direct Energy, they state that I did confirm contract by phone, so I might have confirmed by telephone, but I am not 100% sure what I agreed to on the phone until I receive the recorded call from Direct Energy, which is apparently in the mail.

    However, at that time, I actually believed that I did not confirm the contract on the phone, and during the months of November and December, I had tried contacting Direct Energy at the number the sales agent provided me. We had received notification from PowerStream of our supplier changing and I was concerned because I thought I did not confirm and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change our supplier.

    I tried to make several calls before the Dec. 24, 2008, deadline and the phone number (on the Direct Energy brochure) was always busy. At the time, I did not recall confirming anything by phone.

    I believed the contract was null, so I did not worry about it and did not pursue any further, regrettably.

    However, we have now received our energy bill for January to March and our current bill is more than $200 above what we had paid with PowerStream.

    When we received our bill, I contacted Direct Energy to find out the rate we were being charged. (Under the bill description, no specific rate is provided, just Direct Energy Cost $300.) I was told we are being charged 8.9 based on consumption amount provided by utility.

    I asked about the smart meter and the representative told me she was not aware of any information on smart meter and I would have to call my utility.

    I contacted PowerStream to ask about smart meter rates and usage times and I was told that because we signed on with a retailer that the smart meter was void. In addition, I also learned that our rate with Powerstream is 5.6 cents and the highest was 6.5.

    I believe that the sales agent intentionally lied to me in order to make me believe that signing up with Direct Energy was in our best interest. And at the time, I was not aware of how to read the energy bill, or else I would never have believed what the sales agent said, or signed up with Direct Energy.

    Regardless, I was lied to first in order to allow the sales agent to talk to me, as I generally do not speak to any door-to-door solicitors. I was encouraged to talk to Mr. A because he mentioned Direct Energy’s carbon credits and renewable energy.

    I was made to believe that Electricity costs were rising, when in fact they are going down. I was made to believe that if I didn’t sign at a fixed rate, I would be paying a much higher rate with my utility, which again was a lie, as we were and could be paying a significantly lower rate.

    I, at the time, was regrettably an ignorant consumer and trusted the information being presented to me, both by the sales agent and Direct Energy’s marketing literature.

    In my investigation of electricity rates and consumer information, I have learned that Direct Energy is charging the highest rate compared to its competitors. However, their sales people are making innocent and ignorant consumers believe that they are saving money.

    Direct Energy is intentionally misleading consumers with bogus facts, fearfully pushing consumers into a fixed rate contract for their own financial gain.

    I am regretful that I believed that a large company in Canada could not falsify their marketing literature and allow their sales agents to outright lie.

    On April 14, 2009, I contacted Direct Energy to cancel our contract. I am awaiting the cancellation letter with a specific penalty amount, as well as a copy of the confirmation phone call.

    I do not wish to negotiate a cheaper rate with Direct Energy and I do refuse to pay any penalty for canceling the contract.

    I believe that my consumer rights have been violated and I believe that my rights are protected under the Consumer Protection Act. I trust that since I am dissatisfied with the service provided by Direct Energy and I have advised Direct Energy within 6 months of commencement of service, I am protected against penalty.

    I would rather pay a lawyer for time to resolve this matter than to give Direct Energy another cent of my money.

    I have already placed a complaint to the Ontario Energy Board regarding Direct Energy’s falsehoods and marketing gimmicks, in addition to the fact that all the energy retailers are allowed to solicit door-to-door, making people falsely fearful of rising energy costs.

    I am hopeful that these marketing tactics will be investigated and eradicated for consumer protection.

    I will ensure that when our gas contract comes up for renewal in two years, we will not renew with Direct Energy and I will have had done my homework to ensure that we sign up another gas supplier, who hopefully provides true, accurate, data that a consumer can trust.

    I will also assure you that I will do my own door-to-door marketing in my neighbourhood and approach other consumers to provide them with the information that I have learned. I trust that I will help others make an informed decision whether to be a customer of Direct Energy. I am hopeful that many consumers will see the benefit of not renewing or cancelling their contracts with Direct Energy.

    I hope to receive a quick response with plausible resolution to this matter and, according to the Ontario Energy Board, I understand that it should be within 35 days.

    Ms. Roseman, thank you again, for your help and your advocacy for consumers. Your presence and efforts are appreciated.

  16. naminal

    Apr 17 2009

    I have sad experience with Summitt Energy. I was fortunate that I managed to get out of their business by paying penalty fee for early termination. It is very sad that no one can do anything to control this madness.

  17. Niraj Chandra

    Apr 17 2009

    While on the subject of scams, you should also look at the rental water heater rip-off. I wrote about this at:
    http://www.wecanadians.com.
    It makes no sense for most homeowners to rent a water heater, when they own all other mechanical equipment. They pay several times the price of the water heaters over the years especially in Ontario.

  18. Walter Schwager

    Apr 19 2009

    Two things:

    I have now heard from my son and from a friend about high-pressure tactics to change water heaters. So this racket is now spreading from energy to water heaters.

    Second, why are natural gas prices still so high while the wholesale price of natgas has dropped through the floor? If this was happening at our (car) gas pumps there would be riots in the streets.

  19. FrancesC

    Apr 19 2009

    I’m appalled at the ignorance demonstrated by the people caught in these scams; they don’t even seem to know anything about their own utility bills. Why don’t they do some investigation before they sign? Better still, why don’t they refuse to deal with anyone who comes to the door, or for that matter, who calls them on the phone? I also agree with Niraj Chandra about renting water heaters; it is cheaper to buy them outright. You don’t rent anything else around the house so why rent a water heater.

  20. CC

    Apr 20 2009

    How are we allowing this to happen?

    I live in a high-rise apartment in Ottawa.

    Have recently moved here from Toronto, where these scams (and their “con” sales tactics are notorious).

    Had them try to buzz-up to my apartment twice in the past two months, saying they were “from Hydro” and coming for a “meter reading”. I refused to allow them into the building.

    Last night, I had three of them knock at my apartment door.

    They again said that they were from “Hydro” and here for a meter reading; seeing that they were not Hydro representatives, I immediately anticipated an attempt at fraud or, at worst, a home invasion (something I’d recently thwarted in Toronto).

    When I explained that it was an apartment and I obviously didn’t have any “meters” inside, that they should speak with the Superintendent, they said that they needed to see my latest hydro bill to see if it had “the proper adjustments”.

    Realizing that they were just trying to con me, I played along to understand their angle.

    They claimed that they were the ones who were the sole “electricity suppliers” for Ottawa Hydro and had been sent to make sure that I wasn’t overpaying.

    I asked to see some ID from them; they had none.

    I asked for their business cards; they had none.

    All they had were disheveled clipboards with mocked-up Hydro bills and blank contracts.

    I asked them if they were coming to see me, specifically, or were going door-to-door; they didn’t answer.

    I asked how they gained entry to the building; they didn’t answer.

    They aggressively persisted in trying to see my bill and asking for my ID to fill out their paperword; I refused.

    They then tried “jargoning” around, trying a pathetic con angle, saying that I needed “the allotted adjustment for advancement” and I didn’t have the necessary “registered rebate enhancements” on my billing, or the like.

    I asked what these terms meant, but they didn’t seem to know and just repeated them.

    They then became very rude and rushed, realizing that I wasn’t falling for it and was asking them critical questions.

    They asked me how much I paid each month for Hydro; I said that it was already very low, about $30/month and, being a month-to-month rental, I had no need to enter a long-term contract to lower my rates.

    They claimed that they could secure a fixed-rate of $6/month; based on the stories of others falling for it, I said that their claim was absurdly dishonest.

    I said that, as they were coming unsolicited without any validation as to who they were, and had misrepresented themselves as being “with Hydro” to “check my meter reading” (and seeing as they didn’t have any quality information or explanations, I would like to investigate their offerings independently.

    I asked them to leave me with some literature but, again, they had none.

    They offered to take my information and call me at a later date with more information.

    They insisted again that getting this service was mandatory or necessary, especially if I had been living in the apartment for more than a year.

    They insisted that all of my neighbours had signed on for their service and they just needed my signature.

    They then produced a contract and began filling it out with my address, asking again for my ID.

    When I pointed out that they weren’t taking my information but, instead, filling out a service agreement, they said that it was just a formality and not binding, just for information.

    I asked if I would have to sign this “information form” that had the word “Agreement” written atop it and containing legal terms and conditions, and they said that I would to show my intent on learning more. When I said that doing so would enter me into a binding contract, they laughably said it would not.

    At this point, one of the three who had been posing as their manager, grew angry and blew a raspberry in my face and mumbled some profanity; I suggested that they leave the building; they, instead, went to the apartment next door.

    The neighbours in my hall consist of an ESL family who are recent immigrants and an elderly widow, who could have easily fallen for this, signing onto a horrible arrangement with a shady, third-party broker, handing over their information to strangers.

    I called the police who came to intervene.

    How in this day and age are we allowing this?

    This goes beyond being a high-pressure sales representative pitching a poor-quality product or service.

    This was a flagerant attempt/act of fraud.

    I ask for any assistance in cracking down on these practices, in monitoring these shady companies or in shutting them down.

  21. Lisa Frizzell, Direct Energy spokeswoman

    Apr 20 2009

    Hi Ellen. Thank you for sending DJ’s note.

    This really is an unfortunate series of errors on our part. However, prior to receiving your note, we caught the error and proactively called Mr. J to let him know we were in the process of correcting it.

    I have now confirmed the five-year fixed price Mr. J agreed upon will be honored, a refund is being issued for the costs he incurred and we will be sending him a gift as an apology for the confusion.

    We’re very sorry Mr. J’s experience did not live up to the high level of service we strive to achieve, and have assured him this is not reflective of Direct Energy’s values.

  22. DJ again

    Apr 20 2009

    I did receive a phone call from Direct Energy, although it hasn’t increased my trust in that company.

    The person who called was the same one that I had left messages for twice before, so they didn’t catch the error before receiving your note (as you were told).

    I firmly believe it was only the receipt of your note that prompted Direct Energy to phone me yesterday, hardly proactive.

    When they talk of “the high level of service we strive to achieve”, surely this must be a joke? If it isn’t, then they are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

    The only time that their senior staff have responded to my phone messages or emails is when they are being prodded by you. If I tried to “achieve” that level of service in my job as a Senior Consultant with my clients, I would have been out of a job years ago.

    The current problems started with a mild plea for advice and information last November, and through incompetence has escalated to the present situation where the words Direct Energy are an anathema to me.

    My confidence and trust in this company has been obliterated, and I don’t believe that trust will ever be re-established.

    irect Energy is the worst company by far that I have ever dealt with, and I look forward to the day that I can terminate all dealings with this company that has caused me many problems over 8 years.

    Anyway, thanks for all your help Ellen. You are certainly a champion for the common people, though I imagine you’re equally a thorn in the side of big companies.

  23. CK

    Apr 20 2009

    In August, 2008, my wife signed a contract with DE for gas/electric supply. We’ve since cancelled the contract and of course they now want their cancellation fees.

    At the time the contact was signed, the door-to-door sales person made no mention of cancellation fees.

    Now DE says that is the reason for the follow up reaffirmation call. However this call was made and coached by the sales persons, as in ‘ Just say yes to all their questions and I’ll explain it later.’

    It was only today that I finally received a copy of the contract from them (April 8, 2009). We have called and attempted to speak with them twice a week since December.

    Each time, we asked for the contract and transcript of the telephone call. DE always stated that they had faxed and mailed the documents. Nothing was ever received.

    Only two weeks ago was a representative able to tell us that transcripts of calls are not available, so why did they say they had already been sent?

    We now sit with a bill for $400 from DE for cancellation, plus they feel the need to add late fees every month. Something that we think we shouldn’t have to pay.

    Reviewing the contact, which I finally have a copy of, I see on the top line ‘The following offers and prices are valid no later than August 20, 2008 (but may end earlier).’

    In that line, the sales person has scratched out August 20 and written Sept over top of it. Does that mean the contact is no good, as it was signed on August 21?

  24. Lisa Frizzell, Direct Energy spokeswoman

    Apr 20 2009

    Hi Ellen. Thank you for sending Mr. K’s note. We’ve contacted him to resolve the issue.

    As Mr. K’s experience does not reflect the service standards we strive to achieve, we are waiving cancellation fees and associated late payment fees.

  25. DM

    Apr 20 2009

    In the town of Brantford, the energy bandits are out in full force knocking on doors, warning us about future huge price increases in our electricity rates.

    After a little research, I have discovered nothing could be further from the truth.

    Ontario is adding power capacity, based on growth projections based on the last 10 years. The massive de-industrialization of South Western Ontario is leading to a serious overcapacity situation.

    The addition of refurbished reactors at the Bruce facility and the expansion of Beck in Niagara Falls will only add to this oversupply problem.

    I know this sounds impossible, but electricity suppliers may be driven into bankruptcy by low wholesale prices.

    Just visit: http://www.theimo.com/imoweb/siteShared/demand_price.asp?sid=ic#price

    These graphs indicate the provincial demand and the wholesale price for electricity in Ontario by the hour.

    As you can see, the prices are far below the fixed rate price offered by energy retailers and the 5.6 ¢/kWh for the first 1000 kWh in a month and 6.5 ¢/kWh for each additional kWh mandated by the Government of Ontario.

    Power consumption has always been a good barometer of the health of the economy. After all, everyone uses electricity.

    If we review the wholesale rates for the last few months, we should all be concerned. Wholesale prices have fallen off a cliff this month.

    It is not unusual for the Wholesale electricity prices to be in the negative numbers during evenings and overnight periods.

    I wonder how long suppliers will run their generators when the power utilities are buying their electricity for free (sometime cheaper than that)?

    The average price in 2009 4.01¢/kWh.
    January was 5.48 ¢/kWh
    February was 4.86 ¢/kWh
    March was 3.06 ¢/kWh
    April is 1.16 ¢/kWh.

    Would I leave Brantford Power for one of these energy bandits? No way.

    I think the Government of Ontario owes us another power rebate.

  26. AF

    Apr 20 2009

    I am tired of fighting and I need some help. I am 67, will be 68 in December. I had cancer of the lung, had my right bottom lobe removed a year and half ago.

    I had my own business, a convenience store, for over nine years. I was approached by different people about saving money on hydro costs and I chose one because I had a lot of electrical appliances going (drink coolers, ice cream coolers, large air conditioner unit over the door, which was rented and which was never turned off in the summer months or else all my chocolate bars would have melted).

    My hydro bills were enormous and being a very small business, I needed help. I thought I was doing the right thing.

    I had to give up my business and I moved into a co-op not far from my old residence. To my chagrin, my first hydro bill during the winter for two months was over $600!!!

    I talked to the management here, everything was checked and it seems that I was using a huge amount of kilowatt hours which I know I wasn’t.

    When I checked on my bill, I found that I was still being charged by Universal Power over 9 cents a kilowatt hour. My neighbor across the hall from me was paying 3 cents with Toronto Hydro.

    I have a small two bedroom unit, she has a three. Her hydro bill for the same two months was less than $200!!

    I am receiving only $835 a month to live on. I am expecting an additional $500 from the government but this hasn’t happened yet.

    I called Universal and asked how much to get out of this contract and they sent me a letter stating almost $1,500. I asked for a copy of my original contract and they sent me one, but there is nothing on it to say this contract follows me anywhere I go and there is a penalty for breaking it.

    I will have to move now and this is causing me considerable worry. Along with coping with cancer, I have to fight with these people. It just doesn’t seem right to me.

    I have exhausted all avenues. The man I spoke to at Universal was quite nasty to me. They are crooks. They are not saving me money, but they are putting me closer to the poor house. Please help if you can.

  27. PA

    Apr 20 2009

    On Thursday, an energy seller dropped by to get us to re-sign after I did not cash their cheque of invitation received a month ago by mail.

    Although he pointed out he was not Enbridge, it was everywhere the eye could see on his clipboard.

    He pulled out an already printed sticker and proceeded to stick it on a renewal contract and said sign here. Wait, I said. Let’s talk. He claimed there was nothing to talk about. Sign and he was off.

    So I asked him when our contract expired. July 21st, he said. Great I said, call me then. He started saying “let’s not go there,” so I asked him to leave and my wife wanted him out of our house as well.

    If I call Enbridge, the call centre screeners are taught to play the circle game. Who do I go to? Something is wrong in this whole energy provider service.

    Who do I contact in the Ontario government? Can a consumer sue the agency in the government that is taking the lax attitude — doing nothing, saying nothing guarantees nothing except a screwed consumer who has no one to go to for advice?

    Our local MPP is more concerned about optics than action, so I might as well run around the block and get the exercise.

    In this whole area there is something wrong and there should be an investigation into these energy resellers and the utilities that are trained to play silo games when asked by consumers for honest advice.

    Answering in this style as if they don’t know is very dishonest and deceitful to consumers who are looking for direction and assistance. There is none. It is a racket pure and simple!

  28. MS

    Apr 20 2009

    I have now lost over $1,000 by signing a fixed rate electricity contract with Universal Power.

    A few years ago when we moved into our new home, a sales person from Universal Power fooled me into signing a fixed rate electricity contract with very misleading advertising.

    Looking at the original literature, it clearly states that Universal Energy would help me save money. With phrases like “How do we save you money?” “Making cents”, and “No risk program” I was happy to sign on for a fixed rate.

    Is it a coincidence that Universal’s rep stopped by days after I moved into my new home? I don’t think so.

    Who has time to investigate electricity rates when nearly all free time is spent just trying to unpack and find things?

    Unfortunately for me, having analyzed my bills over the past 2 years, I calculated that I had lost over $750 by signing a fixed rate contract!

    To top it off, when I asked to cancel my contract, they charged me an extra $439.90 in cancellation fees. I decided to pay it, given that over the 5 year term I would lose even more if I stayed with them.

    I am embarrassed to admit that my fixed rate beginning in March of 2007 for 5 years was 9.59¢/kWh. This is definitely not a deal.

    Had I done my homework, I would have found out that the rate for electricity at the time was 5.5¢/kWh for the first 1000kWh and 6.4¢/kWh after that. My fixed rate was, and has continued to be, nearly double the going rate.

    My alarm bells stated going off in January of this year when my bill was really high. I compared it with my father-in-law’s and realized I was paying nearly double the going rate for electricity.

    I contacted Universal because their pamphlet said in bold print “protected up, protected down”. Their literature led me to trust that if prices for electricity go lower than the fixed rate I would be “protected” by the “blend and extend” option.

    I asked their representative for this price protection. The “protection” they offered me was to extend my contract at 9¢/kWh for another 5 years! I said, “No thank-you” (in words that cannot be printed here).

    Now that I had done my homework and knew that the rate in Jan. for RPP customers was 5.6¢ for the first 1000 kWh and 6.5¢ after that – you can see why I didn’t think 9¢/kWh was protecting me at all. (Currently the rates are 5.7¢/kWh and 6.6¢/kWh respectively).

    Instead of feeling “protected up, protected down” I felt shafted up and shafted down.

    Universal’s representative tried to conjure fear in me of the dreaded “smart meter” soon to be unleashed in a neighborhood near you.

    But now that I had the facts, I knew that with smart meters we’d pay 4.2¢/kWh during off peak, 7.6¢/kWh at mid peak, and 9.1¢/kWh during peak times.

    My fixed contract would have had me paying 9.59¢/kWh all the time 24/7.

    How can such misleading business practices be allowed?

    Yes, what they do is legal because as I was informed by Universal that “it is up to the customer to make an informed decision”. I failed to do my homework at the beginning and made a very costly mistake by trusting their misleading sales pitch and pamphlet.

    Had I not done some investigating on my own, I would still be at the fixed rate and losing even more money. Who can afford to be bleeding money during these times?

    My question is who is protecting us from such crooks? Shouldn’t the Ministry of Consumer Services (somebody) be protecting us from such blatant false advertising?

    I am a professional with three university degrees and I was fooled. There are many others who for reasons such as literacy skills, or simply a trusting nature, are vulnerable to such a scam.

    Maybe regulators could force these companies to put the Ontario Energy Board website link about electricity and natural gas prices on the pamphlet to make it easier for consumers to make an informed decision. (http://www.oeb.gov.on.ca/OEB/For+Consumers/Understanding+Your+Bill+Rates+and+Prices/Electricity+Prices+in+Ontario“.)

    Better yet, these companies could be forced to put a message on their brochures like the ones on cigarette packages. It would read “Warning: signing up for fixed rate energy contracts is known to lose you lots of money.”

    I applaud the Star for getting this story out. At least you are doing your job trying to protect consumers from such scams.

    Once word gets out, people who are already hurting because of the “great recession” can keep their money out of the hands of the likes of Universal Power corp.

    Your articles are also very timely, given Mr. Smitherman has provided these companies with more material for their preying on people’s fears tactic by promising us higher energy costs to come.

    I can imagine Universal is printing a new pamphlet as you read this, with a quote to that effect that would scare any intelligent person into signing their bottom line.

    Knowing what I know, I for one will take my chances.

  29. MM

    Apr 20 2009

    I am writing about my experience with Ontario Energy Savings. The purpose is to launch a formal complaint against the actions of this company, as well as Direct Energy and Enbridge Gas.

    My hope is that something can be done to get to the bottom of what I feel is fraudulent business practice carried out under the guise of the law.

    I, like so many others have been the victim of the solicitors who come to the door with a promise of offering ‘energy savings’.

    In October of 2007, I was bullied by a representative of Ontario Energy Savings, who asked to see my utility bill and led me to believe that they were bonded by the Ontario Energy Board.

    They warned me that I was in danger of rising gas prices and with no protection I would be paying exorbitant gas prices with the volatile oil market.

    They filled out a form telling me that it was not binding unless I agreed to process it.

    I did not follow through with them and ignored the Confirmation Form that was sent out to me. OES has told me that I did verify with them over the phone and I have requested a copy of that phone conversation. I do not recall this phone conversation and also do not know how such a phone call could constitute a legal binding contract.

    At the time of this writing I have not yet received this.

    In September 2008, I received a letter from Ontario Energy Savings that said they had received notice from Enbridge that I had switched to another natural gas supplier and I should send $492.22 to end my agreement with them.

    I was not too concerned about it, thinking that it was just another threatening ploy of theirs to get me as a client because I knew that I had not switched to any other natural gas supplier.

    Further to my confusion, I received a notice from a company called Bond Street Collections in January of 2009 asking me to pay $518.93 for failing to pay Ontario Energy Savings and threatened to tarnish my credit rating.

    I was still confused because the sum did not coincide with my Enbridge bill, so I called Enbridge to confirm that my bill was paid up.

    Satisfied that my energy bill was in order, I ignored this letter until March when I received a final notice from Bond Street Collections demanding payment in full as to save me ‘time, expense & embarrassment’.

    I phoned these people and asked who they were and exactly why I owed this money. They informed me that I had broken my contract with OES and therefore was liable for the company’s losses. I told them that I had no idea who OES was or that I was contracted to them.

    I called Enbridge and asked them what was going on and according to their records in August of 2008 Direct Energy notified them that I was switching over to their company.

    I did not authorize this action and it is outrageous that they were able to go to my utility company and easily manipulate my account. Enbridge did not explain how that is possible or why it was then cancelled a month later.

    In the meantime OES being cancelled out by Direct Energy then went into the process of suing me for damages.

    I was not aware of the situation I was in until this notice came from Bond Street Collections. I would not have realized either that this so-called Price Protection Plan from OES had doubled my gas bills.

    My only embarrassment is not being more cautious when the representative from OES first came to my door. I should have paid attention to the pages of fine print that probably only a person educated in law would understand.

    I am shocked at how easy it was for another company (Direct Energy) to make changes to my Enbridge account and confused as to why Enbridge does not have more responsibility towards its customers as in notifying them when such a transaction is occurring.

    I phoned OES and told them I am wary of their business practice and not entirely convinced that they were honest in soliciting my business.

    I told them I was shocked to realize how they had cost me double the gas I had been paying with Enbridge and I don’t believe that the evidence that their representative showed me at the door was even remotely accurate in its gas rate projection.

    Instead, they were extremely threatening by presenting dishonest statistical information. To show good faith, OES said they would reinstate my contract but not retroactive and for another 5 years, they would also offer me a lower rate from their current rate of 39.9 to 37.9. How gracious, especially when on the day of this conversation my Enbridge rate was at 17 cents!

    I called Bond Street Collections and told them that I am in the process of investigating my situation with OES and that they should not do anything further until I have found a resolution. They then offered to close out the account at a discount to $375.

    Talk about ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’, and forgive me but if this is all above board and legal, then there is something terribly wrong with our system.

    OES told me that they are completely in keeping with the Ontario Energy Board laws and with that have their stamp of approval.

    I think if I were the OEB I would be a bit concerned about energy savings representatives, knocking on doors and hoodwinking vulnerable people into financially devastating contracts they say are endorsed by the OEB.

    If you think that I am dramatizing this, then you need to spend a bit of time on the internet where you will find a steady growing population of angry victims posting their grievances and searching for help.

    Included also are newspaper articles exposing these company practices, past lawsuits against both Direct Energy and Ontario Energy Savings for fraud, as well as declarations from previous employees of these companies who left out of moral obligation.

    They are urged to prey on low income areas, where people are desperate to find more affordable alternatives to make ends meet.

    I urge the OEB and our Member of Parliament to investigate this industry with more scrutiny and put a stop to this bullying and invasive solicitation.

  30. LP

    Apr 20 2009

    I am asking for your help as to how my son, a university student, can get out of his contract with Summitt Energy.

    What these door-to-door “salespeople” are doing is unethical and downright disgusting. It angers me immensely that these people prey on unsuspecting students who are living away from home and obviously are not knowledgeable about these types of contracts.

    My son, age 21, is a student at the University of Guelph and is renting a townhouse with two other housemates in Guelph. He is currently on a month to month lease with Sifton Properties.

    At present, he is unemployed and has no income but is in the process of looking for employment. If he fails to gain employment in Guelph, he will be moving back home to Orangeville.

    My husband and I were unaware until recently that Greg had signed a contract with Summitt Energy in September 2008. Greg was told by the “salesperson” he would be saving himself and his two housemates money by signing this contract.

    Of course, the opposite is true and he has found his hydro bills to be much higher than anticipated.

    I read in your column this past Sunday that if a person has a low income (in my son’s case no income at present), this might help him to get out of this contract. If he calls Summitt and tells them he is moving back home due to the fact he has no income, would this be accepted by them as a reason to cancel his contract? Would he still have to pay a penalty to get out of this?

    Greg has told us that his other two housemates did not sign this contract with Summitt. If one of the other housemates were to call Summitt and say they were not aware and hadn’t signed the contract, would this be a way to cancel the contract without penalty?

  31. Niraj Chandra

    Apr 22 2009

    How much does it generally cost to get out of a five-year contract with an energy reseller like DE? If anyone has info about this, please share it, so I can add it to my post on consumer rip-offs, at: http://wecanadians.com.

    Even a ballpark figure would be helpful.

  32. Michael McNeill

    Apr 22 2009

    HI.. Niraj Chandra – we have to pay over $400 in order to get out of the contract, which we will pay due to our ignorance.

    And, for FrancesC – yes, I am appalled by our ignorance as well. Both my husband and I are educated and we believed what the sales person was telling us, as well as Direct Energy’s marketing literature. Imagine how many people are being scammed here – immigrants and first time homeowners!

    We need to put a stop to deceptive solicitation by these companies. I have filed complaints with the BBB, as well as submitted a complaint to our MPP, Greg Sorbara, and the Ministry of Small Business and Consumer Services. However, this Ministry cannot assist, as the energy retailers are managed by the OEB.

    WE take responsibility for our ignorance, but Direct Energy should take responsibility for how they are selling their service. They should not be allowed to deceptively solicit and we as consumers should not have our rights taken away by being treated as fools.

    I think we need to send letters to Energy Minister George Smitherman, and maybe there may be some change.

  33. AS

    Apr 22 2009

    I have a similar experience with Superior Energy Management.

    My wife signed on with them under a great deal of pressure from the sales person, compounded with her lack of understanding of the English language.

    Even after they called her on the phone, she still did not fully grasp the intent of this contract and kept on just saying OK OK OK!

    I only came to know this contract last Friday (three years after the fact). Shame on me for not paying a close attention to my accounts.

    But having said all that, Superior Energy sent me a letter last week because they had an integrity issue with the sales person that came to my wife. I believe that they had too many complaints about his conduct.

    When I called Superior Energy to cancel the contract, they refused, although my wife isn’t the principal account holder with Enbridge, the original gas supplier!

    You are probably wondering why am I writing you? For two reasons:

    1. To continue writing about this topic that a lot of people fall victims to (I say victims because I am paying 42.9 Cents for a product that is worth 17.24 Cents). I have been doing so for the last three years.

    2. To see if you can help with Superior Energy (I am drowning in debt and will cling to any hope that someone can help). Whatever you can do for my family and I during these times of economic struggles will be greatly appreciated.

    ————————————————————
    Hi Ellen,
    I just wanted to inform you that Superior Energy called me today and have agreed to cancel the contract without any penalties.

    Ellen, thank you for the support and for your ever lasting impact on us and our ever lasting gratitude.

  34. MM again

    Apr 23 2009

    Just wanted to share with you the resolution to our complaint to Direct Energy.

    I spoke to Kelle Balch, Senior Manager of the Office of the President. She emailed me the reaffirmation call (as we still hadn’t received it in the mail) between Direct Energy and my husband.

    I emailed her back the original complaint letter and said that my husband and I do take responsibility for making a bad decision in agreeing to such a contract. However, we made such a decision based on false pretences.

    The “terms and conditions” do not specify Direct Energy’s selling practices or how the decision came about to sign the contract. The reaffirmation call just asks you to confirm the rate and there are no questions asked prompting discussion, nor there is any mention of what the sales agent said or the sales agent’s conduct.

    Obviously, we are pleased with the decision (see below). It is so obvious that they can just blame the poor sales agent, when we all know that he was trained to say what he said.

    I am hopeful that with more public pressure, maybe we can stop these companies from soliciting – though I doubt they will ever change their deceptive ways!

    ————————————————————

    From: Balch, Kelle
    To: MM
    Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 6:04 PM
    Subject: RE: Reaffirmation call

    Thank you for providing such a detailed description of your complaint. I apologize for any inconvenience you’ve experienced in attempting to resolve the issue.

    Unfortunately, the agent who enrolled your account is no longer with Direct Energy. That said, there’s no definitive way to substantiate or refute your accusation of agent misrepresentation.

    In an effort to resolve this matter, we are releasing you from your contract without penalty. Please note that it can take up to two billing cycles for your account to become final with Direct Energy.

    Direct Energy values its customers and would never condone misleading marketing and/or sales practices. I hope that you will consider us in the future when it’s time to choose your next provider.

    Regards,

    Kelle Balch
    Senior Manager, Office of the President
    Direct Energy
    Austin, TX 78701

  35. LMM

    Apr 23 2009

    In October 2008, I cancelled my Direct Energy gas contract both in writing and by phone. I was assured it was cancelled.

    On Nov. 14, the bill was not adjusted. I phoned and again and confirmed cancellation.

    On Dec. 16, the rep suggested an email@directenegy.com. Another cancellation again.

    On Jan. 15, 2009, I spoke to a call centre employee in India, who confirmed receipt of everything and said a customer service rep would call me in 48 hours.

    Several weeks later, I called and an employee was looking into it.

    Several weeks later, Alan called and said Direct Energy’s reimbursement would be from February 2009. I should resubmit copies of my cancellation for further reimbursement.

    Even though I have read about ALL these nightmares with Direct Energy, I just assumed since I had done what was requested that my contract would be cancelled.

    ————————————————————

    Hi Ellen, I got my cheque today. Thank you again for all your help.

    Bottom line… never take a contract with any of these distributors.

  36. char

    Apr 25 2009

    I rec’d a call yesterday (apr.24-09)from Enbridge Gas/Ipsos Reid asking questions of customers to help Enbridge be a better company. As if. They are only better when someone like Ellen gets in their face.
    I told them Mrs.W. wasn’t home.

  37. Al West

    Apr 27 2009

    Hi Ellen,

    I live in British Columbia and have been dealing with Direct Energy as our provincial natural gas supplier opted to set up private distributors just as in Ontario. My question is do you know of any public minded advocates such as yourself working in BC? Also, do you suppose Direct Energy’s flaky business practices are grounds for a class action law suit?

    Thanks, al west…

  38. Niraj Chandra

    Apr 27 2009

    I think the consumer has to get much smarter to avoid these rip-offs. Ellen is doing a great job with her column; I’ve listed the top ten consumer rip-offs at:

    http://www.wecanadians.com.

    Please take a look at these and feel free to add some more. The most dangerous ones are those that are borderline legal.
    The only way to stop these scams is consumer awareness.

  39. backEast

    Apr 29 2009

    I can’t understand how these companies can legally operate and have access to wreck peoples credit. We moved to Ontario a year ago and the first day in our new home the Summitt Energy guy comes knocking our door. We moved from back east where everything is electric so the whole concept of gas was new to us. He managed to talk me into locking into the “current rates” which I interpreted as the current rate Enbridge would be charging. Since we didn’t have any internet hooked up for days by the time I realized what I did it was to late and I was locked in.

    Last month we moved into our new home just outside Ottawa and when we notified Enbridge that we would be shutting down the gas a few days later we get a nasty call from Summitt saying we have to pay $1000 to cancel the contract or we need to give them our new account number when we move. I agreed that we would give them the new account number and they confirmed by email to just email them the account number when we get our first bill. Three weeks later I get a letter from a creditor saying to pay the $1000 damages or it would be reported to the credit bureau and they would take further action. I called Summitt and asked why I would have received such a letter and was told by 2 different people to just ignore the letter. How can they tell me this unless this is a common scare tactic used. I decided to pay the $1000 this week and rid myself of such a company.

    I cannot understand though how this is allowed to continue. These companies are doing no service to the public. The Ontario Energy Board needs to wake up and take action. There is certainly enough cases online to see abuse is happening.

    One solution I see is to make Enbridge the “big brother” in this and have them obligated to let the customer know exactly what they are getting — without all the crap that cannot be verified by anyone. I am sure this would get rid of 99% of the problem with this system.

    BTW – The first week we moved into our new home in Ottawa we got gas salesmen from 4 different companies. They just flock to new subdivisions and the one who can dish out the most crap wins. I am guessing most of the time it is people new the province (like me) or people new to the country. This is not a welcome package Ontario — wake up.

    I only hope Ellen Rosemans bid to ban door to door energy sales come true some day … that will truly be a victory for the average joe.

  40. RB

    Apr 30 2009

    I cannot believe this! Are all these contractors communicating with each other to make us sign contracts disguised as “confirmation forms” or what else?

    On April 29, I received a visit from a representative who was from “Hydro” saying that he was coming to make sure that the newly installed smart meters were working fine. In my naivete, I didn’t check too closely (I usually watch for scams) as I trusted the guy, because I thought if he knows that Hydro has recently changed the meters, then he MUST be from Hydro.

    His badge looked like was from Hydro too. He asked to double-check my bills and asked me to sign a “receipt” to confirm that I had received the visit.

    It was after I went back to my place that I realized what I had signed was a registration form from Summitt Energy.

    I am going to send a fax tomorrow to cancel this unwanted contract (actually, I will also send it by certified mail, just to be sure that I don’t get billed), but beyond this, how could these practices not be banned and the people prosecuted?

    I am not easily duped and usually refuse to sign anything without reading the small print. However, this scam was really sophisticated: the rep really looked like a guy from Hydro. I read on another forum that Hydro customers should know that their reps usually call before visiting households. Had I known, I would have been suspicious and would not have signed up. Can we, in some way, ask our energy providers to release a warning or something that helps us recognize possible frauds?

    Thanks for keeping this forum. I swear when I realized what had just happened to me, I felt stupid and assaulted.

  41. Karen L

    May 1 2009

    I think the key here for everyone to clue into is that:

    There is no legitimate business model for door-to-door sales.

    Those days are long, long gone (if they ever were true). Even the Girl Guides have given up on that. Charities can manage to eke out a “sale” if they have volunteers.

    But no for-profit organization can afford to send people door to door unless there is a certain amount of graft involved to get customers locked in. That’s why so many of these direct marketers are forced to train the sales people to lie about guarantees, to lie about why they are knocking, to lie about current rates.

    If you just remember that there is physically and financially no way for a legitimate business to make money sending sales people to your door, you’ll remember to not sign anything.

    That’s why the utilities are getting out of the meter reading business as well — it’s too expensive.

    All the energy marketers listed above should be ashamed to have set up a business model (commissioned sales of energy contracts) that has no place to go except to a scam-based sales call. I don’t know how the employees of these companies sleep at night.

    I don’t know how the licensed professionals (engineers, accountants, lawyers) can keep their licenses while participating in this tower of false pretenses. They have to understand and know how their business model works.

  42. Paul

    May 4 2009

    I for one am completely disgusted what seems to be legal robbery tactics that these companies insist their people use.

    I moved into a rental townhouse a year ago and since then I’ve had no less then 5 of these deceitful people come to my door. Every time, they are straight faced lying about everything. I’ve heard every story in the book.

    From “I’m here from the Ontario Goverment because you are required to sign off on your Gas Rebate entitlement” to “we are replacing all the Gas Meters and require your signature for authorization.”

    Each time they quickly flash a bogus badge and always present an Enbridge Invoice to fool you into thinking they are some offical representative.

    Every time they come to the door and discover I am onto their little schemes, they try to deny it at first but then just shut their mouths and take off.

    Most of these idiots don’t even realize that it’s a rental complex they are hitting until I tell them, then their faces drop when they discover how stupid they were.

    There should be a law against this. It’s simply ridiculous that they can cheat everyone like this and get away with it.

    If I knew who to contact about it, I would log a formal complaint with them. I think that because everyone has 10 days by law to cancel their contract upon signing, it gives them the freedom to say whatever they want to get you to sign.

    It just makes me sick to think the goverment allows this to happen, knowing full well that it does.

  43. Andrea

    May 4 2009

    We made the mistake of signing on with Superior Energy Management. We finally realized we were paying more than if we’d just stayed with our utility.

    We tried to fight the cancellation fee, but have failed and will be paying them to terminate our contract. Very frustrating.

    We wish the government would put a stop to this legalized scam.

  44. nathan

    May 4 2009

    Same horror story just happened to me and my girlfriend with Summitt Energy just two weeks after moving into our new home, it’s time for the government to do something about these crooks.

  45. Philip V

    May 5 2009

    I am currently an employee of Direct Energy, and as such I believe I can explain many of your complaints.

    DIRECT ENERGY, and DIRECT ENERGY REGULATED SERVICES are two COMPLETELY DIFFERENT COMPANIES.

    DIRECT ENERGY REGULATED SERVICES (DERS) is the Government Default here in Alberta. When De-Regulation was put into effect if you DID NOT choose a competitive retailer you were put onto DERS for your natural gas. DIRECT ENERGY is a competitive retailer just like many other companies such as EN-MAX, and so on.

    YES!
    There is an affiliation between the 2 companies, but only ONE OF THEM is regulated by other agencies such as the AUC, MSA, and SERVICE ALBERTA. DIRECT ENERGY has shown me only Honesty, and Trustworthiness as a SALES employee for their company. Where people come off insulting the company is beyond me.

    The call that DIRECT ENERGY was looking for in one of the older comments is one of DE’s pre-cautions for blogs like this to try and ensure that we only do honest business. It is called a (TPV) THIRD PARTY VERIFICATION call, in which DE asks 4-5 verification questions to MAKE SURE that a person is NOT signing something they do not understand, and to MAKE SURE that they understand what they are changing in their energy/electricity services.

    People can use the tactic of saying, “Oh they’re looking for some call that I apparently made and they never called me back,” but this is most likely a persons fault for not investigating their provider thoroughly. If your bill is PINK (in AB at least), you are with DERS, which is a REGULATED RATE PROVIDER. It is not the same as DIRECT ENERGY which comes to your door, offering you plans with better rates, cheaper services, more convenient options, and secure prices.

    DIRECT ENERGY is not the company you should be on the look to avoid.

  46. DERS DESTROYER

    May 5 2009

    DERS OPENS FRAUDLENT ACCOUNTS USING NAMES OF PEOPLE THEY HAVE NO REASON TO KNOW.

    And when you request the information, they won’t even show you what they used to open an account in YOUR NAME!!

    They like to hide behind this mysterious “distribution company” but the fact is that they fraudulently open accounts to serve their corporate quota. As if they’re not profitable enough already with all the ripoffs they print on those pink bills.

    The fact of this matter is that people aren’t upset about not getting a call back from the any of the incompetent employees DERS provides. They’re upset by DERS’ unlawful use of their information.

    I for one will be pursuing this incident with the help of my lawyer, the Better Business Bureau and the Calgary consumer advocacy program, which can be contacted in calgary @ 403-310-4822.

    I encourage anyone who had a fraudulent account opened by Direct Energy to do the same and keep your ears and eyes open for a class action lawsuit to come.

    ALTHOUGH DERS IS NOT THE COMPANY THIS PROBLEM ORIGINATES WITH, THEY ARE THE ONES USING THIS INFORMATION TO OPEN ACCOUNTS FOR PEOPLE THAT NEVER REQUESTED OR WANTED ONE.

  47. BCK

    May 5 2009

    I have had a similar experience to several cases above.
    A canvasser came to my door in november 2008 asking me to fill out a survey regarding service quality from Direct Energy Essential Services. I filled out half of the name/date section before i realized that they were requesting some personal information I didnt believe they needed. It was at this point that the canvasser admitted that it was actually a consolidation of energy bills they were trying to impliment. Seeing as I am not the owner of the home I live in and have never had any of its bills listed in my name, I told the canvasser to come back later in the evening to speak to the home owner. He returned about an hour later, with his supervisor to tell me they actually didnt need the homeowner to fill this consolidation form out, just someone at the address. Well, the home owner was present this time and really didnt appreciate that. He ended up telling them in no polite terms to get off his property, and that he didnt want any changes to his current services as they had been the same for over TEN YEARS. With Direct Energy Regulated Services.
    And next thing I know… im being notified that DEES has gone in and not only checked my credit without my signature anywhere authorizing them to do so, but also effective January 1st 2009, they will be billing me!
    Needless to say, the homeowner called them immediately after recieving this letter and told them no such request was ever made and that he did not authorize his de-enrollment. At that time, I personally requested copies of everything they had used to open an account in my name and made it clear that I did not authorize them to do ANYTHING with my info. I wanted to see it because i knew i had never signed anything.
    DERS said not to worry and they would keep the account as it was originally and send me everything used to open this account. Which is where this story should have ended..
    but unfortunately, they did not heed either request. In fact, for the entire month of January, we apparently didnt have an account with any energy provider anywhere.. yet we managed to keep using services. VERY SUSPICIOUS.
    The home owner never cancelled his services but somehow, they were magically transfered into my name without my knowledge or desire.

    Naturally, we kept calling DERS, trying to get any information regarding our account and were repeatedly told to wait for a manager to call us back within 48 business hours which, of course, never happened. We were hung up on numerous times due to our frustration with the lack of professionalism and assistance we were recieving after being LOYAL CUSTOMERS TO DERS FOR OVER TEN YEARS. We just wanted to know what happened and correct the situation.

    So we gave up on dealing with the company directly. I am now dealing with the Calgary Consumer Advocacy Program and the BBB and have made more progress with them in one day then i was able to make by myself in over 4 months. I have also gone as far as to write to members of the media regarding this matter. I do plan to consult a lawyer as I believe my signature was forged and will be pursuing any legal action I possibly can in that regard. Im not sure but I believe thats called identity theft.

    For those of you in a similar situation, You can contact the Calgary Consumer Advocacy Program @ 403-310-4822. You can find the BBB online or look them up in the yellow pages. As for lawyers consultations, youd be surprised how many free ones you can find in the phone book ;)

  48. TN

    May 11 2009

    Over two years ago, my wife and I moved to Timmins, Ontario for a temporary job.

    When our son was only a month old, a Universal Energy agent came to our door when my wife was exhausted and home alone. She made the mistake many others have made and signed the contract.

    At first I was very upset and we did have our lawyer look into whether he could get us out of the contract.

    In the end, we decided to stay in it until we moved, as we knew we’d be returning to Alberta in 2008 and the extra cost of electricity and gas we’d pay would be less than any legal fees we might take on from fighting the contract.

    In the contract, it states that a termination charge or penalty will not be charged if you move to an area not serviced by Universal Energy. So you can imagine our surprise when we received a letter from UE, telling us that we were facing $560 of charges for terminating early.

    We contacted them and told them we were moving to Alberta, which they do not service. They required us to send them our bill of sale and proof of change of address and we complied.

    After they did not get back to us for over a month, I called them. They told us they received the documents and it would take some time to review them, but if we did not hear back from them we could assume things were okay and we would not be sent to collections. This was back in July.

    On April 23, I received a letter from a collections agency via Universal Energy telling us we must remit $560 in termination charges. This is completely absurd.

    Of course we are not going to pay and I’m going to be contacting our lawyer first thing. We kept all of our supporting documentation including our discussions with UE. But how is it possible that this company has not been shut down yet?

    ————————————————————

    Vanessa Anesetti, spokeswoman for Universal Energy:

    A member of our compliance department contacted Mr. N to inform that Universal has not yet received the required documentation (landline phone bill, cable bill or a copy of the car insurance pink slip showing their new Alberta address).

    Once the required documentation is received and validated, Universal will cancel the contract and remove the account from collections.

    ————————————————————

    We were contacted by the compliance department, but were subsequently told that the documentation we had provided was under review and we would be notified if it was insufficient. This was in July ’08.

    Since then, we have not been contacted whatsoever, be it by phone or mail. Had they contacted us by mail, it would have been forwarded to our new address (which we had provided in any case and was obviously not documented, because the collections notice was sent to our old address). And we could have dealt with it in due time.

    At this point, we wish to know the following:

    1. Exactly what documentation do we need to send?

    2. To whom should we send this, so it gets received and corrected in a timely fashion?

    We want to be contacted when everything is received, and again when everything is corrected. We will be sending the documentation by registered mail with requirement for signature upon receipt.

    Please get back to us by the end of this week so we can deal with this finally.

    ————————————————————

    Mr. N, thank you, I received the documents and deemed them valid. Cancellation has been submitted.

    Please advise if you require anything further on this file.

    ————————————————————

    Thank you so much. That’s a great relief.

    TN

  49. karen s

    May 17 2009

    I am a recent victim of Summitt Energy. They forged a contract with our signature on it.

    The Ontario Energy Board said they were in good standing and yet the BBB gives them a rating of F. It is my problem to prove things have been forged. Unbelievable.

    I started a Facebook site yesterday called (scammed by summitt energy). Please all you ppl that have been scammed by these companies I urge you to join. I do believe there is strength in numbers. Let’s put an end to these legal crooks once and for all. Thanks.

  50. Cindy V

    May 22 2009

    I got a call today from my daughter-in-law. She was very upset and didn’t understand why she was getting a disconnection notice from her utilities. Where they once had a very sizable credit with the utilites companies, they now owed more than $400.

    I asked her if anyone had been to her door giving her the “I need to see your utility bills to make sure you’re getting the proper credit”. Her reply was that someone had come to her door and said they needed to see her bills to make sure she was getting the proper credits, so on and so on. In this case, they actually took her utility bills with them and mailed them back to her at a later date.

    She had no idea that her bills were behind, no idea that she was no longer dealing with the original utility she signed up for when she moved in and no idea she was locked into a five-year contract. They told her today she would have to buy out the entire five-year contract to get out.

    I don’t have the full details yet, but I have to say this will be the third time I have had to help a family member deal with this company. My daughter was duped into it, my senior mother also. These are all people who are/were on disability pensions and have no understanding of these sales tactics.

    I really think not only a Facebook site but a class action lawsuit against these people is in order. All it takes is a few people and a gutsy lawyer to take it on for the entire group. Take a look at the one won recently in Alberta against the Cash Store. All of Canada is benefiting from it.
    CV

  51. James

    May 23 2009

    I, too, had to help my parents out of a contract from one of these crooked companies. One of their agents came to my parents’ door and gave them the usual speech. You may leave the contract at any time, sign this form and we’ll just see if you’re eligible, yada yada. My parents are a trusting bunch and took them at their word.

    This is clearly a case of misrepresentation. It’s basic Business Law 101 stuff. Such a contract would be void, regardless of what was written in the contract. This type of verbal misrepresentation isn’t allowed in law or you’d have cases where people would be signing over life savings when they thought they were signing up for free lottery tickets.

    I’m surprised at how easily people are caving to their empty threats by paying early cancellation charges. Have these crooked companies actually managed to successfully sue someone for contract enforcement? Somehow I doubt it. I don’t see a judge ruling against an elderly person who was lied to and pressured into signing a contract.

    What I did for my parents was have them cancel their gas account and I opened a new account under my name. Rates have returned to normal. We are getting harassing phone calls, which we ignore. I dare them to sue us so I can countersue and put those law courses I had to take in college to good use.

    Victims of intentional misrepresentation, which they are, can sue for additional damages as well. Heck, for those that didn’t even sign a contract, it would be fraud.

    No… I don’t think these companies would actually take any of their victims to court for contract enforcement. They prefer to prey on, harass, and intimidate the vulnerable, those people who don’t know their legal rights.

    When I found out these scum came to my parents’ house and took advantage of them, I was furious. My parents aren’t in good health and no one should take advantage of trusting seniors like that. By whatever means necessary, I’ll make sure those lying b’tards don’t get another dime from them. This isn’t just a business dispute, this is personal.

    If you think about it, as crooked as these companies are, they aren’t the ones ultimately responsible for these practices. They are a symptom of a faulty system. How on earth could the provincial oversight agencies still allow these companies to be licensed? They have had more than enough time to close any “loopholes”. The vulnerable are being taken advantage of and the government hides behind defective rules and regulations.

  52. Cindy V again

    May 25 2009

    I now have all the information from my daughter in law.

    This guy came to her door on April 23, said he needed to see her utility bills to be sure she was receiving the proper credits to her account. He told her he was from the specific utility company.

    Told her she would have a marked saving if she combined her gas and hydro bills with their new program. They would receive two cheques for $25 credits as a signing bonus, as well as the reduced rate.

    On May 22, she received a notice from the original hydro company saying she owed $483.03 and they were disconnecting on May 26.

    She called the hydro people asking why she owed so much when the last bill she got from them she had a credit of $210.88 and that disability had been paying the utilities direct for several years. Why had they not notified her before now that she was in arrears?

    The lady at the utility company said they could not send her notice of arrears since she was signed up with Universal Energy.

    This means that in less than a month Universal has cost this family, on disability, more than $600.

    She immediately got on the phone with Universal. They told her she signed for the hydro in January, a little item she has no recollection of at all! They said they would take the gas off the contract, but she would have to buy out the five year contract to cancel the hydro.

    I have the contract in front of me and even I can’t make head or tails of it for the most part. They give at least four different prices. Understanding this contract in its entirety would take someone with a university degree.

    I thought about doing what James did, but we tried that when my daughter got scammed. She had to prove where she moved to and that she wasn’t going to pay utilities there. She also had to pay several hundred dollars to terminate.

    My mother’s case was simpler. She was elderly, it was within days of the signing and I simply told the people that my mother was not mentally capable of understanding contracts. I told them I was their trustee and all decisions had to pass through me. A lot easier to do with seniors.

    I don’t know how I am going to manage this one, especially with the disconnection scheduled for Tuesday.

    Here’s the letter I wrote to Universal Energy:

    I am writing concerning the recent application signed by D for the Residential Energy Price Protection Plus.

    We received notice today from Kingston Utilities that our bill is in excess of $400 with them and to be disconnected on May 26, 2009.

    We are concerned about this as D was ensured of the following:

    1. She was led to believe your representative worked for Kingston Utilities.

    2. That this was an application, not a contract.

    3. That signing would not affect her current status with her utilities, which stood at a credit of over $400.

    I have my own concerns with what has happened:

    1. D is an Ontario Disability Recipient. Having said this, I will advise you that I am her trustee. D is not capable of comprehending any matter such as this, knows that she has to get my permission before signing any contract and would not have signed had she been aware it was a contract.

    2. By law, a contract must be followed by a ten-day grace period and followed up with a call to verify the contract is still wanted. This has never taken place.

    3. D was never given the Customer Agreement for the terms and conditions and therefore was never given the chance to have me, her trustee, explain the document she was given as to make an informed decision.

    4. This “application”, to me, looks like a contract but it clearly states “Application” at the top so I will make a natural assumption that it is an application. Therefore, as Dana’s trustee, I invoke the right to withdraw this application without penalty.

    Please send verification of our request on May 22 that your company has withdrawn the gas contract without penalty, as was agreed to by telephone.

    On May 22, we were advised that D had also signed a contract for the hydro in January. We are at a loss for this one.

    No one came to see D for a signature and no one called on the telephone. If you have a contract for hydro in D’s name, please forward a copy to her address along with a copy of the agreement terms. Once that is done we will advise you of how we will proceed on the matter of the hydro.

    I will allow ten days, until June 5, for you to find the hydro information, forward to D’s mailing address and forward a reply to me.

    I trust we will be able to work through the problems this has caused as quickly as possible.

  53. Matt J

    May 25 2009

    I am writing about a situation that could have been fixed fairly easily by Ontario Energy Savings Corp. (OESC).

    I recently moved in December of 2008 while still under contract with OESC, not realizing when you moved that you have to call OESC and have the service moved.

    I assumed that when your Hydro Service resumed at the new location, the local Hydro Company which invoices you monthly would continue to pay the contract provider, as it was still in my name and in the same city.

    I received a letter from Bond Street Collections, stating that I owed $291 for early contract termination. I called OESC and was told that I was in default because I had breached my contract by not letting them know I moved.

    They had said that a letter was sent out to renew the contract at my new address, but that was difficult to receive. So, since I had moved, the letter went to my previous address.

    I asked the customer service person why they did not find it reasonable to call my home telephone number on file to address the situation like a reputable company would and she just deflected the question.

    I also asked if I could see the breakdown of the $291 charge for early termination and instead they sent me a copy of the contract and told me to figure it out.

    Now, because of the timeline associated with unfulfilled calls I placed over a 2-3 week period and receipt of a mailed contract, I now have to deal with Bond Street Collections and deal with a credit score hit…..doesn’t this seem unreasonable?

    POINT #2: It’s ironic when they call it a price protection plan…..price protection SHOULD be an offering that will save you money at some point, or so you’d think.

    Not only have I paid over $1,600 above what I would have paid using my local hydro supplier, but if I signed up a new contract now it would be a couple cents cheaper than my original contract.

    Wouldn’t a legit company that offers a “price protection” lower rates for existing customers when the market price decreases? It defeats the purpose of price protection.

    All in all, I am out close to $2,000 for Hydro…..Thank you, OESC, for stealing money from an honest taxpaying citizen. There should be laws against this.

  54. SL

    May 28 2009

    On Jan. 10th, your column regarding unfair energy contracts was published. Probably it’s no surprise to you that these companies are still targeting unsuspecting individuals, despite being fined for their deceptive ways.

    I recently fell victim to Summitt Energy. An agent came to my door, claiming he was representing Power Stream. He said he was ‘just registering my utility bills’.

    And as I read more and more of these cases, it appears this is a script they stick to, to lure people into their deception.

    Now I’m faced with a $1,400 cancellation fee, even after I requested a cancellation the day after they reconfirmed over the phone (at that point, I thought they still represented Enbridge and Power Stream).

    I know you wrote about this issue already, but people have to be made aware of these deceptive companies. I just had a baby. This ridiculous fee is just adding a burden to my financial situation.

  55. AJ

    May 28 2009

    I have been receiving energy from Summit without my realization for a year. And I have been paying 8.9 cents per kwh, while my local company’s rate has only just increased to 5.7 cents.

    After discovering that I had been signed up for Summitt Energy, I sent them an email requesting cancellation and refund. They emailed me a copy of my contract, a recording of me “affirming” the contract, a copy of their terms of service and a cancellation letter asking for nearly $400.

    The contract was the piece of paper the door-to-door salesperson had me sign, telling me he was from my hydro company and explaining that I would receive more information about smart meters and energy savings if I signed it.

    My initials have been copied (not in my handwriting) to a bit of fine print, stating that I agree to the terms of service and that the sales rep did not lie or pretend to be from my local hydro company.

    After I signed, the rep mentioned Summitt Energy and I told him no, I did not want to switch energy providers.

    The recorded phone call never took place. I did speak to a man who called daily for nearly three weeks, about a month after the salesperson visited. Eventually, I gave him my Horizon account number, because he told me he would stop calling and send me information about saving money, compared to my current rates.

    At no point did I agree to be recorded. The recording they sent me is of a woman, asking me to confirm the contract, with my voice spliced in saying “yes.”

    I have decided to cancel my hydro entirely while waiting for this matter to be resolved. Another person at my residence has assumed responsibility for providing electricity. But I still owe a huge bill and still want a refund from Summitt Energy.

    I replied to their email, telling them that fake initials and phone calls will not satisfy me and that I will take legal action if necessary. They haven’t replied yet.

    But I have come across many stories online from other consumers who have had similar experiences, including forged signatures and fake phone calls.

    I really can’t afford to fight this in court, but I don’t want to pay their cancellation fee and I do deserve a refund. Is there anything you can do to help?
    Thank you.

  56. Patsy

    Jun 1 2009

    I was just recently scammed by these people. A guy came to my door asking for my bill. He told me that if I signed up with him, my bills would end up being cheaper and I would be avoiding a bunch of costs.

    So I get my Hydro bill today and it is $70 more this month then it has been ever. I called them immediately to try and cancel and I am not waiting for someone to call me back, as apparently they have to “review” my account.

    Seriously, a single mother in this recession cannot afford extra expenses like this. These people need to be stopped!!! I wish I had seen this article sooner!! Thank you.

  57. AN

    Jun 8 2009

    On May 11, I was visited by someone claiming that she was from Hydro and needed to speak to me about our Hydro bill.

    I was entertaining 6 guests for dinner and told her I didn’t have time to speak to her and could she come back. She said no, she had been trying to contact us for weeks.

    After numerous attempts to shut her down and she would not relent, I stupidly signed the document. I shut the door to put the information on our desk in the kitchen.

    To give you further background, I have a newborn baby and a 3 year old that consume my time.

    The signed paper sat unread until I received a phone call on May 21 at 8 pm, when a gentleman asked me a bunch of questions about the visit of that salesperson 10 days before. I answered all his questions and next thing I know I was told that I confirmed this service.

    Again, my baby was crying, so I thought I was confirming the visit to my door, NOT the actual service.

    After two weeks of contacting Summitt Energy in Mississauga to cancel, no one would call me back.

    I left several messages and a manager returned my call yesterday. He said that I confirmed this contract and if I wanted to cancel, I had to pay them $1,500.

    I am on maternity leave and simply cannot afford this. I feel I have been completely scammed. Is there any way that you can help me??

  58. WD

    Jun 8 2009

    My 77 year old neighbour approached me complaining about his high electricity bills.

    I took a look at his statements and saw that Summitt Energy has been his reseller since October 2008. Summitt’s cost worked out to be some 50% higher than it had been with Hydro One.

    My neighbour is an immigrant, lives alone and has no family. He is a shy man and somewhat naive to the intentions of others.

    I remember last fall when energy resellers were canvassing our area hard, looking for business (we live in Keswick). My neighbour remembers little of the encounter, other than it was a man who promised him savings by signing with them.

    Can my neighbour get out of this contract and resume with Hydro One? He has limited means and this problem is causing him great stress.

  59. DM

    Jun 8 2009

    I have had my electricity supplied through Universal Energy since March 6, 2006.

    Before I signed the contract, I was told by the salespeople that Universal has the best “Electricity Balancers” in the industry.

    Electricity cannot be stored like gasoline, propane and natural gas, I was told, andthat Universal was contracted to take the same quantity of electricity — even if the total demand of their customer base was less than their supply commitment to their electricity generators.

    In other words, if Universal bought more electricity from the generators than their customer base consumed, they would sell the excess on the spot market.

    If they sold the excess for more than the contracted price they pay to generators, their customers would receive a Balancing “credit” that would reduce the cost of the electricity being supplied on the electricity bill.

    However, If the excess was sold for less than the price paid to generators, their loss would be recouped by charging a Balancing “debit” and would be added in the cost of electricity shown on the electricity bill.

    In order to find out what is being included in the cost of electricity, the customer needs to take the “Adjusted kilowatts Used” and multiply it by their contracted price.

    The product of this calculation needs to be compared with the cost of electricity shown on the bill.

    Universal told me they have the best “Balancers” in the industry and I should not be concerned about the net effect of the calculations. Credits and Debits would offset each other over time and would not be a concern.

    Since March 6, 2006 to the period ending March 11, 2009, balancing has added $255.61 to the cost of my electricity.

    I have made the calculation and tracked the Balancing amounts for each bi-monthly billing. Only one credit for $1.72 was experienced.

    I believe your readers would appreciate being advised of these Balancing “Debits” that are being buried in the Cost of Electricity if contracted by an Electricity Marketer.

    Your readers who are thinking about signing with an Electricity Marketer should be advised to think again.

  60. CindyV

    Jun 9 2009

    This stuff is so rediculous! I’ve joined a facebook group, if can be found

    http://www.facebook.com/editapps.php?ref=mb#/group.php?gid=81391898642

    There is someone who has been in contact with a legal firm about a class action lawsuit.

    Join and add your stories and spread the word. These people have to be stopped.

    We now have a direct energy claiming to have a contract with my daughter in law. She’s pretty good to have 2 contracts at the same time and no paperwork proving it from either of them.

  61. Daniel Caldwell

    Jun 9 2009

    I am trying to sort out a mess my elderly father is having with Ontario Energy Savings.

    He is almost 79 and in poor health, therefore in no position to take on this task himself.

    Last winter, he and my mother were forced to sell their house in Brantford because of his serious illness (heart attack). He spent four months in Brantford General Hospital, during which time the house sale closed. My mother was placed in long-term care at Riverview Terrace in Brantford, where she lived for about four months before she died.

    Neither of my parents was in any mental or physical position to inform Ontario Energy Savings that they were moving. My father was not even aware that he had signed a deal with a non-public utility, but I know that argument gets one nowhere. He thought the salesperson was a hydro rep. because the person “needed” to look at their hydro bill. My father is too trusting and does not think as quickly on his feet as he used to.

    The point is that while he was in hospital and she was in a care home, neither of my parents had any control over events, especially their electricity supply.

    Following my mother’s death in February 2009, my father moved in with my sister and her husband, who own a house in Brantford. He remains there under their care, but they pay their electricity bill to Brantford Hydro and are not about to switch to Ontario Energy Savings(!)

    OES made no attempt to contact my father so far as we can tell. The first communication he got was from their collection agency, demanding a penalty payment and threatening legal action. He was surprised, to say the least; he has no record of the contract, so we have no way of knowing if the amount is correct or what the terms of that contract were. Bond Collection agency said that unless he could prove that he had moved to a location where OES did not provide service or he was no longer the person paying the hydro, he was obliged to pay.

    I wrote to the Bond agency explaining that since he has no control over paying the electricity at my sister’s house, he is unable to continue his contract with them. I also requested a copy of the contract (which was understandably mislaid in the chaos that occured when he and my mother were both rapidly removed from their home to be placed in hospital/ care home). I also requested a copy of the “confirmation recording” to show that he had indeed agreed to a renewal of the five-year contract, since he has no recollection of ever being asked to renew it.

    The collection agency ignored my letter and sent my father a further, even more threatening letter warning him of a ruined credit rating, “embarrassment”, and a lawsuit.

    My father’s health is precarious and he cannot stand much more of this pressure, but I am reluctant to hand over money (about $300) to a company that has never been honest with him from the start.

    Can you suggest a course of action? I will pay the penalty if I have to, but nothing in this whole affair has been above board, and I hate to knuckle under to their blatant bullying tactics.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Yours truly,
    Daniel Caldwell

  62. Daniel Caldwell

    Jun 10 2009

    My many thanks to Ellen Roseman, who cut through the confusion and helped me resolve the issue I mentioned above. OES admits that considering my father’s age and health he should never have been referred to a collection agency.

    Thank goodness there are some decent people like Ms Roseman who are in a position to help when all efforts to deal reasonably with door-ro-door energy marketers fail.

    It saddens me that so many people who are treated unfairly because of age/ health/ language difficulties have never heard of Ellen’s admirable work.

    All the more reason to read the Toronto Star!

  63. WL

    Jun 11 2009

    I had an unfortunate run-in with Universal Energy and wanted to tell you my story.

    I live in Ottawa and I am a residential Enbridge gas customer. On Monday, June 8th, I arrived home to find a letter from Universal Energy signed by Nino C. Silvestri, President and COO, thanking me for enrolling in their Price Protection Program.

    Since I had not signed up for this program, I called their customer service department right away. “Paul” said I had signed an agreement with Universal on May 22, 2009.

    I assured him I had not, but he said he had a signed agreement along with a copy of my most recent Enbridge gas bill. I asked him to forward me those documents by email.

    When he said it would take 3-5 business days to have them sent out, I asked to speak to someone who could look into this further. I was concerned my name had been forged.

    He transferred me to the Compliance department, which sent me a copy of the application I had supposedly signed and a copy of my Enbridge bill by email.

    Well, the signature on the application is not mine. The home phone number listed is not mine. When I called it, I found that it is a fax number.

    All other personal information was correct and taken from the Enbridge gas bill. The application was dated May 22, 2009. I leave for work at 8:30 am, and on the 22nd, I was on a train headed for Toronto from Ottawa at 5:21 pm.

    I left for the train directly from work and was away all weekend. I live alone and no one else was home to answer the door on the 22nd.

    No one from Universal Energy came to my door before 8:30 am on May 22 to sell me services. Therefore, there was no way I could have signed the agreement on May 22nd.

    I do not have my last Enbridge bill dated May 20, 2009. I never received it. Somehow, Universal Energy got a copy of my Enbridge bill in order to submit the application (perhaps directly from my mailbox).

    Enbridge has confirmed they sent out my bill between May 20 and May 21st. The price protection agreement was signed on May 22, 2009. I suspect it was signed by the Universal Energy sales rep who came to my door when I was not home.

    I have filed a report with the Ottawa Police and I’ve contacted Phonebusters, the anti-fraud call centre with the RCMP/OPP to file a report. I’ve also filed a report with the Ontario Energy Board. I plan on filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

    I looked up Universal Energy this morning at the BBB and noticed the company already has a grade of F (on a scale of A+ to F), due to the number of unanswered complaints against them. I did a Google search and found page after page of complaints against them.

    I contacted Nino Silvestri to ask for my Enbridge bill back. He forwarded me to a manager in their Compliance department, who let me know they’re investigating. My Enbridge bill is being sent back in the mail.

    Funny how my Enbridge bill has to make a circuitous route to the offices of Universal Energy in Toronto before it actually lands in my hands for the first time.

    It appears a Universal Energy employee got hold of my personal mail out of my mailbox and then forged my signature on the application — both illegal acts.

    I’ve had to contact Equifax and Transunion to ensure there have been no applications on my file as a result of this breach of my personal information.

    Had they gone the legal route and come back at a time when I was home, I would have asked the representative to kindly leave my property. I’ve had run-ins with belligerent energy marketing sales reps on my doorstep in the past.

    I have no interest in signing up with one of these outfits.

    Something needs to be done about these companies! Had I not contacted them when I received this letter, I would have been bound to this crooked company for five years!

    Just thought you might be interested in this story.

  64. Laura E

    Jun 15 2009

    I just learned today that I have been a customer of Summitt Energy for 2 years now. I didn’t know what Summitt Energy meant until today.

    When the reps came by my door, I turned them down flat every time, and I never, ever showed them either my hydro or gas bills.

    The last interaction I had with one of their reps was horrible. The rep actually physically tried to brush past me to step into my home. Once his arm brushed against mine, I shoved him back onto my porch and threatened if he ever tried to get into my home, touch me or even so much as look at my driveway again, I’d phone the police. That was the last time I saw one of these reps.

    Today I got my hydro bill, and it was for $300. That’s pretty much average for me. I decided this was ridiculous, considering my mother pays only a fraction of what I pay and her house is massive. I live in a 3 bedroom town home, and spend 2 days a week at my trailer up north. How is it possible the my hydro bill is $300 every month?

    I phoned Newmarket Hydro, who told me that if i was buying hydro directly from them, it would be 2 x’s cheaper…..WHAT??? I’m not buying hydro from Newmarket Hydro??? This is when I learned that I had apparently signed up with these freaks back in 2007.

    Newmarket Hydro won’t do anything to help me. They also won’t put me back on their service until I can prove that I didn’t in fact sign up with Summitt. Not only that, but it’s Summitt who will be reimbursing me?? ARE YOU KIDDING?? I have to go after the crooks who stole my mail (I have no idea how they got my name or info, considering I never showed them a bill any time they asked – I’m just guessing because I can’t do anything else but guess) to get my money back?? Yeah, right.

    I’m a stay at home mom who’s had to be very creative, or go without necessities myself, just to cover my monthly $300 hydro bill. Flipping items, selling my jewelry, anything. I am in housing and if you don’t pay your hydro, you don’t have a home to live in. They’ll kick you out if you don’t pay your hydro bills, which I didn’t have a problem doing until they were constantly $300 a month.

    I fully assumed someone was stealing my hydro. But apparently, it’s Summitt stealing my money while Newmarket Hydro waxes its villain mustache happily for bringing together this unholy union. Please help me.

    I have been told I have no choice but to keep paying my bill @ $300, or whatever astronomical price they come up with that month, and I can’t even get hold of Summitt on the phone to demand to see my contract with them…which doesn’t even exist anyway.

    What am I going to do?? You have no idea how bright you’d make my family’s world if we could be helped out of this.

    Most important thing to remember about my story is that I never signed anything, I never showed them my bill (probably due to my total lack of organization….good thing I’m disorganized, but apparently they got me anyway), and I never verbally agreed to anything. I never got a phone call asking me to confirm my contract with them. HELP!!!

  65. Don Curry

    Jun 15 2009

    My daughter attends University of Waterloo and has a 1 year lease for an apartment in Waterloo. She was approached a few months ago by a rep from Universal Energy, who told her that everyone in the apartment building had to convert to Universal.

    My daughter is very trusting and was extremely busy with her studies. She believed the sales rep and signed the form. She didn’t realize anything was different for a few months. She found out differently when she sublet her apartment effective May 1/09. Universal sent a letter demanding over $700 in early termination charges.

    I have since filed a letter of complaint with both the OEB and the Better Business Bureau.

    I am amazed how complacent our society is. We have supposedly well intentioned self righteous people who protest the seal hunt. However, there are thousands of people in Ontario being victimized and subjected to misery by the owners of companies like Universal Energy, Direct Energy, Ontario Energy Savings and Summitt Energy, but where are the large scale protests?

    Why aren’t there thousands of people surrounding the offices of these unscrupulous companies and protesting? Why aren’t thousands of people subjecting the owners to a sampling of the misery that they have inflicted on others?

    The door to door salespeople are untrustworthy, to be sure. But the companies hire them and teach them how to cheat people, then deny any responsibilty for their actions. The owners are the true low lifes.

    People like Nino Silvestri, president of Universal, should have to endure some of the treatment his company inflicts on thousands of innocent people. His company and others like his should be subjected to fines of at least $10 million each, so that victims can be reimbursed. It’s about time these scammers are revealed for what they truly are.

  66. Rebecca A

    Jun 15 2009

    Help me Ellen. These people have tripled my hydro bill and we cannot afford it. They are rude to me on the phone and will not send me the contract that I supposedly signed, I’ve been waiting for it for 3 weeks!!

    I have so much more to say but I’m just exhausted about the whole situation right now!!

  67. Lyna

    Jun 16 2009

    Summitt Energy came to our house last year and tried to explain their price protection plan to me, seeing as my parents are ESL and have a difficult time understanding and speaking English.

    The guys who spoke to me reassured me that they were only there to help us save money. When they asked me to sign their form, they also reassured me that it was only to prove to their superior that they had spoken to someone from our house.

    I have no knowledge of how my parents pay for gas or electricity or even what they were trying to explain to me, but seeing as how innocent they seemed I trusted them. I believed that I wasn’t signing a contract that would create this whole situation I am in now.

    They called my house to confirm that someone had come to speak to us about their protection plan and started rambling on again about prices and such. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT AND WAS FOOLISH TO AGREE to the verbal contract.

    I was merely a child, so why would I think that I could ever have the authority to be able to sign with this company? I trusted them because I thought, “what kind of company would give consent to a child to sign a contract?” I thought, “I can’t be held responsible for something like this….they need permission from the home owner to be able to do anything.”

    Now my dad is trying to get out of paying the cancellation fees by making me write letters to them trying to explain the situation.

    My dad had even asked for their location to talk to someone in person and THEY GAVE HIM THE WRONG ADDRESS. When he got the real address, he made a complaint and tried to explain the situation to them. They told him to fax them his driver’s license in order to prove that he was not the one to sign the contract.

    We have still not been contacted by them and are unsure of what to do next. I am still merely a child and feel completely guilty for what I have put my dad through. HELP!

  68. TR

    Jun 18 2009

    I was at my new home, hadn’t moved in yet, on May 30, 2009. Someone came to the door and said he was there to transfer the utility account from the previous homeowner to us.

    He had our names and address on a clipboard. He told me Summitt provided the energy to Enbridge in our region and Enbridge provided the supply lines. He showed me a bill with Enbridge and Summitt on it.

    Being a new homeowner, I vaguely knew of some privatization in the energy sector but had no experience with it.

    He took our names and contact info and I signed (all I noticed was ‘registration form’ at the top) and he said there would be no disruption in our service. I was handed only the registration paper, which I shoved in a cupboard.

    Summitt called less than 2 weeks later asking me to confirm my account information, which I did.

    Only when I received the Enbridge bill later that week that said Direct Energy on it did I go back and look at what I signed! Wow, did I ever feel stupid for signing something without reading it thoroughly.

    I called Summitt about cancelling my account and I complained about the agent representing himself as my regional energy provider.

    They informed me of the $950 cancellation fee and said there was nothing else they could/would do.

    Ellen, I’m not sure if there is anything that can be done since I have to take responsibility for signing something without looking at it closely, but I truly feel that the agent falsely represented himself in this case without disclosing the true nature of their business.

    So far I have submitted a complaint to the BBB and the OEB, with no word back from either as of yet.

    I also requested the cancellation documents from Summitt and they still haven’t sent them.

  69. CD

    Jun 18 2009

    I am a victim of Universal Energy. The salesman at the door lied about everything. I foolishly believed him and didn’t read the contract. If I had read it, I never would have signed it.

    My bills have gone so high I can no longer afford to pay them. I thought I was locked in at approx 8 cents for electricity, but I discovered this week that I am paying close to 11 cents.

    I was promised savings if the cost of hydro rose but when the cost of hydro rose, so did the amount I am paying. I checked the contract and sure enough, my rate is variable. Where’s the savings I was promised?

    Also, I am being charged an extra $50 per account for something called a provincial benefits charge.

    I have a small apartment building with seven hydro accounts. I only made approx. $500 after all the bills. Now, that one fee alone costs over $400 and the cost of the hydro has increased as well, leaving me without an income. However, I still have to work to pay the bank and the utilities.

    I am very upset because it was all a lie from beginning to end and I am working now to either break even or go in the hole.

    I am overwhelmed by how much they are gouging me. Apparently, the bills can be varied to as high as they want to charge me and there’s not much I can do about it.

    No one saves anything by signing up with them. They just say, well, you signed the contract. You should have read it. But, no one could have imagined that it could be this horrible.

    According to my local utility, I am paying an extra $2,000 plus per year because I signed with them.

    I remember thanking the salesman because I told him I was having so much trouble paying my bills and the savings would really help me out. He told me that that hydro costs would be going up right away and I would be saving money in the long run. The hydro costs at that time actually went down.

  70. AN again

    Jun 18 2009

    Hi Ellen,

    Case closed!!! (See my comment of June 8.)

    Gaetana Girardi of Summitt emailed me today stating that my contract would be cancelled without penalty.

    Thank you for all you have done for me!!!

  71. PR

    Jun 18 2009

    Hello Ms. Roseman, I just received an email from Ms. Gaetana Girardi informing me that she has canceled our contract without penalty.

    I don’t think this would have happened so fast (or even at all) without your help, so I give you my most sincere thanks! You are an amazing person for helping people out like this.

    Thank you once again for all your help!

    ————————————————————

    Here’s my story.

    In mid-April of this year, a man knocked on our apartment door and asked to see our bill. We’ve been getting many solicitors in recent times, so I told him we weren’t interested.

    He then proceeded to talk about how he’s legit (showed me ID) and began his sales pitch. It was for a locked-in price of $12.99/month for 5 years.

    We only use gas for our stove at our apartment; even electricity is paid for by the housing corporation. (I must clarify here that my family lives in a low-income subsidy area – Regent Park.) Since $12.99/month was still lower than our current price (which fluctuates from up to $30 depending on usage), I allowed him to continue speaking.

    He took my Enbridge bill from a past month, circled the gas supply charge (which was $0.429 per M3) and said that we were paying too much like he’d thought.

    He pointed out that his price of $12.99 was a much better deal and I was inclined to agree. I asked him at least twice what would happen to my old contract, and he assured me that it would be taken care of by Summitt Energy (which was the company he was representing).

    I then signed the agreement (which was the about size of a store receipt) and he said that I had to talk to a sales representative to confirm.

    I didn’t know then what I know now (after intensive Google searches of the topic), so I didn’t think it was odd when he used our home phone to call a representative (mere seconds after I signed) and handed the phone to me to confirm that I had signed.

    I did so, and the entire time I was on the phone with the representative, he was asking me personal questions (about school and such) and was – I realize now – distracting me from the conversation.

    We received our bill today from Enbridge. It was the first bill to contain the new service. I see “New Gas Charges”, which is the charge of our original provider, and “New Summitt Energy Charges”. The Summitt charge was $12.99 as advertised, but the other company’s charges should not be there, according to the sales pitch by the representative.

    I called Summitt and was told that what I had signed up for was their Evergreen Program, which offsets my carbon footprint.

    I asked them how that is supposed to reduce my charges (because that’s what the representative told me), and they asked me if I wanted to support the environment…which really did not answer my question.

    So now my bill is about $15 higher than it should have been. My family is low-income and definitely cannot afford that extra burden on our budget for the next 5 years. (Why would we sign up for something that increases our bill when we already work hard to make ends meet?)

    The supervisor I spoke to at Summitt said he’d see what he could do, but couldn’t make any promises. To be honest, I don’t expect him to do much after seeing the morals of other employees at the company.

    Is it allowed for the representative to make a call from my house right after getting me to sign the contract? Isn’t there a 10-day “cooling-off period” (as per the Energy Choice Ontario website)? Shouldn’t he have left me a receipt? (He led me to understand confirmation would be received by mail.)

    I am at a loss for what to do, and I see you’ve helped other people get justice against this kind of misrepresentation and I hope you can do the same for me.

  72. Ken Nash

    Jun 19 2009

    Well, I guess I’m the latest victim to be scammed by Summitt. A few months ago, I had some younger smooth talking college guy show up at my door at 8pm on a Sunday evening, now I have to young children at home and am usually in bed by 9 on work nights. I decided to hear him out as he was fairly polite with me.

    He assured me that I’d begin to start saving mone if I signed up with Summitt energy and that my local utility providers were out to get me. I signed up because who doesn’t want to save a couple extra dollars?

    Well today I receive my monthly bill and it has more than doubled. Me being irate, decided to call this company up and demand an answer. I was greeted with a man, that assured me that this wasnt a scam, and proceeded to talk very fast about why my bill was so outrageous. When I told him, that I had an issue with the integrity of this company, and I choose to no longer do business with him. He proceeded to tell me that I would have to pay $938 to get out of this contract. I then asked to talk to the manager or a supervisor, and he brushed me off telling me I was talking to the right person. I immediately saw red and decided to use every expletive I could think of to describe my disgust with this company. He then hung up on me, so here I am now with 2 choices, do I pay the $1000 or do I continue paying double a month?

    Worst case scenario, I’ll just tell them Im moving and put the bill in my common law partners name. Thanks for hearing my rant, lol

  73. LS

    Jun 19 2009

    Dear Ellen,

    I hope you can help me. I’m being had by Universal Energy (UE) and can’t seem to get them off my back.

    My housemate and I signed a contract each (me-hydro and her-gas) with them in 2006. At the time, we were talked into it by a door-to-door sales rep, who told us that the rates would be lower.

    He said everyone on our street was switching over to them. He said nothing about it being a five year contract. He also said we could cancel any time, no problem. He was pushy and asked to see our current bill so he could assess our savings.

    Well, he was lying. My rates were higher and I’m finding it impossible to get out without paying an early termination fee.

    I moved into an all-inclusive apartment and cancelled my account with UE. A few months later, a collection agency called saying I owed them nearly $600 for early termination.

    I called UE to settle this mess and they told me to send the 2 documents: my lease, stating that hydro is inclusive, and proof of address. I faxed them the documents and spoke to a woman who confirmed that she received them and all was settled.

    A year went by.

    Just last week, I got another call from a different collection agency telling me I still owe UE. I thought it was an honest mistake and gave UE a call. They tell me that not only do I owe them for the hydro account I signed, but I also owe for another account, gas. The total is $1,200.

    I talked to “Andrew” and “Grant” at phone # 1-866-200-6222 Ext. 569. I tell them I did not sign for gas and they tell me it was signed by my housemate, but somehow it’s owing on my account.

    They discussed personal information with me about my housemate’s account including how much she owes, where she has lived and what documents they have from her on file — totally illegal to discuss someone else’s confidential information! After putting me on hold off and on for about a half hour, they figure out that they “accidentally” put the two accounts together.

    They proceed to tell me that I still need to provide them with a third document: a hydro bill, in my landlord’s name, with my apartment address at the time, proving that the hydro is all-inclusive. This third document is news to me; they had not previously mentioned that this was needed when the first collection agency was calling me. I remember the conversation clearly and did not miss any information.

    I tell the agent that there is no way I can get my landlord to give me a copy of his bill. Not only is it his property, and he won’t feel comfortable giving it away to an energy company with whom he is not a customer, but my landlord at the time has since sold the building and is nowhere to be found. I did provide them with my lease, which states that hydro is inclusive; this is a legal document and should be enough proof.

    So, he tells me I have 3 options:

    1) I can pay the amount owing.
    2) I can provide them with the copy of my landlord’s bill.
    3) I can resume my contract with them at my current address.

    The agent on the phone was rude to me when I told him I was not going to choose any of the three and I would try to get our of this contract on my own.

    This company does so many unethical things. They won’t send a hard copy list of what documents they need to see in order to close the account. They make you talk to a different agent each time, so you tell your story again and get tired and frustrated. They change the documents they need and don’t inform the customer. They don’t warn you that your account is still outstanding. And they push you into decision-making on the spot.

    There has to be a way out. I’ve held up my end of the bargain: I did send them the documents they needed at the time. Now, a year later, they want more.

    This has been ongoing for 3 years now, involving 2 collection agencies, many phone calls and faxes and time wasted.

    I will be complaining to the BBB and the OEB and my MP, in hopes that others don’t have to suffer like me. I would love to talk to Vanessa Anesetti, spokeswoman for Universal Energy, and get to the bottom of this.

    P.S. On top of this, let’s not forget that my former housemate’s account is still outstanding. This same situation has happened to her too. No one told her about the third document and collections is after her now too. Two exact same stories about two different accounts? This is NOT a coincidence!

  74. AL

    Jun 22 2009

    Ontario Energy Savings is back in town again, selling energy contracts door-to-door.

    This company and others like them use less than ethical business practices. They gain access to restricted buildings by deceit and con unsuspecting residents into signing ridiculous contracts for gas and electricity.

    They often misrepresent themselves as having some direct relationship with Hydro One or the gas company. They use deception, misrepresentation and other pressure tactics to get people to sign these contracts.

    Info on this company can be found at the BBB national site, http://www.bbb.org, by checking Ontario Energy Savings Corp. That info is incomplete and does not tell the whole story. Just go online and search for the company by name and find out how many people have been victimized. It really is a significant problem.

    I would like to see city and provincial governments put a stop to all door-to-door sales and solicitation!

    In this day and age with television, radio, internet, newspapers, mail service and fliers, there is no reason for any legitimate business to go door-to-door soliciting service contracts or selling products.

    It seems the only companies that employ this technique are doing so using less than ethical business practices.

    There is certainly no justification for manipulating one’s way into someone’s home, misrepresenting who you represent and misrepresenting the product or service you are selling.

    It is irresponsible to ask someone to sign a contract without giving them plenty of time to consider what they are signing (days, not minutes).

    No major legitimate company engages in this kind of behaviour and for good reason. It appears that door-to-door sales provides opportunities to use tactics and practices that would not be acceptable anywhere else.

    If I want a product or service I will seek it out myself. I do not need some fast-talking yahoo arriving on my doorstep pushing me to sign (on the spot, no less) any kind of contract, agreement or document, whether or not it can be canceled in 10 days.

    I see these companies as predators and their salespeople as nothing more than a public nuisance and a public menace. There is no reason for them to be at my door and no reason to be pushing some contract or product down my throat, especially in my own home!

    Further, the door-to-door tactics used by these less than reputable companies put the elderly and disabled at greatest risk.

    Last July, when Ontario Energy Savings came into our building, four people signed contracts and three of them were elderly. Two were especially vulnerable, one being incredibly feeble and the other being blind.

    The only reason there were not more victims in our building last year was that I intervened personally and threw the bums out before they could do any more harm. I even had to threaten to call the police just to get them to leave.

    I was successful in getting all of the contracts cancelled for the people in our building. But hundreds of others have not been so fortunate and have found themselves stuck with 5 year contracts they did not want and that cost them more than if they had stayed with the original energy supplier.

    Ontario Energy Savings assured us last year that we would be put on their no-solicitation list, so that we would not be bothered by them any more.

    However, they came back a couple of days ago, claiming no knowledge of a no-solicitation list and with instructions from their supervisor to ignore all “no solicitation” signs. Clearly, they are up to their old tricks.

    We need to do something about this harassment. I believe we should ban all door-to-door sales and solicitation in the province or at least the city (with the possible exception of legitimate charity fundraising).

    Sadly, new victims of these companies are being snared daily. Something needs to be done!

  75. SA

    Jun 30 2009

    Let’s hope that nobody will ever go through the ordeal that I am facing now with the Summitt Energy.

    Early in January 2009, I discovered that my gas bill was outrageously high. I called Embridge Gas to complain, but was told it was the price from Summitt Energy.

    I asked what I had to do with Summitt Energy, since Direct Energy had been my supplier for a very long time.

    I was shocked because I had never signed any contract with Summitt energy. I called to ask for a copy of the contract. At the same time, I reported this matter to the Ontario Energy Board.

    It took several months and several phone calls before Summitt Energy sent me the supposed contract form. TO MY GREATEST SURPRISE, I FOUND THAT MY SIGNATURE WAS FORGED.

    I took this letter to my lawyer, who contacted them in writing to indicate that my signature was forged. He sent the proof of my real signature and asked them to get resolve this matter quickly by refunding me the excess that I have paid for their gas billing.

    They refused to respond to my lawyer. The next thing I saw was a bill fom the MJR collection agency, requesting that I should pay $1,245.04 or my account will be sent to appropriate Credit Bureau.

    I have found myself a victim of a contract that I never signed. How in a civilized city like Toronto can companies like Summitt Energy be allowed to carry out such practices without anybody questioning them?

    How many small people could be victimized by a big company that uses the Credit Bureau to intimidate their opponents to succumb to their pressures?

  76. KM

    Jul 9 2009

    We’re first time homeowners. I’m a student of University of Toronto and live with my mom and sister in Brampton. My dad works in the middle east and we’re trying to make a move to Canada, as we are new immigrants.

    We moved to our new home in November 2008 and in January 2009, a Summitt Energy agent came up to our door and asked for my gas and electricity bills.

    He deceived me into signing a 5 year contract by saying that I had to do it to receive gas and electricity. So I signed out of fear that our gas and electricity supply would be discontinued.

    Later, when I wasn’t home one day, my mom signed a contract with another gas and electricity provider (I believe it was Universal Energy), as they offered her a $50 rebate by mail upon signing the contract. And I thought that it was the same person who had come to me in January. All this time, we assumed these agents to be men sent by our home builder to ensure that we were receiving gas and electricity.

    We did not realize what we had done until a couple of months later, when my aunt came over and told us that these were scammers and that she had been through the same but had pulled out within the first week. So my dad called the Ontario Energy Board and filed a complaint. We were told that Summitt Energy would provide them and us with a written explanation pertaining to the issue.

    However, it’s been over two months and we did not receive any such explanation. The only thing they sent us was a premature cancellation fee, which they claim to be around $2,100.

    We have not spoken to Summitt Energy regarding this matter up to this point, nor have we paid the cancellation amount that they asked for. I do not know what to do in such matters as I’m not fully aware of the legal complications and consumer rights involved.

    We had decided to helplessly stay with them as we cannot afford to pay $2,100 for something we haven’t really used.

    I realize that it was careless on my part to sign something mindlessly. But I strongly feel that I was misinformed about what was going on. It’s been almost 5 months now so I’m really skeptical that something can be done about it.

    However, we haven’t received any bills from Summitt Energy yet and they had told us that we won’t have to deal with Universal Energy since they’ll take care of it.

  77. RN

    Jul 12 2009

    Despite a barrage of complaints, Summitt Energy
    continues at it this month of July 2009 right here
    in downtown Toronto.

    Summitt Energy shock in Parkdale
    http://www.theparkdaleforum.blogspot.com/

  78. maureen p

    Jul 16 2009

    My daughter rented a place in the country when she got married. She was approched by the Direct Energy sales people.

    She swears she never signed a thing, yet they had her gas on Direct Energy. She called and told them she didn’t sign and didn’t want it. They tried to tell her they had proof but didn’t send it.

    She moved to town and changed her utilities to a new address. Now they say she owes them $600 and something as she broke the contract.

    She has no idea what is happening. They are ripoff artists and I wish there was someone who could start a petition to the goverment to stop this.

    You don’t have to sign up with our regular gas company or hydro and there’s no fee for cancelling, so why can they do this ????

    I tried to cancel my contract that I signed back in the ’80s before I knew what I was doing. I never signed again, yet they say I did. I asked for the contract and they sent me one, lol, someone else’s.

    I called and they said I was locked in till January, 2010. I will mark this on my calendar and be sure they get me off their list.

    I also have my electric with them, though I have no idea how that happened and I swear i am paying way higher than ever on gas and electric. Helppp to all of us.

  79. Laura E

    Jul 16 2009

    Hello Ellen!!

    Guess what!! Because of you, my contract with Summitt Energy was cancelled “without penalty”.

    I have received the letter confirming this, as well as a copy of the contract with my husband’s forged signature on it.

    Only question is, where do we go from here? What do you do when you find out that someone has forged your signature. And how do you collect the retro pay?

    Thank you again, the ball certainly didn’t roll until you pushed it for us!!

  80. Ellen Roseman

    Jul 16 2009

    Good news.

    Summitt Energy has cancelled contracts without penalty for Lyna (June 16) and KM (July 9), whose complaints you can find above.

  81. J Birck

    Jul 21 2009

    This is happening in B.C. too. Superior Energy’s high-pressure door-to-door sales tactics are appalling.

    The guy who knocked on my door today tried to convince me that he was working \on behalf of\ my current gas supplier, and had the audacity to tell me that his literature \wouldn’t bite me\ if I looked at it.

    To get rid of him, I had to slam the door in his nasty face.

  82. Daniel

    Jul 22 2009

    This is a problem so widespread, and criminal in certain cases (forgery, fraud), that I personally feel the Government has dropped the ball in not confronting this company.

    Dozens of times I have been bothered by these pushy, untrustworthy salespeople, but fortunately, my basic instincts told me it was very unwise to show ANYBODY one of my bills.

    Despite telling them repeatedly that I have ZERO interest or intention of EVER showing them my bills, or signing anything they show me, they still continue to knock on my door every three weeks….as if the 13th time I will say YES when the 12 times before that I said NO!!!

    Some of them even roll their eyes, or give me attitude, when I ask why they keep harassing me at home!

    So at the risk of sounding dramatic, I hope all of these people choke on their crummy, door-to-door jobs and that Direct Energy disappears into a mysterious tear in space-time.

    P.S. Direct Energy has an office in Toronto, that has a telephone number that will actually lead to a real person (not a recording) and the woman I spoke with was very helpful and promised me they wouldn’t show up at my address again. *Fingers crossed* You could try the same thing.

  83. Daniel

    Jul 22 2009

    This system doesn’t work.

  84. Ed

    Aug 5 2009

    Biggest mistake I ever made was dealing with OES. But I’m willing to go to court to get out of this unfair contract. They should be shut down by the government.

  85. SZ

    Aug 5 2009

    Hello Ellen,

    My mother and I moved into this house in early 2008. We are new immigrants and this is our first house in Canada. I am still a student studying in UTSC; my mother is enrolled in an ESL class because she doesn’t speak any English.

    In October 2008, a guy from Summitt Energy came to our house saying he was here to help us enrol in a program that could save us money on energy bills. He told us that Summitt Energy supplied gas to Enbridge, that’s why we only could see Enbridge on our bills.

    At that time, both my mother and I had no knowledge about Ontario’s energy system and we believed him. The guy then showed us a list of the neighbours on our street, but beside our house number it’s the previous owner’s name.

    He said they didn’t have our information, that’s why we were not in their price protection plan and our neighbours were all saving money. He showed us samples of how our bills would look like if we were in the price protection plan: there’s an amount deducted (savings under price protection plan).

    Everything that guy said seemed so true and we really thought he was here to help us. We showed him our gas and electricity bills, and my mother signed. When Summitt Energy called, I said ‘yes’ still believing this would only do us good.

    Several days later, a friend came by. My mom was telling him there’s a price protection plan that could save him money, but he got very concerned. That’s when we found out it was not simply a price protection plan that could save us money, but a 5 year contract that we would be locked with a fixed price.

    I faxed and called Summitt Energy to cancel the contract, but their reply was to pay them a $1,300 penalty fee to cancel.

    I go to school with the help of OSAP, and my mother is trying very hard to learn English so she can get a job later. We couldn’t and still cannot afford the $1,300 to cancel the contract.

    I found out about you through a Facebook group called ‘Scammed by Summitt Energy’. I really hope you can help us to get out of this mess. People like you make us see more hope in this battle with door-to-door energy sales!

  86. Saad

    Aug 7 2009

    Please help me Ellen!

    An individual posing as our new Hydro and Gas company had my wife sign a registration form. The individual clearly stated that my gas and hydro company providers (Enbridge and PowerStream) will not change and they are just doing a check to ensure everything was in working order.

    A few weeks later, I received a call from an individual seemingly passing herself off as a government employee stating that they will be protecting my prices should they go up. There was absolutely NO MENTION that they would now be providing my electricity and gas as opposed to my default carriers (Enbridge and PowerStream).

    I received a letter yesterday from PowerStream, stating that Summitt Energy will be providing the electricty to my house.

    This is NOT what I WANTED. They clearly did not mention this and also failed to mention ANY contract. Now they are stating that if I cancel my contract, I will have to pay over $5,000 in cancellation fees.

    Please help me in cancelling my contract without penalty from Summitt Energy as I was severely misled.

    Thank you!

  87. Chris Higgins

    Aug 22 2009

    Same experience here. Pushy door-to-door solicitor demands to see our bill, tells us all our neighbours have signed on to avoid skyrocketing prices. We sign and can’t get out without a hefty termination fee and long wait to complete it.

    Is there a class-action lawsuit being filed? If so, I will join it.

  88. Jvo

    Aug 30 2009

    Help Ellen!!!! I had a horrible experience with Direct Energy, so I was determined to let Enbridge be my gas provider once the contract ended in Aug 2006. Fast forward to 2009, and suddenly I get a letter from Superior Energy Management telling me that delivery charges were going up. Surprised to hear from them, I began flipping through my bills. Turnes out, I was released from Direct Energy Aug 2006, stayed with Enbridge for a total of 2 months, when suddenly I got switched over to Superior Energy Management and have been with them since then!!!! No verbal or written consent!!! Except for this tiny little line on my bill with the gas supplier.

  89. danny

    Sep 4 2009

    I do door to door for a company in Texas and we can’t lie to the customer about the rate or we get fired. We sell the sizzle, not the steak.

  90. AM

    Sep 14 2009

    Hi Ellen,

    I just moved in my very first home on June 27, 2009. A guy from Summitt Energy came to my door that very day.

    As people from Enbridge had told me that somebody will be coming to take the meter reading, I asked him if he was from the gas company to take the meter reading. He confirmed and said I just needed to confirm my information on the registration form. And so I did,unfortunately never suspecting that I was even being sold a contract.

    So when they called me to re-affirm, I was still under belief that I was just setting my account with Enbridge.

    ”Just to confirm my information”, the person said, and he quoted what the prices would be for gas and hydro. At least, that is the only thing I recall from the conversation. He never even left a copy of anything, just handed me the Conserve Energy and Save Money pamphlet.

    I got my bill from Enbridge last week and was shocked to learn I was under a contract. I called, and said I didn’t have any contract, but was reassured I signed one on July 04, 2009.

    I called the customer service again today. They told me that the management has reviewed my case and sent me a letter today with early termination fees of 1053.83$ for gas and 949.62$ for hydro.

    I tried to explain the whole story, I even had to ask them what kind of contract am I on, because I had no idea. The customer service rep was very nice, I have to say, but no help, either stick with the contract or pay the termination fees.

    I almost begged him on the phone to transfer me to someone who can rectify the situation, ”I cannot believe that your company would intentionally deceive someone into a contract,” I said.

    For some reason, he asked me if I spoke to my husband about this. I said that my husband has no idea, I don’t have a clue how to tell him, that I dug us into this.

    I am 5 months pregnant with our first baby, we don’t have the resources to pay the fees, not even if they were much lower than this. We cannot afford protection from rising prices, not now and not in the near future.

    I don’t even know if we can afford the huge bills that will certainly come in the winter months. I don’t know because I never had a home before. I did not know what was going on, I didn’t know who is Summitt Energy.

    I feel so stupid right know, embarrassed, and deceived and hopeless. It is a huge price to pay for one mistake when you are starting from zero. Please help!!!!

  91. IN_RESPONSE_TO_AM

    Sep 15 2009

    To: AM

    You can contact the director who makes the decision as to whether or not Summitt will cancel the contract.

    Here is her contact info:
    Gaetana Girardi
    Director,Compliance & Regulatory Affairs
    Phone: 905-366-7020
    Email: ggirardi@summittenergy.ca
    Business Address:
    100 Milverton Drive
    Suite 608
    Mississauga, ON L5R4H1

    If they still refuse to terminate your contact without penalty, there is another solution which is pretty straightforward.

    I think the following solution will apply if your gas provider is Enbridge and your electricity provider is PowerStream, but I’m sure other energy companies will do the same.

    What you do is contact your Gas and Electricity company and request to speak to a supervisor (1st level customer service is very limited in knowledge).

    Tell them you would like to sign a form (I believe it’s called request to remove marketer, etc..) to ask that Summitt be removed from your gas/electricity bill.

    They will do so accordingly and then provide you with your normal rates that they charge, so there is no worry that your suplly will stopped. The only caveat is that Summitt would very likely come after you in terms of the cancellation fee, most likely using a collection agency.

    If they do, then simply write to the agency and say that you will not pay. At that point, they will not be able to solicit you further unless they proceed with legal action, which 99/100 times, they will not, especially when they are in the wrong.

    Do a bit of research on the electricity and gas code of conduct and also your rights in terms of collections…there is PLENTY that will help.

    There is also a Facebook group called ‘Scammed by Summitt Energy’ where all this information is available. I HIGHLY suggest you take a look there.

  92. Greg

    Sep 15 2009

    I am moving in the next couple of weeks. I am a Direct Energy customer for hydro and something else for natural gas. What if I don’t call and give them my new address? How will they ever know where I am living?

    I just called DE and they told me once I am set up in my new place to call…why should I?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  93. Andre van Koningsbruggen

    Sep 17 2009

    I recently signed up for a water heater rental from Direct Energy (little cheaper than what I’m paying now and the one I have now is starting to leak).

    They sent in the troops to replace my current water heater, then the guy said that that they needed to put new piping in. Well… the D.E. sales guy told me about new piping, but not the entire pipe and that I had to open up my basement ceiling.

    Anyway, the techs gave me a card with number phone to book a new appointment for when I’m ready. This was on August 27th and on that same day in the afternoon I phoned to book a new appointment. ….. no word from D.E.

    I phoned again a week later. ….. no word from D.E. Another week later, I phoned again…. no word from D.E.

    I emailed them a few days ago with a complaint to their customer service and explained the situation, next day whohooooo…. a reply….saying that someone will follow up with me within 48 hours… 24 hours went past silently. Only 8 more hours before the 48 hours is up.

    I’ve had it already with these guys, I’ll stick with my current water heater rental guys (Reliance), although I’m considering an alternative supplier, Southwest Energy. I like the idea of the silent operation electric water heater. These power vented things are annoying the X out of me, including Direct Energy.

    They had been at our door a while ago for cheaper gas and electricity, but when I looked up the rates of the other companies we were getting the utilities from they were cheaper. So Direct Energy, get lost.

    People, be forewarned not to trust these Direct Energy deals. What a pathetic club that is. Promises and more promises, but customer service if there are problems and follow ups….NONE.

    I’m done with them. Any door to door sales guy I will personally inform about what a lousy company he’s working for. And I’m happy to see on this site that more people are having issues with Direct Energy (well…glad that I’m not the only one who sees what D.E. is, but sad for the people who are having problems with them that take forever to get solved… if ever).

    Anyway, I’m silently letting this thing pass and after 30 days, I’ll start somewhere else to have my current water tank replaced.

    Thank you for having this website to power vent about this!

  94. F

    Sep 17 2009

    AM … OMG, the exact same thing happened to me.. the exact same story. I just received today a cancellation fee letter for $1,100.

    I complained to the Ontario Energy Board, which told me, “sales people will con you, YOU have to be careful of what YOU sign … sorry but we only can help you based on the reaffirmation call recording … if you have reaffirmed, you have entered into a legal contract.”

    All I have to say is that it is absolutely unbelievable that the government is allowing these things to happen. I also can’t pay that much money. There is absolutely no way.
    It is very overwhelming to see the number of people who have been conned into this. I really believe it’s theft and is so unfair and someone has to do something about it.

    Would anyone be interested in starting a petition to the Ontario Energy Board to look into this problem and force these companies to stop luring people and hitting them with fines the same way they are ripping off people. I hate what I’m going through and I really would hate for anybody else to go through it.

  95. Andre van Koningsbruggen

    Oct 10 2009

    So my old water heater started leaking and ruined part of the basement floor. I called Reliance, which came in the same day 2 hours later after I phoned them.

    I waited to notify Direct Energy till a few days after the 30 day period to tell them off. My insurance company is not going to pay for the damage, as the first $1,000 is for me. I’m stuck with the damage because I can’t afford to replace it.

    I told Direct Energy that too, so if they EVER get back to me, then that’ll be something I’ll be smacking them with. I emailed their customer support and officially “cancelled” whatever I had with them. Then I got an email back titled “Dear valued customer”… HAHAHAHAHAHAHA !!! (whatever), “we’ll investigate” blablabla.

    Well, I emailed them back just to let them know I’ve never felt one minute of being either valued or a customer. And as I had stated in my previous email to them, I will not have anything to do with them ever and that’s final, no further discussion necessary.

    But I’ll keep an eye out for anything in the next few months to see if they sneakily, silently, still had something processing and screw me over with quarterly rental fees. If that happens… all hell will break loose here.

    To top it off, a quick story about my inlaws: My mother-in-law signed up some time ago with Direct Energy for natural gas. A month later, someone shows up at their door again and they talk to my father-in-law, who didn’t know and got signed up with them… again.

    So these D.E. salespeople got them signed up for the same thing twice !!! and they had to pay double and D.E. didn’t give a damn. It took some lawyer work to get these punks to finally cancel one of the contracts. Go figure…

    Door to door…I have learned my lesson. Don’t do it but research yourself or ask others.

    In my case, I was going to be OK with whatever I signed up with, but they didn’t deliver anything of their promises, so no hardware, no pay, no deal.

    I put off everything for an entire month to give these punks a chance to come and do their work. Did not make any appointments, just in case these guys would call me back for an appointment.

    I’m still angry about this. And if I’m being presented with a cancellation fee…. hahaha….you going DOWN, Direct Energy.

  96. FEK

    Oct 13 2009

    I am a new home owner. I have never owned a home before and never understood the process of owning a home until I went through it.

    Exactly one week after closing the purchase of my house, on July 5th, 2009, a man came knocking on my door and informed me that he was from “the Electricity and Gas company” and that he just wanted to confirm my name and my address.

    Being new to home ownership and not having received any bills from any utility company yet, I believed him, therefore I agreed.

    He wrote my name and my phone numbers on a form and he got me to sign. This was a breach of the energy sellers’ code of conduct, which states that “a sales person shall not make any representation or statement that is false or is likely to mislead a consumer”.

    I was lied to at my door and misled into believing that he was representing my utilities provider and he was only confirming my information for the same.

    Few days later, I received a call from another rep of the company asking to confirm the application. Having believed what the sales person had told me, I thought I was confirming the switch of utilities from the previous owner to me.

    When I asked Ellen Roseman for help, she forwarded my email to a compliance specialist at Summitt, who wrote the following: “Summitt Energy has reviewed your contract and reaffirmation call. Based on our review, we are of the opinion that the natural gas contract is valid ….”

    They sent me a letter requesting to pay $1,106 for early cancellation. which can’t be right. The contract is not valid, because the code of conduct was broken, and my right of making an informed decision was violated at my door.

    Had the sales person given me all the facts truthfully, I would have never signed the contract with Summitt Energy.

    I had complained to Best Business Bureau and Summitt’s response to my complaint was that the contract was valid. This was because I signed the contract and reaffirmed, and the terms and conditions provide customers with 10 days to cancel the contract without penalty.

    The contract was signed on July 5, but I called them on Sept. 4. My response is that I was lied to at my door, I was made to believe that the Summitt sales person was representing my utilities provider and was confirming my information.

    I signed and confirmed based on the misleading information given to me at my door, but I contacted Summitt as soon as I realized what was going on after I received my utilities bill.

    Had I realized that before the 10 days (meaning had I received my utilities bill before the 10 days), I would have contacted them before the 10 days.

    I was told that the electricity contract is not valid, but the gas contract is valid. Both electricity and gas were in the same sheet, wich has my signature, and I only received one call to reaffirm. So what makes electricity not valid, but gas valid?

    I feel that as a vulnerable consumer and Ontario resident, I have been let down and my rights have been violated. There are hundreds of other Ontario residents cheated by Summitt Energy and other energy companies.

    I’m not opposed to privatizing the energy sector, but I’m opposed to allowing these companies to hurt vulnerable people and violate their rights. I do not wish the stress, frustration, ordeal and sleepless nights I’m going through at this moment to anyone.

    ————————————————————

    From Gaetana Girardi, director of compliance, Summit Energy:

    I have reviewed your file and Summitt Energy is of the opinion that the gas portion of your contract is valid.

    The electricity portion of your contract was canceled because an electricity account number was not made available to process the enrollment in our program.

    ————————————————————

    From Gaetana Girardi, Summitt Energy, after revi3wing the file a second time:

    I am writing to advise you that as a customer service gesture, Summitt will cancel your contract without penalty.

    ————————————————————

    From FEK:

    Dear Ellen,

    I just wanted to share my good news with you. Thank you so much for your support.

    I will continue helping other people get out of this trap, and I will not rest until the OEB does something about it.

  97. EH

    Oct 13 2009

    My fiance and I signed the dreaded Summitt Energy contract back in April.

    My fiance and I are usually skeptical of door-to-door and telephone sales people, but this man who came to our door guaranteed us that there was no way we would be paying more for our natural gas… that we would be protected should the rates rise, and still be able to take advantage of rates should they fall.

    So we signed up for the 5-year natural gas contract.

    Two weeks ago, we got our hydro bill in the mail. Oddly enough, it said Summitt Energy in the top left hand side as our service provider… and, of course, the amount we owed was nearly triple what our average hydro bill usually was.

    But we never signed up for the hydro contract. We did, regrettably, sign up for the natural gas one, but the man said nothing about hydro.

    However, when I pulled out my contract to look over it after I got this outrageous hydro bill, I saw that this man had also checked off the Summitt Energy Electricity Program box, even though we didn’t give him our account number. Nor did he say anything about signing us up for hydro.

    I’m sure you’ve heard hundreds of similar stories to mine. I am just looking for some advice on how to get out of this contract that we were misled into signing, and how to help make illegal the practices that Summitt Energy and companies like them participate in.

  98. CZ

    Oct 20 2009

    I am an immigrant of China. After years of hard working, I and my wife finally bought a house in Mississauga.

    My wife just came over from China four months ago. I am the only one working right now. Life is hard, but we never complain because we believe hard working plus honest attitude will lead our way.

    Canada is the country of sincerity. Everyone should respect this virtue. As the result, we trusted everyone in our life and never got any issue until several weeks ago.

    A guy in suit came to my house and claimed he is from government and represents the provider of my current gas company. He said that we have to sign up a gas price protection program in order to receive gas and this is standard procedure for every new home owner.

    He also asked us to say YES when they call us to confirm this registration. Otherwise, we will not be able to receive gas this winter.

    We were so scared and couldn’t imagine how terrible it will be if no heat in our house. We signed and confirmed without doubt.

    Two weeks after, we found out the truth from one of our friends. It is just an energy company selling their gas protection plan. This is neither a government requirement nor a mandatory process for new home owner!

    Looking at the price from their plan, it is 34.9 cent/m3. The price from Enbridge is 14.7 cent/m3. We would never give up the low price and go with higher one if there was no misleading and pressure.

    The name of this company is Summitt Energy. I called a week ago to cancel this plan. The customer service representative was very impolite.

    Furthermore, he said we had signed up both gas and electricity and have to pay $800 CAD in order to cancel.

    We were totally shocked. We never signed up anything for electricity and no one told us we have to pay such a high cancellation fee. Actually, we didn’t even know this is an optional plan instead of mandatory government requirement.

    Right now, we feel like been misled, intimidated and trapped.

    We called Mississauga Chinese Association and found that there are already a lot of similar complains about Summitt Energy.

    If you search on internet with this company’s name, you will find a lot of complaints too. Furthermore, there is a group of 150 victims on FaceBook.com planning a petition now.

    As a member of Chinese community, we really appreciate if you can help us on this. We really need to cancel this plan without paying anything because it was signed under pressure and misleading.

    Please help us!!!

  99. AM

    Nov 4 2009

    Dear Ellen, Great news!!!

    I wrote my story Sept. 14, and today finally I got a letter from Summitt cancelling my contract without penalty.

    I THANK YOU a hundred times for giving me the info. It was not easy, I will tell you that, but I kept writing them, and then writing some more. It is the stress of waiting and not knowing what is going to happen that affected me the most.

    I still can’t quite believe this ordeal is behind me!!!

  100. Keith Leroux

    Nov 13 2009

    Hello Ms. Roseman,

    You appear to have had alot of success helping individuals overcome the duping schemes of various ‘energy protection’ companies. I, too, was scammed (by Summitt Energy) and have hit a wall in trying to resolve the issue without charge. If you could please contact me, I would explain my situation and hopefully you could help. I am in despair..

    Thank you.

  101. Greg Fedorov

    Nov 16 2009

    This is a letter that I have sent to the Premier of Ontario and the Ontario Energy Board:

    Honourable Dalton McGuinty,

    The reason I have to write this letter is maddening. I’m sure this is not the first complaint you have ever had regarding the “energy wholesalers”, who use pushy, aggressive door-to-door sales tactics (read: scams) to dupe unsuspecting citizens into signing multi-year contracts for gas and electricity at near twice the price they’d be paying without any contracts (this is a fact).

    Why does our elected government allow these businesses to practice? Why are they not run out of town with torches and pitchforks and their CEOs locked up in jails for white collar crimes? Why is this not considered a crime at all? Because it is a well written contract? I’m sure Al Capone had some iron clad contracts as well.

    Please. Ban this practice, revoke their licenses (whatever they are).

    In these economic times, when honest-working families are struggling to make ends meet, these leeches are allowed to run and expand their scam. Basically sending bills and asking for “free money”! With severe consequences for those who refuse to dole up the cash.

    I admit I’ve fallen victim to this crime. I have broken my contract by moving out of the house that I’ve bought, anything to avoid feeding the leech. And now I’m an unhappy recipient of a collection letter for “cancellation fees”!!! How dare they? I’ve been feeding them my hard earned money for years, and now I have to pay more because I’m refusing to keep doing it (this technically breaks my “ironclad” contract, I no longer live at the house, I’m the one who signed the contract, the rental I am in now pays for its own gas).

    Please do all possible to make sure these companies do not have a leg to stand on in this province. We do not need them, we do not want them, and this outright theft must stop.

    Those of us who have fallen victim to this scam feel alone and defenceless, our hard earned money (as much as $200 a month for some people, that’s on top of the actual gas price) goes towards feeding the scammers.

    Unlike HST, or any other past or future tax, we get nothing in return but the “satisfaction” of seeing individuals with less than stellar morals enrich themselves. This sad state of affairs is business as usual in Ontario. Mr. McGuinty, I’m asking you, why must this be so?

    Sincerely yours,
    Gregory Fedorov

  102. Rhonda

    Nov 17 2009

    Hi. I have been entered into a contract with Universal Energy without my consent or knowledge.

    They came to my door, I told them to get out, the guy begged my boyfriend to sign just so he could get 25 dollars for getting a signature…said that I, not my boyfriend, would get a call from Universal Energy to confirm the contract and to just tell them I didn’t want it. I never got a call.

    After 3 months of outrageous Hydro One bills, I called them, only to be informed that I had been signed up with Universal Energy and that is why my hydro bill was so high. I called Universal Energy and was told that it was a valid contract.

    I told them that I didn’t sign, that no one but me has a Hydro One account at this address and they basically told me that someone at my house had signed it. Asked for a manager and was refused.

    I never got a letter or contract in the mail or anything else! How can I have entered into a contract? How can Hydro One just assume I signed one and bill me?????

  103. Jessica

    Nov 24 2009

    HI… I had a “gentleman” arrive at my door while I was flustered with children (one with a disability in full behaviour) shortly after we moved into a new house.

    He barely spoke English. I told him several times I was not interested. He was very persistent and kept asking me to show him my Gas and Hydro bills. Finally in exasperation and just wanting him to leave, I gave up and got him the bills from my old place as I had yet to receive bills for the one we had moved into.

    He told me I was paying too much. I told him that I couldn’t deal with this right now (as my children got crazier running around the yard waiting for us to leave). I do not recall signing anything and I do not recall getting a re-affirmation phone call, but the Summitt Energy rep says that I did.

    Anyway, I moved about a year later as my utility bills were so astronomically high. I assumed at the time that it was because we had moved from an apartment to a large house.

    After moving to another apartment, I continued getting bills that were twice that of my friends and family. As a single parent, I was drowning and fast. I cashed out my vacation time at work to pay my utility bills.

    I switched to energy-efficient bulbs in every room, unplugged everything but the fridge and stove during the day, had no lights running during daylight hours, didn’t use the dryer or the air conditioners throughout the summer… and still my bill was ridiculous.

    My neighbours at the duplex were paying half what I was and running electric heat in the winter and two air conditioners all summer. So, I began to think our meters were mixed up, but had that looked into and it was not the case.

    I called Hydro One, which went over the bill with me and told me the only thing I could do was contact Summitt Energy and find out what rate I was paying per kilowatt.

    That was the first time I realized that I was not with Hydro One (stupidity on my part, I will admit, because I never looked closely enough at my Hydro bill to see the Summitt Energy phone number on the front).

    I called Summitt Energy, and was told that I was locked in to a 5 year contract, paying 9.55 cents a kilowatt hour. (As of Nov. 1, Hydro One is at 5.8 cents a kilowatt hour for the first thousand or something)

    I said I wanted to cancel and was told they would send out the papers immediately. I would have to pay a cancellation fee, and of course, have all bills completely paid up.

    I still have not received the papers.

    I called the company again today and spoke to the same rep. I asked why I had not received the cancellation papers and he said he can only put in a request to mail them.

    I asked to speak to the people who mail them and he said that they don’t receive calls. He also informed me the cancellation fee is $269 plus tax.

    I told him this was becoming unfair, as my gas bill is $400. I have to pay that, pay $269 plus taxes for the cancellation, and then pay whatever I am accruing in usage while I wait for them to actually send me the cancellation papers.

    By the time it’s all said and done, it will cost me nearly $1,000 to get out of this “contract”.

    I also asked the customer service rep to send me a copy of my contract so I can see what I signed, as I do not have one.

    And this is just Hydro… now I need to look at my gas bill and see if I am with Summitt Energy as well. I have contacted the Energy Board of Ontario to see if there is anything I can do, or if I just need to suck it up. And I am going to contact my local MPP as well to see if they can help me navigate this system.

    I am now in a position where I either struggle to pay the crazy-high bill, or come up with a thousand dollars right before Christmas… what a nightmare!!!!

    These door-to-door sales people should be banned. For me, a lesson learned. Once I get out of this mess, I will be very firm in telling the salespeople to turn around and head off my lawn.

  104. MD

    Nov 24 2009

    I’m a big fan of your column and want to spread the word that you were the person who informed me about gas marketers.

    On a Saturday or Sunday in April 2009, I was reading your column regarding gas prices. You had mentioned that gas was at a historical low, along with the price per cubic metre. My interest was sparked.

    I immediately put your column down to retrieve my file with Enbridge Gas.

    I was shocked to say the least when I realized what we were paying per cubic metre (.45 cents). This now became my mission to exit out of this contract with Direct Energy without any penalty.

    I believe around that time in your column, you also talked about the finer points of getting out of a contract.

    Along with your information and going online with the Ontario Energy Board for complete direction, I’m so pleased to say that as of September 2009 we are contract free and paying approximately .30 cents less per cubic metre.

    Thanks so much for this informative column. I am so much more diligent at scrutinizing all my bills, and even though life is still busy, I take the time.

  105. EXJEEMP

    Nov 25 2009

    Never sign up — no one ever comes out on top. The people who work for the company are not even signed up. If this is such a good program, why don’t all Just Energy employees sign up?

    The door to door people are paid only commission and most quit before their second day. Retention is close to 4%!!!

    Door to door agents in Ont are paid $90 for a natural gas contract, $40 for hydro.

    If a company wants to see your bill, they can pull it up on their screen. No reputable business (newspapers, magazines aside) would send someone to your door (likely at night during dinner, prime time!!) to see your bill.

    This company preys on the uninformed, both as customers and when ‘hiring’ people. It’s a scam, whether you sign up with them or work for them.

  106. Naseer

    Nov 30 2009

    Hi, we are new immigrants to Canada and recently bought our first home in Brampton. We moved there on Nov. 1st, 2009.

    On Nov. 4th, a person showed up at the door. My wife answered the bell and he told her that he came to make sure that gas and electricity are working. She said yes, they are. Then he said that the gas and electricity rates are going to be fixed for next 5 years for us. He asked my wife to sign the papers and left.

    When I came home, my wife mentioned that a guy from the gas company had come and he said our utility rates are going to be fixed for next five years. Since we had moved a few days back and we thought this is how things work, we didn’t pay any attention to the papers he had left.

    On Nov. 14, someone called and asked to speak with my wife. I asked what is it about? He said he wanted to confirm something.

    I gave the phone to my wife and he asked if someone from Summitt Energy had come and if she has signed the registration form and if these are the rates. She said yes to the questions.

    After the call, I asked my wife that if Eummitt energy was not our utility company, how could they fix our utility rates? She brought the papers, then we realized that my wife has signed a contract with Summitt Energy for 5 years.

    Realizing that this is not something we want to enter, we sent them a cancellation notice via Fax. Both reaffirmation and cancellation Fax took place on Nov. 14th, which is the 10th day after signing the contract.

    Now Summitt Energy people are asking us to pay a penalty of $1,000 because we have breached a contract — although the contract they left with us gives us right to cancel the the agreement within 10 days of signing, and this is what we did.

    It does not seem right. Do we have any rights as consumers to be protected? What can we do to avoid this unjust and cruel penalty?

  107. Kristine McCarty

    Dec 8 2009

    Hi there, I too admittedly got strong armed into signing a contract with Ontario Energy Savings and now am paying 4 times the rate for gas. I contacted them about cancelling my contract and was informed i could but required the $194.00 early termination fee. (Which if yiu take one of my December bills and it will be the savings) My question is that now that they have changed their name to Just Energy and my contract was signed OES is it still really valid??? These people have been back to my home twice since and literally when i told i would not provide info they stuck their arm in the door so i couldnt close the door … just tired of how they conduct their business.

  108. Cathy

    Dec 11 2009

    A man knocked on my door in Oakville, blabbing about fixed water meter prices and since we are new homeowners we can get a provincial rebates. Basically he was VERY pushy to get me to sign up with Summitt Energy.

    He wanted to see my Gas and Hydro bill so he could get my account numbers and sign me up. I tried everything to get him to leave.

    I refused to show him my account numbers until I had time to do some research into his offer and Summitt Energy. I got him to leave by signing some paper, but without putting my account numbers on it. I said he could come back in a few days and I would have my account numbers for him if I wanted to sign up.

    I am worried now that even though I signed an empty form he will somehow find a way to sign me up.

  109. Nancy Parks

    Dec 14 2009

    I went on-line to see if I could get any help with my problem. I have power of attorney for my mother. Years ago she signed a contract with Ontario Energy Savings now Just Energy. When the terms of the contract were almost complete she was approached at her door to sign a renewal. She did and I called and cancelled it. I also had put on her file \do not solicit\. The company now tells me that they automatically send out an \effortless renewal\ and since it wasn’t responded to, it was automatically renewed. This was after I had cancelled the renewal. This is an unscrupulous thing to do, as they knew she/I didn’t want it. I overlooked that this contract was in effect since last February and she has been paying at least .40 cents more per cubic meter for gas. I wouldn’t have discovered this if they hadn’t recently came to her door and had her sign up for a \renewal\. I had called to complain that they had solicited her again, but before I did I checked her bills. I am furious. I have filed a complaint with the company for the solicitation and for the \effortless renewal\ and waiting to hear back from them. How can this effortless renewal be legal? Isn’t it like what the cable companies did years ago with reverse billing? Do I have any recourse?

  110. Rajeevan

    Dec 18 2009

    I am first time home buyer, didn’t know anything about this business. The guy at the door didn’t explain much to me.

    I thought he was from Enbridge and I signed the paper in early November and confirmed by phone. I really wish the sales agent had explained to me the whole thing better…

    Now I called to cancel and Summitt Energy wants $1,100 in cancellation fees. I am lost and not sure what to do now.

  111. Naseer

    Dec 19 2009

    An update to my posting of Nov. 30th.

    I sent an e-mail to Gaetana Girardi, Director of Compliance at Summitt Energy, and presented my case to her. Finally I got an email from her a couple of days ago stating that our contract has been cancelled without any penalty. Which is a huge relief.

    Here’s her contact info if someone needs it. (Appears above as well)

    Gaetana Girardi
    Director, Compliance & Regulatory Affairs
    Phone: 905-366-7020
    Email: ggirardi@summittenergy.ca
    Business Address:
    100 Milverton Drive
    Suite 608
    Mississauga, ON L5R4H1

    Ellen,

    Thanks to your website we got the information that helped us get out of this situation.

  112. TNT

    Jan 4 2010

    I recently discovered the secret to my soaring energy bills.

    It wasn’t that I had the thermostat turned up too high; it wasn’t that I was leaving lights on all over the house; it wasn’t that I ran the A/C all summer long, even when I was at work.

    No, it was much more serious than I thought. The more I tried to conserve, the higher my bills seemed to be and there was nothing I could do to control it.

    I had to go back in time to unravel this mystery, all the way back to 1997, to the lure of saving money on my energy bills, to the lure of a badge-wearing, clipboard-carrying sales rep standing on my front stair explaining how I can save a bundle, just sign here! What a scam.

    Oh sure, if I could find a copy of a bill from 1997, they may have saved me a penny or two on my energy cost, you know at that amazing introductory rate, but that time has long since passed.

    Today, they have jumped their rates to more than triple the rate charged by the Gas and Electricity Companies that they had warned me about. With their surcharges that they can’t even keep straight and my favorite “If you want to get out of this, it’s going to cost you a bundle” charge, they have managed to send my energy cost skyhigh.

    I was talking to a friend in the bankruptcy industry, who has actually had clients filing for bankruptcies this year and the main cause listed was The Energy Scam.

    It seems that third party billing companies are running up bills so high they are becoming unmanageable for some people to the point of total economic stress.

    I think it’s time that these companies be held accountable, that controls be put in place to regulate them and protect individuals and business from energy scams.

    I thought I better have a closer look at my energy costs, because for a while now they have seemed a little high and I’d done all the conservation checks to make sure I wasn’t wasting energy.

    We had installed a programmable thermostat, trained my teenager to turn lights off when he wasn’t using them any more, put a timer on the swimming pool so the pump only runs when the solar heater is being cascaded with sun.

    We put in a high efficiency furnace, replaced the hot water tank, increased the insulation in the walls and ceiling. I thought we would save even more, but oh no, our energy bills kept going up.

    We started to look at the bills and comparing our usage, we were down from last year but the bills kept getting higher. First, I contacted the electric company Horizon Utilities; I wanted to know what their rates are and what it would cost me if I was being billed directly from them instead of Direct Energy.

    Paying for my electricity directly from Horizon Utilities would have meant my bill was $112.02 plus GST. Instead, Direct Energy charged me $334.78 plus GST.

    I had a little talk with Direct Energy. If you think I was upset when I realized I had been getting scammed, you would be right, but that was nothing compared to how angry I became after I had to deal with a double talking customer service rep.

    If I wanted to get out of the contract, it was going to cost me over $300. (They base it on how much time is left on your contract; it could be more or less than what they want to charge me.)

    Also, I’m paying a charge for Provincial Benefit of $74.75. The Provincial Government applies this charge to third party billing. Why was this detail never mentioned by the sales rep who stood on my door step telling me how I could save money if I signed up with them?

    I don’t see any savings, just Direct Energy dipping into my savings.

    Hang on, I’m not done yet, now I want to look at my gas bill, seeing how my third party supplier is Direct Energy as well.

    My equal billing has shot up from around $125 per month to $196. If my consumption is down, how did my gas bill go up?

    When I contacted Union Gas, the customer service rep provided me with a breakdown of pricing. If I bought my gas from Union Gas, I would be paying 11.33 cents per cubic metre rather than the 37.90 cents per cubic metre that Direct Energy charges me.

    There’s more. Union Gas Transportation Fee is 4.07 cents per cubic metre, while Direct Energy charges 6.968 cents per cubic metre.

    Storage: Union Gas price is .99 cents per cubic metre and Direct Energy price is 1.99 cents per cubic metre.

    I thought I better cancel this contract, but Direct Energy wants over $700 as a cancellation fee.

    I asked to speak with a supervisor and they wouldn’t connect me. Only when I told them I was going to go public did they put my call to accelerated priority and said a representative would contact me within 2-4 business hours. That was Dec. 17, 2009, and I haven’t heard from them yet. Chances are I won’t.

  113. BB

    Jan 22 2010

    I am a Summitt Energy scam victim. Here’s my story. I hope you can help me or give me some advice.

    I am a Newcomer who moved to Toronto a few months ago (from France). On Oct. 13, 2009, a Summitt Energy representative knocked at my door.

    He told me that he was working with Toronto Hydro (my utility provider), and showed me a Toronto Hydro official document (bill). He didn’t mention Summitt Energy at this point.

    He told me that he needed to see my Toronto Hydro bill to check if I had the right option in place already.

    I first asked him if he spoke French. I told him that I just arrived in Canada and don’t speak and understand English perfectly. He told me that he didn’t speak French, but at this point he knew that I was a newcomer and took advantage of it.

    He told me that the whole building was signing the contracts today and that’s its something we had to do to make sure we would have the right price for electricity.

    He told me that he was working with Toronto Hydro, and as he had other Toronto Hydro documents with him (other bills), I trusted him and thought that he was mandated by Toronto Hydro to make these changes, and that everyone had to do it in the building. He made it sound like it was a standard procedure.

    He never gave me any choice but pressured me to sign both contracts (a Summitt Energy contract and an “evergreen program”). Regarding the “evergreen program”, it is actually a program charging me 13 dollars a month, but he never mentioned anything about the 13 dollars.

    When I asked him if I would have to pay anything, he didn’t mention anything to pay. I didn’t even check the box saying that I agree to pay this amount. He probably did it himself after leaving my apartment.

    He clearly lied to me and took advantage of the fact that I was new to the country.

    Based on these facts, I’m asking to cancel both contracts as soon as possible without paying any cancellation fees, as they shouldn’t be legal contracts. The representative lied to me and pressured me to make me sign the contracts.

    Before leaving my place, he told me that someone would call a few days later “just to check if the Rep did his job and came to my place”, he never told me that the purpose of this call was actually to confirm the contract.

    When Summitt Energy called me a few days later, they only asked me if a Rep came to my place and told me about the contracts. I replied “Yes” as I thought that was what happened. At that time I didn’t know yet that the Rep lied to me and gave me false informations.

    I found out about this scam on Jan. 8, 2010, when another representative from another company (Just Energy) knocked at my door for the same reason. I then realized that I’ve been victim of a scam.

    I did some research on the internet and found out that lots of Canadians have been victim of the Summitt Energy scam. They’re training their sales rep to give false informations to customers so that the customers sign the contracts and say “yes” during the “confirmation” call. This is really a fraud.

    As of today, I haven’t received any bills from Summitt Energy yet.

    I called Summitt Energy on Jan. 8, 2010 and said that I wanted to cancel both contracts. The Call Center Rep told me to call back on Monday to speak to someone in French.

    He told me I would have to pay $1,000 to cancel the contracts, which is obviously unacceptable and doesn’t make any sense.

    I then filed a complaint on the Ontario Energy Board website the next day. It says the OEB would reply within 15 days, and that we could call them if it’s urgent.

    I called again Summitt Energy on Jan. 11, to talk to a French speaking Representative and follow up on my cancellation request.

    He told me that he would update my request in their system and that someone from Summitt Energy would call me in the next few days. But they never called me.

    One week later, I decided to call them. The Rep I had on the phone told me that my request has been reviewed but they refused to cancel my contracts without me paying cancellation fees as I said “yes” when they called me to confirm the contracts.

    I told him that I said “yes” based on the false informations the Rep gave me, but the Rep didn’t seem to really care and was arrogant to me.

    I then told him that I would call the Ontario Energy Board and complain, and he told me “sure, you can contact the OEB if you wish”.

    I called the OEB on Jan. 19. They told me that they sent the complaint to Summitt Energy and that SE has 21 days to reply to me or to the OEB.
    I don’t know much people here, I have no family here and I just have a temporary job for now, so this fraud/scam really affects me and my future in this country.

    I am determined to do everything I can to cancel these scam contracts without paying the fees.

    ———————————————————–

    Tamara Sinson, Summitt Energy spokeswoman:

    Summitt Energy reviews customer complaints or cancellation requests, on a case by case basis regardless of the source (whether it’s from the customer service department, media, etc) and we take several different factors into account.

    One aspect of the review is based on the customer’s comprehension of the program. This is determined when Summitt Energy reviews the contract and reaffirmation call.

    In the case of Mr. B, after reviewing the customer’s account, Summitt Energy is of the opinion that the customer has a valid contract. The customer signed and confirmed enrollment into the program.

    On the reaffirmation call, the customer confirmed he was left with a copy of the contract and brochure which includes the terms and conditions and the customer had no questions or objections to the questions asked.

    Mr. B was given a 10 day cool-off period and Summitt is of the opinion that he is capable (which is displayed by his email to you) of reviewing the contract and terms and conditions which is his responsibility as a consumer. He chose not to exercise his cancellation rights.

  114. a new victim

    Feb 3 2010

    Hi victims,
    I just discovered that I am also a victim of this evil company and I am paying twice the price for my gas consumption.

    After calling them and Enbridge, I realized that I still need 1 year to finish the 5 year contract with that evil company.
    They asked me to pay a $120 cancellation fee, but they made the process very slow to gain time and postpone as much as possible the cancellation date.

    I am thinking to cancel my account with Enbridge ASAP (and pay a $25 cancellation fee) then switch the account to my wife, so they will stop charging me a higher price for gas especially during these winter months and then let the evil company ask me to pay the cancellation fees.

    I wonder if what I want to do makes sense. Why don’t we get together and do something to increase the awareness about this problem, so new homeowners and newcomers won’t get trapped by this company.

  115. nasurj

    Mar 13 2010

    I have discovered a way to deal with these scumbags and get you out of the contract. I was also duped in to signing and by the time I saw the new invoice it was $80 higher than I’ve ever paid and too late to cancel. Which is extremely frustrating. I took it to the BBB …nothing. I talked to lawyers…nothing. It turns out this is perfectly legal to do.

    But I found a way and I am selling it on EBay. I will sell each complete document for $10 for the first 10 documents. Once these people finish the procedure, hopefully they will put the review on my EBay site to let people know it really works. After the first 10 go, I am raising the price to $100, so be quick! Considering what the scumbags will charge you, that is still cheap. I am charging to recoup lost money and peace of mind.

    Go to EBay.ca and search for “How to get out of your utilities contract.”

  116. bilal

    Mar 31 2010

    Nasurj, I think you are in the wrong crowd, coming here and virtually saying “trust me with your money without seeing whether my product works”.

    Don’t you understand that the whole theme here is about scams, abuse of trust and “I go after your money without informing you of anything”? You have the nerve, pal!

  117. Ali T

    Apr 3 2010

    DO NOT SIGN UP. I USED TO WORK FOR UNIVERSAL ENERGY COUPLE OF YEARS AGO. 100 % OF THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE SIGNED UP ON HYDRO HAVE NOT SAVED MONEY.

    ALL THE COMPANIES ARE FRAUDS INCLUDING SUMMITT, OES, ETC. (ALTHOUGH OES AND UNIVERSAL HAVE MERGED AND ARE NOW CALLED JUST ENERGY).

  118. Antonio

    Apr 11 2010

    What are the formal cancellation procedures for summitt energy? I cancelled the evergreen program and water heat agreement via the number they provided on april 10, 2010 (within the 10 days.) I currently have the cancellation numbers but feel unsure if this is satisfactory. The back story is that my mother answered the door earlier today and allowed the man in. He spoke to me and I unknowingly agreed to the agreements. The rep did not leave anything behind in regards to the evergreen program and did not even show me the agreement. He presented himself as being with embridge so I had some confidence in him. I was wondering if any one could help me, it would be greatly appreciated.

  119. Julia

    May 8 2010

    A couple of months ago, I received my first hydro bill and shortly after that my gas bill as well, for the first time without the “protection” from Just Energy.

    I cried ….it was less than HALF the amount that I had been paying for years, ever since arriving in Canada. I cannot do the math to see how much I have “donated” to Just Energy over the years, but I know I will be sick.

    I have no words to thank Ellen for helping me get out of both contracts. Without stumbling on her article, I would have never even found out that I was paying double for utilities for years. I didn’t know, because I was new to Canada.

    Beware of anyone who sells anything door-to-door. Even better, do not open the door!
    Ellen has another bunch of lifetime fans in me and my family.

    Unfortunately, to add insult to injury, these people still knock on my door regularly, despite the sign on my door “No soliciting, no utility protection, please!”

    There has been one good change. The Hydro provider in my city included brochures with the bill, warning customers not to sign any contracts locking in the utility price, before talking to Hydro.

    For us, this was too late, but I hope saved $$$$ for many other people. God bless and I hope all of you get out of your contracts as soon as possible.

  120. dm

    May 17 2010

    In spring of 2007, I had a man knock on my door and said he had to see my hydro one bill to make sure I was getting the right price. He said he was from Universal Energy and they in fact were with Hydro One.

    He then started writing on a paper and I said that looks like a contract and he said no sir. He had me sign it again, saying it wasn’t and they would contact me in 10 days.

    I looked at the paper with my wife and there was a contract number. I then called Hydro One and was told I was scammed into signing.

    I called Universal Energy and told them what happened and she said I had to wait till after 12 days. Wrong. if we do that, we will be owing over $2,000 to get out.

    I said please cancel and she wouldn’t. Hydro One took over and told them that if they didn’t cancel our contract, they would be sued by us, so 5 minutes later it was cancelled.

    Then a month later, I get a personal cheque in the amount of $100 from Universal Energy and i was like what? My wife read the small print and it said if we cash the cheque we are with them for so many years. We burnt it.

    Then in 2008, who comes to our driveway but Universal Energy and the guy says hi, have you signed for your rebate? He says he workes for the Government. I said really? Your name tag says Universal Energy, does it not?

    He said may I see your hydro bill? I said no, now get off my property before I call the police. He said he didn’t have to leave because I didn’t have a sign saying No Solicitors. I said okay as I picked up my phone and said I’m calling 911. He scooted to his car.

    Then 2 months later, we moved well over an hour’s drive from the old house and I swear, 6 months later the same guy is at the door with a different name tag for an energy company. He smiled and said hi have you signed up for your rebate? I said no thanks, staying with Hydro One.

    He said I need to see your bill. I said no, you need to leave my deck and he said fine, I guess you don’t want to save money.

    Then a year later, he is back and says hi, have you signed up for your rebate with his contract? I cut him off and yelled at him to leave and told him to never come back. Again he said he could come back to our house any time he wanted to because he said we didn’t have a No Solicitors sign up.

    I lost it then and swore at him to leave and said I would call 911 if he didn’t leave. He said the police couldn’t do a thing. I feel he will be back.

    My question: If he returns and asks if I have signed for my so-called rebate from Hydro One, can I call the police? This guy should be arrested for telling a lie (well, many lies) and should lose his job.

  121. John Johnson

    May 29 2010

    Just Energy currently has a wholesale price flexible plan plus 1 penny, which comes with the option as a non-green plan. Green plans are always more expensive. This is a great plan and is not a scam as you state.

    Unfortunately not all independent agents explain the program properly to their customers. All agents must wear ID badges when out in the field, fully identifying themselves as Just Energy Agents.

    All contracts signed in the field are verified from the customer’s phone and customers must agree to the contract over the phone with the agent present. There is also a 10 day cooling off period, which gives the customer time to review the contract before reaffirming registration.

    The customer also has 30 days to cancel their contract with Just Energy after they receive their first bill if they are not satisfied.

    And on the non-green plans, there is only an exit fee of $100, not what has been stated in previous blogs. There is a higher exit fee for green plans, which is fully explained in the contract.

    It’s apparent from this blog comments that people don’t read their contracts and don’t read them within the time frame of cancellation.

  122. Energylover

    Aug 8 2010

    All u people are sitting there trying to dis the same ppl who are tryning to help you all cuz u dont understand what ur getting into. who do you really think has more to gain by scamming u …summit energy or the government. half of the comments and hate mail u see on the web is the governments way of getting in ur mind and stopping u from fixing your rate so that the government can get all of your money why do u think market raqte is flying through the roof people who dont even have a fixed rate are trying to blame energy retailers. i suggest next time u take that 60 day waiting period to your advantage and actually reasearh what is best for you and for future reference energy retailers promise peace of mind not savings anyone who told u other wise was personally responsible not the company.

  123. dbt

    Oct 4 2010

    In Dec 2008, Universal Energy’s SR came to my house and asked me if I have received any rebate from the utility company. I said no and he asked me to see my gas bill.

    I gave it to him and he filled out some form and wanted me to sign. I did not sign as I was not sure what it was.

    I was not aware that he took my bill. From Mar 2009, the company put me under 5 yrs fixed rate contract for hydro and gas that is too high.

    I did not notice in my bill that something was wrong and kept paying whatever total both utilities charged. I saw the rate but I thought that the rate was the current market rate.

    In Sep 2010, I found out from my friend that the gas rate is very cheap and I am still paying more than double. I compared my bill and my friend’s bill and found out that I’m under 5 yrs fixed rate contract.

    I called the company and asked them how come I’m in contract without my knowledge, signature on any paper or phone confirmation. They told me I signed the contract and confirmed over the phone.

    I asked them to provide both documents. They sent me copy of contract and audio cd of phone conversation.

    When I checked both, I was shocked. There is NOT MY SIGNATURE (someone else’s) and NOT MY VOICE in phone conversation.

    Now I thinking what is the first step should I take? Some people are suggesting I should contact lawyer, but I’m not sure what to do? Any suggestion would be appreciated. Thanks.

  124. JEScams

    Oct 5 2010

    Much like dbt’s story above, I too was locked into a contract signed by someone I don’t know, and the voice affirmation isn’t me. I have called repeated times to Just Energy and continuously get the runaround.

    I complained to the Ontario Energy Board as well, and they are equally useless at returning calls.

    I’m now being harrassed by Bond Street Collections for the exit fees. I think my only recourse is to hire a lawyer (which I currently cannot afford).

    Maybe just cheaper to pay them and shut them up… but that’s probably what they want you to do. Don’t deal with Just Energy!

  125. Angry

    Jan 25 2011

    I had to write. I am so angry now. Found out my elderly parents who do not speak English as first language have been scammed by Superior Energy for 2 years.

    I visited them for the holidays and during discussion reviewed their Enbridge bill. To my surprise and theirs, I explained another company claimed a fixed rate contact of $0.41/cubic meter of gas for 5 years. What a scam.

    I tracked them down, which wasn’t easy, and got a copy of said “contract”. What a scam. Someone’s name was on the contract and wasn’t even close to being correct. Faked name and signature.

    This is the 4th time someone close to me has been scammed or nearly scammed.

    Word of advice, treat these people like they are the worst of criminals and don’t talk to them or tell them you don’t pay the utilities or are renting the home, anything to keep them away. Sometimes this doesn’t even stop them when they fake signatures, but just stay away from these people.

    Check your gas and electric bill. If you get scammed, act fast, contact the authorities and bring down the law on these people.

    As of January 2011, the Ontario government has passed new rules for the energy sector. Stay informed and good luck.

  126. Ashley

    Mar 17 2011

    My mother only could only speak and read a little English, and the sales person let her sign the contract. Since she sign the contract, every month we double the monthly bill.

    I called several times to cancel it. And they said they already send out the cancellation letter twice, but we never receive it. Now nearly 2 month past, we will still need to wait for the cancellation letter??? and after we receive the cancellation letter they need 2 month bill cycle to make the cancellation effect??? I can’t believe it.

    Now I called them today, and they told me that I need to pay the cancellation fee including tax it’s $881.33

    I don’t know how long we have to pay for that unfair bill, please help!!!!!

  127. Davida

    Apr 17 2011

    It really leaves a bad taste in ones mouth when people trade unfairly. Unfortunately, they muddy up the waters for those who are sincere.

  128. wantjustice

    May 12 2011

    I signed a 5 year contract with Alberta Energy Savings L.P. back in 2006, which was supposed to end in late January 2011.

    So I called them around November 2010 and asked them to verify the date, because I didn’t have the contract details. I wanted to know when to call the default supplier, which happens to be Direct Energy and Epcor here in Alberta.

    Then I got a call in December from a Just Energy representative from Ontario, offering fixed rates and telling me how I was going to save bundles. I didn’t have anything to lose, because I could cancel any time before 30 days were up.

    It sounded like a good deal and I wanted to save money, but I declined because he wanted me to get a credit check done. I told him that I have had utilities for most of my life and I wasn’t going to have people check my credit rating just so I can get utilities

    He said sorry and he couldn’t sign me. So, I thought that was the end of it.

    Then later, I get a bill from Just Energy Alberta L.P. and I was furious. I called them and said I didn’t sign anything.

    They told me I had signed a 5 year contract with Alberta Energy Savings and was automatically renewed for another year because they had changed their name and were now calling themselves Just Energy Alberta L.P.

    What the heck is this, I thought. So, I cancelled with them right away, but they managed to get me for over $400, plus overdue charges now.

    I called them back and told them I didn’t want their services when I was asked to join by one of their representatives before my contract renewed. They deny the fact that he or anyone from their company even called me.

    Now they keep harassing me and I don’t know what to do. Is there some regulating body here in Alberta I can phone??

    I’m not sure if the Ontario Energy Board will help me here in Alberta.

    Look forward to hearing back from anyone with any helpful tips. Thank you for your time and consideration.

  129. Kyle

    May 14 2011

    Completely agree! Door to door sales are all lies!
    A guy from Summit energy showed up today said he wants to check if the water heater is up to code or not.
    So I let him in which I shouldn’t
    Even my water heater is just 1 year old. He suggests to replace it just because it’s not Energy Star.
    Be aware this tactic.

  130. jesse

    May 31 2011

    I just got home from work and then I was about ready to go out. A sales person asked me if he could see my gas bill.

    The funny thing is that he was advertising the company with his tag, which said he was from Dominion Gas company. I thought to myself if they wanted to see my gas usage, they should have access to it.

    I guess there is one thing to do. I am putting a sign up, no sales allowed. It needs to be outlawed.

  131. Derek Seabrooke

    Jun 28 2011

    http://powershock.ca/

    On the surface Tim Hudak and his Progressive Conservative party seem to be all-around nice guys. They are concerned about you and your family and want to do everything they can to help ends meet and ensure your family doesn’t get ripped off by anyone.

    They are in fact so nice that they are willing to promise an HST rebate on your hydro and gas bill just to show how much they care about your ability to pay for your needed utilities.

    What you may not know is that this very same party lead under Mike Harris and Ernie Eves de-regulated the energy sector during their time in power.

    Have you ever gotten a knock at your from a representative of an energy reseller such as Universal Energy or Just Energy? They want you to sign up for fixed rate contracts. Does this sound familiar?

    In fact, many people believe that fixed rate energy deals like this are some kind of illegal scam. They are not illegal at all because Harris and Eves passed laws which allow third party companies to make contracts with the consumer and your local utility is required to honour the deal by co-operating with it.

    Do you remember agents like this coming around before Harris? If you find that the price you signed up for far greater than the market price, even after you’ve been on it for years, there is no legal recourse that will allow you to renege without paying a cancellation fee.

    The business plan is called commodity brokering. Companies claim they buy gas and hydro from the spot market in bulk, at times that it’s cheapest, natural gas in the summer for instance. Then they sell it back to the consumer at a fixed price.

    Because natural gas is expensive in the winter, in theory they will be able to sell it back to the consumer for more than the original purchase price but less than the current market price. Thus, they can save you money while turning a profit. It all makes sense, right?

    The argument is logical. Nevertheless, many consumers who have signed up for these contracts since the time they were first offered have found that in the long run they lost money, often to the tune of thousands. Where is this money going?

    Frank Klees, sitting Progressive Conservative MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, is running again in the Oct. 6, 2011 provincial election. He is the guy that came in second to Hudak in the last provincial leadership race.

    He is a high profile Tory who held cabinet positions under Harris and undoubtedly will again if the Progressive Conservatives make it in this time. The owner of Universal Energy Alternatives underwrote one fifth of his entire campaign with a donation of $34K.

    Not only did Universal give Klees a big donation, they also gave him a seat on their board of directors. Now that Universal Energy is sold to Just Energy, he has a seat on the board there too.

    In other words, if you want to vote for the guy that comes to your door to sign you up for a price protection plan, then Frank Klees and his cronies, like Hudak, are the names you should check on your ballot!

  132. Semelie Tumulak

    Oct 4 2011

    I am from Surrey, BC and we were fooled by Superior Energy in 2009, telling us that our monthly payments will not increase and definitely will be cheaper than Terasen Gas (not Fortis BC). We have paid $200 every month for the past 2 years. Now that we have been informed that if we were just with Terasen Gas, our highest bill would be $94!, and this would just be for February, our highest consumption. Knowing this, I called Superior Energy and they said I have to pay $500 to terminate our contract (which actually they locked it for 5 years!). Is there any way we can dispute this termination fee…or probably sue them for something? Are there any good-hearted lawyers there who are willing to represent consumers like us against such deceiving agreements?

  133. Steph

    Dec 6 2011

    I just want them to stop coming to my door! I get a new person at my door for one of these companies almost daily! They are rude people to top it off.

    Grrr, I hate the constant door knocking from these people.

  134. Ex-Energy Savings Agent

    Mar 19 2012

    I used to work for Ontario Energy Savings.

    By law, after you sign, you will get a call back from them to confirm that you actually still want it before it goes into effect.

    This is to protect you from forged contracts, and to make sure you did not get mislead into signing a contract.

    If they don’t hear from you or you say you don’t want it when they call, it will not go into effect.

    Alot of the sales agents fail to explain exactly what the contract is because they themselves don’t know much about the service.

    I remember the morning meetings at Ontario Energy Savings, the leaders would try to motivate people with sales speeches, by setting goals, or by offering a prize to the top salesperson.

    Unfortunately, not alot of agents where really tought about the service to actualy be able to explain it to the cleints.

    That is why some of the agents don’t actually explain the service. Some use different tactics, e.i. try to look like the utility man, to get a contract signed (which is probably illigal). But not all of them are like this.

    I agree that door-to-door is NOT the best way to offer this service (from the clients perspective). People should inform themselves first so they can shop around. And like locking a mortgage rate, the benefit can vary depending on when you lock in your rate.

    Before you sign a contract, if possible, I would recommend you check out all the competitors out there. And if no-one’s offering anything reasonable for the moment, hold off on it. Here is a list of all the energy supliers in Ontario:
    MyRate Energy, Superior energy, RiteRate, Active Energy, Direct Energy, Just Energy (Ontario Energy Savings)

    You can also get all of the competitors current rates from this neutral website. If you just locked in your rate, you can find out if you got the best price here:
    http://www.energyshop.com/natural-gas-prices-enbridge-residential.cfm

    And you can view the current market rate and history of natural gas from a bunch of places on the web.

    Sometimes I went to some peoples doors and they wanted nothing to do with signing a contract. But when they let me look at their last bill, we would notice that they where already signed up. So they had been enrolled from a year or two before. What was ironic is that alot of these people had been saving money because of this; even if they where not aware that they had even signed a contract.

    Here’s an online tool to find out if you’ve been saving or loosing money so far from locking in your rate in Ontario:
    http://www.energyshop.com/es/does-locking-in-save.cfm

    I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t lock your price. I think people should inform themselves first. And depending on when you lock in your rate, you could see a different benefit. Plus the principle reason for locking your rate should not be to try and save money. You can save money, but what the service does is give you the peace of mind your price won’t sky rocket because of economy, war, disaters, or godzilla attacks, e.t.c…

    Locking the price is similar to locking your rate on a mortgage.

    Since your agent may have not have given all the information correctly on what the service is, for those who want, I will sum it up here. Electricity is the same as natural gas:

    If you get your natural gas from endbridge and signed with a supplier (Energy savings, Direct Energy, e.t.c…), you will continue to get your gas from endbridge (or union gas, depending where you are in ontario). Your utility will never change. What happens is the supplier pays for a 5 year supply of natural gas for you ahead of time so that you can pay the same price for the next 3-5 years.

    It’s as if Ontario Energy is buying a 5 year supply of gasoline at todays gas price so you can pay the same price for the next five years. You pay as you use it and no matter what the market does, your gas price stays the same. It’s not a scam and these suppliers are lisceneced by the government to offer this. I just think door-to-door is the wrong way to go about offering this service.

    Now, you may or may not save money, depending on how the rates play out. But at least you always know that your rate will not change for the term of the agreement. (unless you locked at some rediculously high price)

    And on the other hand, if you pay market price… you pay the average price of the market. Endbridge will charge what it thinks the average rate will be for that month. Then you will have to pay the difference for the actual market price on the next bill (e.i. pay less if overcharged; and pay more if got undercharged). And like locking in your rate, you may or may not pay more.

    Hope this information helped.

  135. Hughie Jeanveau

    Aug 1 2012

    Hello. I have been played with by a few energy companies the last 3 years.

    The thing is I cannot say no to people who come to my door. I know this may sound really stupid, as no is one word, but I just can not say it.

    I have a mental disability and I am on disability support for it. I live in income-geared-to-rent housing because of this disability.
    I trust quickly and too much.

    I truly wish people would stop coming to my door because I keep switching suppliers due to the lack of saying no and I keep owing cancellation fees that I know I cannot pay by signing with someone else.

    I really do not know what to do.

  136. Christian

    Oct 27 2012

    I am from Ottawa, where an energy supplier rep just knocked at my door. He “needed” me to check my hydro bill to see if I would get affected by the November 1st increase.

    They don’t say who they represent and when I told him I wasn’t interested in his business, he said “if I check your name on my list, you are ok with a price increase?” How deceptive is that!

    You try to tell them off, but they insist, saying you go check while they stay at the door. Pushy and deceptive!

    These practices should not be allowed be because they are not straightforward about what they want (selling you a contract!) and are simply trying to trick people to sign up!

  137. Liz

    Apr 5 2013

    Here in Ottawa I’ve had 4 reps knocking my door this year already, one with a fixed rate electricity contract, and three for water heater rentals.

    I did decide to change my 2004 water heater once I had read the contract carefully and knew what I was getting into – it was the easiest way to get rid of Direct Energy.

    Of course, the contract is for 10 years, or 120 months as it is known, because they think we are stupid.

    A different rep from the same company knocked the door a month later, they don’t even give them records of their own customers!

    Then tonight a rep from National at 8.30 pm. He commented that my outdoor light was blinding him! Maybe they should try not knocking after dark in an area where there are many older residents.

    What concerns me are people who don’t know they’re already in a long term contract if they bought their house after 2010. If they fall for the pushy tactics suggesting they are with a government agency and have to inspect the tank, they will be stung with the crazy exit fees.

    I can’t imagine how vulnerable people or new immigrants are supposed to cope with this; I moved here from the UK before deregulation, but I would have been afraid to say no, as a new Canadian unfamiliar with the way things work here.

    Maybe when the politicians start knocking on our doors to beg for votes, we should all tell them that it’s time for door to door energy sales to be stopped. Let’s see if any of them really care about consumers and aren’t in the pockets of the energy companies.

  138. Sharon

    Jul 25 2013

    I would not sign up again with one of these companies.

    But my goodness! The sheer volume of energy sales people who come to my door is getting annoying.

    Usually once a week. But today there were two separate companies trolling my neighborhood.

    I have been lied to and insulted and have given up even trying to be polite with them. Now when I see that name tag and clipboard I just say “No no no no” as I’m closing the door.

  139. OttawaGuy37

    Jul 25 2013

    I just want to warn everyone that SUMMITT ENERGY has been going around Ottawa (Avalon neighborhood in Orleans).

    I had someone at my door on July 17, 2013. He said he was affiliated with Ontario Energy Board and wanted to verify if I was paying HydroOne’s “new price” or “old price”.

    When he put me on the phone and they asked if I agreed to a 5 year contract, I hung up the phone and slammed the door in his face.

    Summitt Energy is a scumbag company and Carlo Cavaliere (rep no OK 1364) is dishonest. If he comes to your door, tell him to get lost and call the police.

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