“The energy choice is yours”… I’m not so sure

July 19 2007 by Ellen Roseman

The Ontario Energy Board has started a public relations campaign to educate consumers about their rights when it comes to signing contracts with gas and electricity marketers. The board has set up a website and hired a plain-language expert to make its six consumer tipsheets easy to understand.

I think such an educational effort is needed and I wonder why the board took so long to get started. From the complaints I get about energy marketers, I know that many people aren’t making an informed choice at all when they sign a long-term contract.

The only reason to lock into a fixed-price deal is peace of mind. You don’t know whether or not you’ll save money and you may pay a rate that’s much higher than the utility rate. But that’s the risk you’re taking. It’s a form of insurance.

But the sellers who go door to door promise savings, and may even guarantee savings. This makes their job easier when it comes to earning sales commissions. Some sellers also misrepresent who they are (for example, telling new homeowners they have to sign to get their gas or electricity switched on).

You’re not making an informed choice when you sign under false pretenses. And if you’re not careful, you may find your long-term gas contract has been automatically renewed when it expired. Gas marketers (but not electricity marketers) can roll over contracts without your express consent if they’re signed before July 31, 2005. Luckily, there’s a tipsheet on renewals that explains how they work.

I wish the board had undertaken a TV or radio advertising campaign on energy choices. This would reach more people. But for now, I guess a low-budget PR campaign is better than nothing.

3 comments

  1. Peter Thompson

    Aug 25 2007

    Direct Energy has left my townhouse without hot water for 6 days.

    They have now spent 5 days coming and going, making appointments with a four hour window, and still have not fixed the water heater.

    Direct Energy is a very poor company.

    Please call so I can share the emails I have sent for your readers to review.

    Thanks, Peter

  2. Eve

    Sep 19 2007

    I own a 3-unit house in Toronto, and have 4 tenants. Direct Energy failed to provide a fix for the rental hot water tank for 7 days. My tenants and I have made ourselves available daily, on the promise that the service repairman would show up.

    I’ve escalated the matter to the officeofthepresident-canada@ngwi.com . I’m waiting for a response and expect compensation for time wasted, frustration, & the sheer inconvenience, etc. Level of service provided is unacceptable. I would also suggest you escalate to the office of the president.

  3. glenn donald

    Jan 5 2008

    I had a complaint regarding this outfit back in the spring. I resolved it by caving in to the weight of the stonewalling machinery to which Direct Energy and its sister Enbridge had instant access. I tried to interest MPP Michael Bryant in the matter, but was sloughed off into some government gulag…

    I have little hope of ever having my own issues addressed.

    My purpose here is to bring added attention to concerns about these monopolies. I am now reluctant to the point of being terrorized by the prospect of having to have any confrontional dealings with these people and ready to be ridden over roughshod in order to keep my gas flowing.These fears are only enhanced by seeing that our Provincial Government is unconcerned about these corporate bullies or is also afraid of confronting them