On October 15, I allowed a Direct Energy sales agent by the name of Andrew Atkinson into my home to discuss Direct Energy’s Electricity Price Protection Plan. Mr. Atkinson was pleasant, polite, and seemed quite informed when he answered my many questions. I was hesitant to change from our utility, however, 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 by the sales agent that we are currently being charged 7.9, and by us signing up at 8.9 with Direct Energy, we will 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. Atkinson assured me that the 8.9 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 stated that he did not have specific information, but that we would be receiving from Direct Energy should we decide to go ahead with contract. I trusted that Mr. Atkinson 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 on 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 phone 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 at [protected], as we had received notification from PowerStream of our supplier changing and I was concerned because I thought I did not confirm by telephone and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change our supplier. I tried to make several calls before December 24, 2008, deadline and the said 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, so I did not pursue any further, regrettably.
However, we now received our energy bill for January to March and our current bill is more than $200.00 than what we had paid with PowerStream. When we received our bill, I contacted Direct Energy to find out the rate we were being charged because under the bill description, no specific rate is provided, just Direct Energy Cost $300.00. I was told we are being charged 8.9 based on consumption amount provided by utility. I asked regarding 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 is void. In addition, I also learned that our rate with Powerstream is 5.6 and the highest being 6.5.
As per the above, 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 on 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 firstly 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. Atkinson because he mentioned “Direct Energy’s carbon credits and renewable energy”. In consequence, I was lied to in order to agree to signing up with Direct 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 will be paying much higher rate with my utility, which again, was a lie, as we were and could be paying a significant 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, when in fact, Direct Energy is the “big bad wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Direct Energy is intentionally misleading consumers with bogus facts, fearfully coursing 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 with them for these reasons:
1. I do not recall confirmation contract by telephone
2. We were lied to and mislead in order to consider and sign contract
3. The fact that we live in an area with smart meter - we would like to conserve energy and receive a cost break for that and the contract with Direct Energy is not compatible with the smart meter decreased rate system.
I am awaiting the cancellation letter from Direct Energy with specific amount of penalty, as well as a recorded copy of the confirmation phone call. However, I was told by their customer service representative that I cannot cancel my service with them unless I pay their cancellation penalty, which will be over $400.00. I told her that I refuse to pay any penalty for canceling the contract. I believe that my consumers 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.
She said a contract is a contract and they have a reaffirmation call confirming our agreement. We have no choice, either pay the penalty or keep them as a supplier.
Really, I would rather pay a lawyer for time to resolve this matter than to give Direct Energy another cent of my money. They have us consumers through their deceit by the "b*%(@*^%! And, what we have no choices, no resolution to help us!
I have placed a complaint to the Ontario Energy Board, sent a letter to my MPP, contacted the Star and our local paper, the Citizen 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/cancelling their contracts with Direct Energy.
I am very dishearted my our choice and maybe we will be stuck paying for this hug mistake. But, I am hopeful with other consumers aware of this large companies tactics, that they will start losing customers, no matter the cost to us.