January 30 2008 by Ellen Roseman
My column today was about salespeople going door to door and misrepresenting their product in order to get a signature on a long-term energy contract. This drew more response than anything I’ve written in a long while. I know it hit home because many readers told me they had exactly the same experience. Here are some of their stories below.
I have many questions that spring to mind:
–How can the Ontario Energy Board say, “the energy choice is yours,” when many people are not making informed choices? They don’t know where energy prices are going, so they rely on promises made at the door. And the contracts they sign are impossible to understand.
–Why do energy marketers employ salespeople who use such sleazy tactics?
–Why won’t the Ontario Energy Board levy fines against energy marketers that employ sleazy salespeople? It has the power to do so — and has done so in the past.
–How can these companies justify charging so much more than the utility rate in return for an illusion of saving money?
–How can the Ontario government allow marketers to sign up low-income people at prices that are up to double the utility rate? I’m sure this is causing great hardship for households living on tight budgets.
My final question: Should this opportunistic business be shut down? Whose interests are being served?
I know that consumers benefit if energy prices rise higher than the contract price. But this is a gamble, best undertaken by those who know what they’re doing. Maybe these contracts should be legal only if the consumer approaches the company, not vice versa.