I have finally decide to write this post out of frustration.
It has been 10 years now since Ontario opened up the electricity and gas utilities to allow competition and to give consumers a choice in selecting who to purchase these items from. Out of this has come a few great companies that are able to offer customers something different, for example Bullfrog Power’s 100% Green Electricity. To keep things in balance there has also been a flourish of less reputable companies.
I am not here to comment on whether locking in your electricity or gas rate is a good idea. That comes down to personal choices about tolerating variability in prices vs predicting which way the market is moving, you are essentially making a bet in which the marketer has the advantage.
Instead what I want to highlight is the tactics these companies use to sign up new customers and the fact they have continued to do this sort of scamming for 10 years. It all starts with a knock on the door.
Marketeer: Hi I’m from Ontario Energy*?
* They tend to omit the full name of the company in order to make it sound more government like.
Marketeer: What I’m doing here today is to make sure that you are covered for _________**.
** When I purchased my first home it was making sure that the bill was switched correctly from the previous owner. This past weekend it was to make sure I was ready for the cut over to time of day based billing for electricity.
Marketeer: So if you could just get me your latest electricity/gas bill I can check it for you. ***
*** This is when you should politely slam the door closed.
I hate this approach. First off they aren’t there to check anything, they are there to sell you something. If they at least were honest from the outset of the conversation I would have more respect for them. This line seems to be in the training manual for all of them.
I had a marketeer once who refused to leave my house until he saw my bill. He gave some story about having to come back later if I didn’t. I had to physically shuffle him out the door.
If you didn’t close the door and actually retrieved your bill then there are several options.
I have heard from several people that the marketeer just wrote down the account number and left. Several months latter they noticed their gas bill had a section saying the gas was from company X. The Ontario Energy Board who has fined several of the companies has tried to stop this practice but I imagine there will be a few desperate people trying to hit quotas that will try it.
The other option is that the marketeer will break into a sales chat about how rates are about to sky rocket, along with a fancy graph showing historical trends with their estimation line added to show the future rocket based trajectory that prices will take.
I refuse to do any sort of business with companies that operate in this fashion. Just Energy – was called Ontario Energy Savings Corp – will not be on my list of companies to give any business to after being approached 10 years ago and again this weekend with the same script. I know based on the OEB consumer issues reports that they aren’t the only ones but I have dealt with them several times now. Feel free to add your story in a comment below.
If you are thinking of signing up for a locked in prices do your homework. One site that will allow quick comparisons of rates is Energy Shop, however make sure you understand the full details of each plan.