Just Energy Ontario / high pressure misrepresentation
I have just been in my new apartment for a month, and hooked up with a local utility provider from whom I have not received a first bill yet. I was visited by a woman who claimed to be affiliated with my utility provider (she said they were a supplier) and started talking about Smart Meters and fixed rates. She made it seem as though I would be saving between $10 and $45 a month on my electricity bill. Not having ever paid for hydro before, I assumed this was a good deal.
But then things started getting hinky. It wasn't clear exactly what I was being made to do, and I was asked to give my account number with my existing utility and sign papers that I didn't read -- she gave me the gist of it). Before I knew it, I was on the phone with an 'account verification representative' giving information over the phone. When I asked questions of the person on the phone to verify what I was agreeing to, the woman in my living room talked over his voice so I couldn't accurately hear what he was saying. In the end, I was told that I would be contacted within 10 days to conform the account. She then left, the whole thing took about 30 minutes.
I'd like to mention at this point that I'm normally very intelligent and don't succumb to high pressure, but on this particular day, I was sick with flu and had a high fever -- true story. So my defenses were down and I didn't totally understand who she was, where she was from, what she was offering or what the hell was going on. Also, I have not previously paid for electricity and so I was somewhat confused by what she was talking about, especially when she start rambling on about numbers, kilowatt hours and peak times.
Fortunately, the whole thing left such a bad taste in my mouth after she left, that I came to and started doing some research. A simple Google search revealed several links on the first page that cried 'scam' and a little reading revealed that this company has some shady business practices and misrepresentation on the part of their sales team -- these I wont get onto here, but there are numerous complaints on this website and a couple of significant cases involving associated companies in the States.
Once reading all of this, I left my apartment in search of this woman. I found her on the floor beneath me, knocking on doors, and I approached her to tell her I wanted her to call her head office back and cancel this agreement. Naturally she refused, even though she had allowed me to use her personal cell phone to make the initial confirmation. I told her that I objected to the fact she represented herself as a representative of my utility company -- she denied doing so. When I expressed my concern that I had signed something that appeared to be a contract when she told me outright that it was NOT a contract, she began to run her spiel about how their company would be best for a person like me and why didn't I want to save money? It was useless, I realized, to continue this way, so I cut her off politely and went to call the superintendent of my building to have her removed.
Fortunately, by Ontario law, I later discovered, any such energy retailer has to give you government documents which spell out what your rights are when signing a contract and show a comparable rate to what they are offering. These documents also state that
- you can cancel a contract within 10 days of signing with no penalties
- the retailer will contact you between 10 to 45 days to confirm the contact, which you can opt not to confirm, thus nullifying the contract.
- you can also cancel the contract without penalty within 30 days of receiving your first bill from the retailer, although you will still have to pay that bill.
So I got on the phone to Just Energy to cancel it. After being told my call would be taken within 5 minutes, I waited 45 minutes on hold. Eventually, an agent answered and tried to convince me to stay, exactly echoing the speech made by the other woman, but I deflected all attempts to woo me. According to the law, I should now be free of this contract, but only time will tell, as I have read reports that the CS Department of this company has serious issues. But I have recorded the phone call for my own records, and got the number of the CS who took the call, so I think I am covered.
I urge anyone getting a call or visit from this company to simply close the door and not get involved with them. Any company that takes advantage of a sick person to make a sale is not worth the headache you will surely get in the end.
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