Another milestone for this blog

Thanks to everyone who has been posting comments here. Today, the number has just surpassed 5,000.

Some comments, of course, come from my own email. I post ones I think you will enjoy reading in full, without the cuts needed when writing in a newspaper.

Here’s a complaint about Summitt Energy, which targets new homeowners and misleads them about what it’s selling. The reader seems to have taken down every word of the sleazy sales pitch.

Another is about Sears, which promised a $50 gift card to a customer who had problems with a new refrigerator. Now the gift card has gone AWOL.

Finally, there’s an epidemic of extortion with low-price movers in Toronto, who add on charges after the fact and make you pay to get your belongings back. One reader has found a way to foil the fraud.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

22 thoughts on “Another milestone for this blog”

  1. Hi Ellen
    I reached your website through Google. I’m another one of the unfortunate people scammed by Summitt Energy.

    My wife and me bought our first home in Richmond Hill at the end of October. Two days after we moved in, a salesman came knocking on our door. He barely spoke good English and claimed to be from Enbridge. I wasn’t at home unfortunately, but however he made my wife sign a registration form saying he was acting on behalf of our gas company. He gave my wife very little information about this contract and didn’t even leave his contact information.

    After 10 days, my wife received a phone call (supposedly their confirmation call) but the representative on the other end was so cryptic and didn’t provide any information. After my wife asked whether we could cancel at any point and this person replied in the affirmative.
    Now I got suspicious at this point and then called their customer support (which is really hard to get through with wait times of up to 15mins). I was told that we had been bound to the agreement since my wife supposedly said “yes” on the 10th day after the agreement and we would have to pay over $900 to terminate the contract.

    Being first time home buyers, how are we even supposed to be able to afford to pay the fees. I’m now even scared what our monthly bills are going to look like with Summitt Energy after reading the many comments here.

    I cannot believe how the Government or even Enbridge can just stand and watch innocent people like us get scammed by these energy retailers.

    Is there anyway we can get out of our contract without any penalties?

  2. I am renewing my gas contract with Rite-Rate:

    Product Selected: 5 Year Fixed
    Start Date: April 1, 2010
    Fixed Supply Rate: 28.8 ¢/m3
    Partner ID: EBSAPR2010 0.25 ¢/m3
    Your Gas Supply Rate: 28.55 ¢/m3

    I have had a FIXED RATE of 26.4 cents/m3 for 5 years + fixed operating charge of 2.0 cents/m3, for a total of 28.4 cents/m3.

    I notice on the new contract there is no mention of an Operating charge to be added.

    Is the 28.55 cents/m3 the total charge? Is this a good rate?

    I notice that the delivery charges are now broken down into two sections – delivery to customer and delivery to Enbridge.

  3. Hi Ellen, I’m a student in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. My ordeal is with Planet Energy.

    In October, a representative came to my door to convince me to sign up. I live in a student complex with 6 units. The representative was very friendly and began explaining the benefits of signing up with Planet Energy.

    He said it was a green energy program that was subsidized by the government. I asked if the program was mandatory, and he replied that it was in fact a “mandatory government initiative” and that my whole building had signed up with them.

    I signed and he said I would receive a reaffirmation call from Planet Energy to confirm my details. Probably within a week, I did receive a call. They asked me a series of questions about whether I received a copy of the agreement, etc. and I confirmed all of them. I did not realize what I was getting myself into until a few weeks later.

    In mid-November, another representative from Just Energy came to my door. He said he wanted to make sure we were getting the best rate possible. When I told him we had signed up with Planet Energy, he said “Oh no.”

    He proceeded to explain how Planet Energy was going out of business and how we had actually signed up to pay MORE than what we were previously paying. I asked two of my roommates to listen in on our conversation to make sure I would not be fooled into signing a “scam” again.

    The Just Energy representative continued to explain their “market price” plan that would bring us savings. He said that since the Planet Energy had deceived us into believing their plan was a “mandatory government iniative”, we would be able to get out of it.

    He nearly convinced us to sign a contract with him, but my fourth roommmate came home in time. He had heard of these energy supplier scams and took one of us aside and told us not to sign. When we refused, the Just Energy representive became extremely pushy and rude. He said he had wasted half an hour of his night trying to convince us. We showed him the door.

    On Nov. 20th, I called Planet Energy to file a complaint against their representative and to cancel the contract that I was misled into. The CSR filed my complaint. She said that action will be taken against the agent, but I could not cancel my contract since Planet Energy had called to reaffirm that I in fact wanted to register with them.

    I reminded her that I was fooled into thinking it was a “mandatory government initiative.” She replied that on the reaffirmation call, I had been told that I wasn’t obligated to confirm. She said it was worded differently from “NOT a mandatory government initiative” but it meant the same thing.

    She said she would forward my case to her manager the next day. I have not heard back since. I have filed a complaint with the OEB as well, but the OEB told me not to expect much since I did reaffirm with Planet Energy on the phone.

    Ellen, I don’t know what to do now. As I said, I’m an undergraduate student and so are my four roommates. We’re on tight student budgets and would hate to have to pay more than we need to.

    I guess the blame could be on me for not reading the “fine print”, but the most frustating part is that we were deceived into the contract. Companies like Planet Energy and Just Energy are very active in Kitchener-Waterloo, an area very densely populated by students. I have already spread the warning to my fellow classmates, but please help me spread the word.

    Thank you.

  4. I have been duped. A Summitt Energy rep came knocking on my door on Jan. 30, 2009, while I and my fiance were preparing to leave to celebrate his 28th birthday.

    He began asking if we had received information on price protection for our new home. We had just bought in June of 2008. He was telling us that we should be signed up with them for our gas, hydro and water heater.

    He told us that he worked for Reliance and that Summitt was a division of theirs. He told us that we would only ever pay the Summitt Energy price if it was lower than the Union Gas price. And that we would have two sections on our bill, one which showed the Summitt Energy costs and the other which would show the Union Gas price and we would only pay the lower price.

    Because I had been told that I would be put on workshare in the next month, and my fiance was told by his boss that workshare was a very real threat for him in the next months, we actually believed him.

    On Feb. 9, we received a phone call for the reaffirmation. The lady on the phone told me that I had signed up for both gas and hydro. I know I never signed for the hydro, and that caught me so off guard that my main concern was making sure that the hydro never went through.

    I should have known that if I was that concerned about the hydro I should have been just as suspicious about the gas as well. So now I did agree to the price because they caught me so off guard.

    We had been receiving credits from Union Gas and that was my next mistake, not inspecting our bills as closely as I should have.

    When I received my last bill for Nov. 6 – Dec. 8, I was charged $108.29 for only 272.089 cubic metres of gas. If I had stayed with Union Gas, my bill would have been less than half of that, just over $50.

    I feel as though they preyed on me, being a new homeowner, still trying to pay off school debt, pay for a wedding, and saving to begin a family in the next year, and carry a mortgage in these troubling times.

    I phoned Summitt on Dec. 23 and explained to the CSR what the sales rep had told me when he came to my door. He literally laughed at me.

    He asked me, “Why on earth would we allow you to pay the Union Gas price?” I was thinking they should because that is what was promised to me. And I thought that companies should stand behind what their representatives say.

    Again, this morning at 8:45 am, I called and spoke with Raj, a very nice man. He explained to me what happens with the cancellation. I would have to pay $876.03 plus 5% for taxes to get out of the contract and it would take about 2 billing periods until Summitt would be completely removed from my energy bill.

    I get this wonderful news on Christmas Eve. And although I do not blame Raj (he is just doing his job), I still think that people should stand behind what they say and companies should stand behind what their representatives say.

    In the new year, I will be canceling with Summitt and paying the insane amount of money, which is almost as much as I make in two weeks, but it will be worth it to not have to deal with them any more. I can’t afford to miss out on sleep over this any more. They are not worth my health.

    So, Ms. Roseman, I am asking for a Christmas miracle. I know that I am not the only person in this situation on a very tight budget. But I would like an sincere apology from Summitt and from the rep NC1721 for misleading me (and I am sure, many others).

    I hope that one day Summitt and the people representing them will take pride in their work and go back to being as honest and trustworthy to strangers that I am sure they are to their family and friends.

    I hope that everyone reading this has a very joyous holiday season and a prosperous New Year. And hopefully one day, a column like this will not be needed.

  5. I found what I did with the Summitt Energy is the most stupid. I signed the contract with them in Oct. 2008; I made a complain with OEB, but it didn’t help. they said you signed and confirmed the contract, so you have to follow it. They said they can’t do anything if the sales person mislead you, because you don’t have proof.
    Do you know how I can get rid of the contract?

  6. Hi Guys,

    Send registered letter to the company to cancel the contract claiming you were mislead by their sales staff. It’s true that consumers can expect to get value for the contracts they sign, and can back away from it if its misleading or a rip off. The Canadian law allows for it. My relatives and friends got into such scams and this is what they did on my advice and it works.

    make complaints to Better Business Bereau, Minister of Industry.

    Call hydro and enbridge to ask them to take the contract back.

    Also in the future call Better Business Bereau and ask them about these guys before singing a contract.

    Don’t be scared by the scaming collection calls from scammers who support these frauds.

    Together we can fight these fraud and build a better society.

  7. Planet Energy cheated us by telling that we will save on electric and hydro. They say that we can see two bills to compare our savings and if not satisfied we can cancel our contract within two months.

    The 1st bill came after four months and was almost double. Never in my history of two years was this amount paid to hydro.

    When I contacted Planet Energy, they explained that the provincial benefit has increased my bill and it is not from them but from the Ontario government.

    When asked where is the savings I could make by signing the contract, they say in long term we will save.

    I immediately asked them to cancel the contract. Now they asked to pay the penalty to cancel the contract.

    I have lodged a complaint with the Ontario Energy Board, which say it will take 21 business days to see the matter.

    Meantime, my next bill came for gas. This again is almost double.

    Please advise if any suitable suggestion to get me out of this fradulent company.

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