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My letter to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) about Just Energy

Posted by peeterjoot on January 7, 2011

The Just Energy customer service people contacted me today, since they’d read my complaint letter to the OEB about my case.  Basically it was explained to me that I’m screwed.  This company cannot afford to cancel the contract that I did not sign nor know about because they have purchased the gas upfront at the rate in effect when my ex-wife signed the renewal agreement.  What a load of crap!

What is true, is that they have no sense of fairness.  Only the bottom line to the shareholder matters.  This is a company that tries to stay under the radar.  They don’t want you to remember that you have a Just Energy contract, so that you won’t feel inclined to question whether the rate that you are paying is a good one.  This is why they don’t send renewal paperwork and only use telephone confirmation.  Most people will end up blindly paying the bills without questioning, and this company profits massively.  And if you want to get out, prepare to pay through your teeth.

This was my complaint letter to the OEB.  Just Energy has now received this too since I also emailed them letting them know I’d done so.

 

In 02/12/2003 after much badgering by door to door salesmen and my father in law who repeatedly asked me if I had “signed a fixed rate contract yet”, I submitted, and signed a 5 year agreement with Ontario Energy Savings.

 

I had never been happy with my decision to do so since it was based on sales pressure, rather than an intelligently researched decision, but once I had done so it wasn’t possible to change it due to the cancellation fees.  I had no intention to renew that contract, and thought I had let it expire.

 

It came as a rude suprise when I found that I still had such a contract in 2009.  The way that I found this out was that after I moved a collections agency notification had been sent to us by Just Energy’s collectors, “Bond Street Collections Inc.” for $448.06, stating that:

“Your outstanding account has been assigned to our office because you have failed to pay this bill in an acceptable period of time.

 

Failure to remit payment within 7 days of receipt will result in one or more of the following:

 

Recommendation that our client proceed with immediate legal action

 

Impact your credit rating

 

Escalated collection activity

 

Please forward payments to our office immediately!

 

Having a poor credit rating will affectyou in the future.  You may be declined future credit or financing.

 

Govern yourself accordingly,

 

This is a rather intimidating method of first contact.  It did not go over well with my ex-wife who recieved the mail.  No other contact from the company stating that any bill was due was recieved by either of us, and our post-separtion mail forwarding was active and working fine.  I’d also been at the old marital home a few times and the new owner had not recieved any of our mail erroneously.

 

After a long call to Just Energy, on Nov 22, 2010, I was able to find out that they claimed to have had a renewal contract signed by my ex-wife and that one of us was obligated to assume the contract under replacing our current gas provider as a supplier.  Since my ex-wife had moved out far out of the area, that left me with the obligation.  After repeated calls they were finally able to send a copy of the renewal agreement, verifying that my ex had indeed signed it.  To the best of my knowledge we never recieved any paperwork with confirmation of this renewal, nor were we left with a copy of the renewal agreement.  I do not know what was said to my ex-wife to get her to sign, but I suspect it was while she was in the middle of preparing dinner for the kids, at a point where she was not in a position to carefully reflect on the implications of the signature.  By 12/23/2010 after repeated calls, I finally recieved a copy of the contract that my ex-wife had signed.

 

When we originally signed this agreement, it was presented as a guarenteed savings method.  When questioned on the phone to determine whether or not I did even save money on average with their company, they claimed that “this is hard to tell.”, and that the information is widely available.  Later, when pressed, I was told that I had paid 1c more per cubic meter on average using the Just Energy supplier.  The information is not “hard to tell” apparently.  Instead this company’s employees seem to be operating under a policy that requires them to deliberately mislead, instead of providing information.

 

With confirmation that Just Energy did not save us money for the duration that we used them as a supplier I told the Just Energy representitive that I was not interested in continuing to use their services.  Instead I was going to pay the cancellation fees (close to $450 as stated above in the collections letter), and my ex-wife and I were going to split the cost.  There was an interesting change to the sales pitch at that point.  They then claim that Just Energy isn’t a savings company.  Instead they provide insurance and peace of mind.  You can know that you can lock into a fixed rate, so that if the rates do go up you will at least not have to pay more than an well known and expected amount.  Like any insurance policy there is a cost to the “peace of mind”, and that you will not save money by purchasing insurance.  This is a company that relies on motivating fear of the unknown to attempt to coersce potential customers to use their services.

 

With a final refusal to agree to a fixed term contract at a rate of 26c/cubic-meter when enbridge was charging 17c, they offered me a floating rate at the gas company’s distribution cost in order to keep my business.  This seemed like the cheapest alternative and I agreed to do so.  The alternative was a requirement to ante-up $450 or deal with the collections agency and threats of law suits.

 

If it were not for the coersive pressure to assume the contract at my new residence I’d have nothing more to do with this company.  It should be plainly stated by the sales people what the cost implication to breaking the contract or renewing it would be.  There ought to be a stated explicitly by the salespeople that this is a contract that will remain in effect after a move, even a move involving marrital separation (something that is difficult enough to deal with without collections agencies being introduced).  The fact that this company appears to use collections agencies as a method of first contact is, frankly, disgusting.  However, I’m not suprised that they do so.  It is effective to be threatened with legal action and credit rating loss, so I suspect that most recieving such a notification of post-move contract continuation, will just submit and pay the fees without further fight.

 

How is is that this company can be allowed to charge such exorbitant cancellation fees in the first place?  If they were providing a service that had any sort of honest value add they would not need to do so.

 

It is my personal belief that I was not informed of the implications of this contract, nor was my ex-wife when she renewed it.  It seems reasonable to me that under the circumstances this contract should be invalidated without fee, but the company is not willing to do so.  It will hopefully not cost me anything more to use their floating rate distribution service than I would pay using Enbridge gas, but I suspect this will not be easy to determine.  Out of principle I’d still like this contract terminated, since it is my preference to not do business with companies that do not behave with customer interest in mind.

If I have a legal obligation to assume the contract that my ex wife signed because my name and her name were both on the Gas company bill (giving her the right to enter into a legal contract regarding that bill), should I not have also received a copy of the renewal agreement?  I consider this a strange disparity between my legal obligations and the legal rights of the company.  It seems like different rules are being used!
I did also find out on the phone today how they attempted to contact us before sending the account to collections.  They called the out of service telephone number 22 times.  The customer service guy seemed to believe that this persistence was supposed to impress me.  They did not clue into the fact that the phone number for the old (already sold) house was out of service the first few times they called.  It took 22 times calling an out of service telephone number until they figured out that they’d not be able to contact us that way.  Apparently they then send two normal mail letters, neither of which was received.  I don’t know whether to believe them about if they did in fact send such letters.  I’ve also seen how incompetent they are at sending correspondance, since our request for the signed copy of the renewal contract took them 4 attempts to get to us.  The first time they sent the old expired contract.  The second one was lost (this was supposed to be an email that would get to me in 5-7 days and never arrived).  Apparently email runs slower for Just Energy than everybody else in the internet, so you should expect delays when they send something that way.  The third request never arrived, and finally after a month I did get the documented requested.
The only concession that they have made in response to my complaint is to offer a different form of pure profit for themselves.  They call this their “Rate Capper” program.  Basically it is a floating rate program that they don’t advertise, but also inflated by a monthly fee of $2.  Their floating rate also appears to be higher than the gas company rates, so you pay for this in two ways:
  1. flat fee for “adminstrative costs” … a pure profit mechanism that isn’t justified in any way IMO.
  2. a higher than the gas company floating rate.
With two years left in the the renewal continuation contract this does work out cheaper for me, but I have no interest in being coerced into remaining their customer.  Unfortunately, even if I feel that I have a good legal leg to stand on (having received no copy of the renewal paperwork at the time that it was signed), I am screwed because it would cost me more to go to court than to just pay up.  They know this and take full advantage of it.  The customer does not matter.  Just Energy would be more aptly named Just Profit.
In closing here are a couple more links to other information that you can find about this company:
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15 Responses to “My letter to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) about Just Energy”

  1. jocelyne said

    I work for just energy and I can guarantee you that there is no such thing as automatic renewal of a contract after it has ended, so you can be sure that if it has been renewed then that contract is there. It is not that we have failed to our legal obligations by not sending a copy of the renewal aswell but simply that we are obviously not aware of your recent divorce and your wife not being a minor and being one of the account holders was allowed to sign. And “what was said to your wife to get her to renew the contract”, is simply the fact that your contract had expired and we could help her with the renewal, and I am assuming whatever else was said sounded reasonable to your wife’s best judgement. Her THERE IS a policy if people move: you call to change your location and if it an area that we do not cover your contract s terminated at not cost but if that’s not the case you are obviously still responsible for that account. About the delay in correspondance, I do agree that 5 days is a long period of time to send a simple email and as an agent I am not very fond of our call centre aswell but in all fairness it is not up to customer service rep. to handle that kind of requests, they put a note on your account and it is dealt with by another division so it is not just typing up an email that takes 5 days but it is the processing of your request and having it handled by the right person THEN sending it that takes 5 days.

    Finally, about the cancellation fee you were wondering how we can be allowed to fix it so high…well its very simple really, when you sign a fixed rate program just energy goes and purchases a block of electricity in your name for the life of your contract, so when you want to cancel of course we have to charge you for that electricity we have purchased in your name…the same is applicable to cell phone contracts and such not just us.
    And finally, we fix our rates higher than the present rates because the company does have to make a profit but that being said when after 3 years if the prices have gone down, we have what we call a blend and extend program which puts you below the rate at that time for the remaining of the contract.

    • peeterjoot said

      Your attempts to justify the inefficiencies of the call center are thoroughly unimpressive, as is the standard sales pitch about how you have to pre-purchase the gas, in order for your poor company to be able to still make a profit if the prices go down. I heard this sales pitch again and again and again every time I called, and I honestly just don’t buy it.

      It’s been well documented that your initial fixed price rates are well in excess of the actual point in time rates. It’s very clever, and a way to ensure that your company remains profitable in spite of any market fluctuations. Your own executive interviews also show this. When cornered about this, they backpedal immediately with statements that essentially state “Well, we aren’t an energy savings company. You are purchasing peace of mind, not savings.” It’s a standard insurance sales technique. You rely on fear not value to sell your product.

      It is my opinion that there is no good ethical business justification having to rely on coercive pressure tactics like collections agencies and exorbitant fees, in order to force people who do not wish to remain your customer to do so. If there wasn’t agreement that your termination fees were too high, then government boards like the OEB wouldn’t be in the position of having to regulate these for new customers, mandating that you reduce them to reasonable rates (unfortunately that doesn’t apply to me as a customer who predated the new OEB regulations).

      • Tammy said

        FYI. I am in a similar situation. Contract end date was approaching. I faxed in request to not renew so no automatic renewal would happen. 4 days later they had their salesperson at my door and my husband signed the contract. Bill in my name but according to common law, he can legally sign for me. Today I received bill from collection agency for $528.99. Told the collector, take me to small claim court and lets see how this plays out. They do not have any intention on doing that, will just report on my credit file. What a load of crap!

    • greg said

      If you work for just energy, then I am sorry to hear about your low IQ level. Perhaps your are one of the three just energy employees who have a a normal IQ. If so, then you are a liar who can never be trusted. You have no morals and thrive on punishing people who find a better price for gas with right rate. I hope you are treated with the complete lack of respect that your organization treats its customers.

  2. peeterjoot said

    @Tammy, it’s interesting that they don’t have the intention of taking you to court over this. It sounds like they know they don’t have a case. This business of sneaking around to fetch renewals without notification of all effected parties has got to put them in murky territories legally. I wonder how many of the local energy boards will end up having to enforce regulations to make them behave with some basic business ethics.

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  4. Emma said

    i moved out of the country and just received the same letter from Bond Street Collections. I had no idea what this was for as I never received my last bill, and now I understand why. What a bunch of low life theiving idiots. I guess it won’t be a problem for me to get out of paying this as clearly I am not in their area. I wish I would have known all of this information before signing up as well. And just like your ex-wife, they got me during dinner and just to get them off my back I agreed to sign. They clearly know when to target their customers!

  5. Jill said

    I really empathize with you people who were taken for a ride. Beware of anybody selling at your door. The same thing happened to me by a Direct Energy door-to-door salesperson who lied to me in order to get me to sign a contract. I also received a Collection Agency warning…but eventually got out of my contract with Direct Energy…and fell back into the ruthless hands of Just Energy. My contract ends soon and I,ve faxed a letter stating that I do not wish to renew. Hope it sticks. I will call also. Best of luck to you all and God bless.

  6. Brenda said

    Oh Greg, you hit the nail on the head with that. I couldn’t get these jerks off my back when I tried to cancel! I faxed, I called, I did everything to stop them from harassing me once they knew I didn’t want to renew. This is my second “gas” bill since and my bills are cut in half +. I couldn’t believe it. The liar at the door 5 years ago told me I would never pay more than the going rate….maybe the same but never more. I had both my hydro and gas with them. How in the world are they getting away with this? Their making a pile of money but reguardless of the lies, they have our signature and obviously thats all that matters. Jill, start cancelling as soon as your able because they will hound you awful. I’m really trying to be civil here but I’m not winning……….Jocelyne, you know where you can shove your “guarantee”…don’t you!

  7. DJ said

    Thanks everyone for your comments on this issue. Mine is up for renewal. I mhave to renew by July 12th/12. Lets see what happens when I say “NO THANKYOU”. Thanks again.

  8. Luc said

    just energy should not be in business they just out there to screw people my contract was up they came to my door twice and i said no no no and then i call today to find out when is this finaly over and they told me that i just signed for another 5 years well let me tell you i never signed for another 5 years they said i did on jan 24 now that is funny cause i was on vacation with my wife so it is impossible be aware of just energy not only your bill is more they will screw you when you turn your back

  9. bubba transvere said

    i bought my father-inlaws house 2007 . he was with direct energy,on a budget of $158.00 per month, 2 yrs later budget $198.00. 2012 budget $258.00// 2013 budget $270.00. i called and got out of contract only because i left the name on the bill in my father-inlaw name. I told them my father-inlaw was moving into a old age home and we are cancelling all of his bills, we bought the house and we are going with enwin. they tried talking me into it, i said no thanks, we got refund of $135.00 in your face

  10. OttawaGuy37 said

    I just want to warn everyone that SUMMITT ENERGY has been going around Ottawa (Avalon neighborhood in Orleans). I had someone at my door on July 17, 2013. He said he was affiliated with Ontario Energy Board and wanted to verify if I was paying HydroOne’s “new price” or “old price”. When he put me on the phone and they asked if I agreed to a 5 year contract, I hung up the phone and slammed the door in his face.
    Summitt Energy is a scumbag company and Carlo Cavaliere (rep no OK 1364) is a DISHONEST, MISLEADING, LYING ****. If he comes to your door, tell him to get lost and call the police.

  11. CRT London said

    Just Energy in London Ontario for electricity supply.

    I had a gentlemen knock and request to see my bill to, “…ensure (I) am receiving the rebate.” I talked, listened and signed the agreements. Great sales rep and knowledgeable. After dinner I sat down and pulled the Hydro rates and Global Adjustment rates for the last two years. Began to crunch the numbers.

    My findings are as below and stated in two categories, first price and second legal:

    Price, on average with an annual mean, the Just Energy fixed rates 4.99¢ ~ 5.99¢ / kWh + GA (Global Adjustments) are 1.3¢ more per kWh. This may not seem like much but the reality is hundreds of dollars a year. I cancelled the contract the same day I signed it, via phone.

    Legal, for those that have signed or are interested in fixed rate budgeting. The contract that was signed has a three page terms of agreement attached to it and in my contract, from Just Energy, paragraph 10, sub Your Right to Cancel, states “You can end this Agreement, without having to pay Exit Fees, within 30 days from the date of your first bill under this Agreement.” Further down in the same section it states, ” …you have the right to cancel this Agreement without cost or penalty up to 10 days after you acknowledge receipt or are deemed to acknowledge receipt of a text-based copy of the Agreement,and if you cancel the Agreement within that 10 day period, you are entitled to a full refund of all amounts paid under the Agreement.”

    To summarize the findings, the cost is slightly more than my local provider and the legal agreement you sign at your door is a catch-22. By catch-22, I mean, based off the terms in the Agreement, if you sign an Agreement and don’t wish to enroll in their service then you must cancel on the same day in order to not be charged anything. Cancelling must be done the same day as signing or the ten day notice will be considered over the ten day cancellation notice requirement and you will be subject to a legal, but shady, fee.

    Fixed rate utilities are an excellent tool to budget with and plan with, I am not condoning the procurement of private utilities suppliers nor recommending against them. However, if you get involved with sales at your door and are uncomfortable with “sign and run” then ask the rep to leave an unsigned copy of the Agreement with you so that you can understand what the offer better. They should be able to provide this without issue. If not, then do not get involved with them.

    Thank you.

  12. Linda Gallant Potts said

    I just had a young salesman here as well. I was told that only after receiving my documents via email and verifying my enrollment, would I be considered part of their programme. The fine print said that if I did not enroll via email, my “contract” would be considered invalid. They said they would follow-up via phone call if they did not here from me within ten days.

    They did try to book my “free” thermostat installation within two days. I delayed them by eight days from now.

    The capped rates of $40 for hydro and $50 for gas were less than what I paid on my most recent bills.

    Am I missing something? Upon reading all of this, it seems that there is much more to the whole thing than stated, but the sales rep was here a long time, was very thorough, and went through the brochure very carefully with me. Are they leaving out information? I did ask how the company made their money, and while quick to answer, it wasn’t very convincing.

    Lastly, I’m embarrassed to admit this but feeling powerless to do much about it, I don’t pay much attention to trends. Is hydro due to go up, and what about gas? An article I just read suggested that gas prices were dropping. It also suggests that financially, the company appears to be in trouble, despite its claims to the contrary. And the BBB willnot give them accreditation based on the number of complaints they’ve received about them.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/rebecca-macdonalds-just-energy-golden-era-over-for-gas-marketer/article12222874/?page=1

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