Door-to-door energy marketer raises concerns
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 06:00 am
A competitive electricity and natural gas retailer is raising concerns with its door-knocking tactics.
A Just Energy marketer was door knocking in Erin Ridge Monday night and upset a resident and his family when he asked the resident to produce his utility bill.
“They introduced themselves as Just Energy and that’s all they said. [Then] they asked to see my Epcor bill,” said the resident who did not want his name used. “I knew right away something was up.”
He said this was a “red flag” and refused to produce his bill, asking the marketer to leave his property.
“If you’re asking for an Epcor bill, you need to give some kind of proof that [you’re with] Epcor,” he said.
Just Energy is a competitive energy retailer offering contracted electricity and natural gas. Competitive retailers are licensed by the government, but are not affiliated with the government.
Regulated providers, like Epcor, are different in that they provide service to specific areas in the province and do so at a rate regulated by the Alberta Utilities Commission.
The resident said the marketer did not identify that he was trying to sell a contract and instead insisted he could provide a better utility rate.
Gord Potter, executive vice president of legal and regulatory affairs with Just Energy, said marketers must identify that they are offering options for energy supply. He said seeing the bill allows the marketer to look it over with the resident, adding the bill is also needed if the customer wishes to switch energy suppliers.
Just Energy has had several former employees convicted of Criminal Code violations and violations of the Energy Marketing Regulation, under the Fair Trading Act.
The Energy Marketing Regulation requires marketers to truthfully inform consumers of their identity and produce identification when requested, indicate they are soliciting the consumer for marketing energy and obtain consent before switching a consumer’s energy supply.
Gerald Kastendieck, director of communications with Service Alberta, said there are two open investigations against Just Energy marketers based in Edmonton.
“Both of them were charged with completing a contract in the name of a consumer, fraudulently,” he said. “It is believed that Just Energy had no knowledge of that action and weren’t complicit at all and are very cooperative.”
He said there are more than 140 complaints against the company, with none leading to charges.
“When we get some of those complaints … we work with the company to resolve the compliance issues,” he said.
In 2007, a door-to-door salesperson was found guilty of forging documents, abusing the trust of a consumer and unlawfully attempting to switch the energy supply of a consumer without consent, after signing a contract in the name of a deceased man.
In 2010, three salespeople pleaded guilty to charges relating to switching an energy supplier without consent. The individuals faced 12 months probation with a total of $6,800 in fines.
Just Energy is formerly known as Alberta Energy Savings LP. It changed names in 2009 as part of a corporate rebranding.
Kastendieck said in all cases, it is not believed that Just Energy was aware of the actions of the charged employees.
“Just Energy takes our responsibility to protect the interests of energy consumers in Alberta very seriously and we do not condone or tolerate behaviour outside of our regulations and code of conduct,” Potter said via email, adding employees can face termination if they are found in violation.
The Utilities Consumer Advocate, a provincial body aimed at protecting consumers, says on its website that marketers must identify themselves, tell consumers they are selling energy contracts and use reliable data for price comparisons.