On June 2008, Summit Energy was fined $495,000 by Ontario Energy Board for what OEB call “unfair practices” in the sale of fixed rate natural gas and electricity prices.
Now fast forward three months, after 6 days of hearings over this summer of 2010, 23 people gave evidence of Summitt Energy’s door-to-door deception. Five of the sale agents in the complaint including their manager and an outside expert testified for the company.
The Ontario Energy Board’s lawyers admitted the 19 complaints “are representative of a much broader problem…”.
Read all the transcripts and summaries at OEB’s website here, case number EB-2010-0221.
Ellen Roseman, a personal finance columnist for TheStar.com wrote about her reaction to Summitt Energy’s sales practices:
- Compelling. Film maker Michael Moore could take this testimony and produce a documentary that would draw critical and box office raves.
- Chilling. I’m ashamed to see the province open the door to deregulation without enough controls against exploitation.
Four points by Ontario Energy Board against Summitt Energy
- Systemic flaws. Agents had many recurring instances of misconduct. Customers’ complaints sometimes resulted in review or retraining, followed by further similar infractions by the same agents.
- Stonewalling. Summitt didn’t take prompt action on complaints. It tended to disbelieve customers who said agents acted improperly and didn’t follow up with agents, even after multiple acts of misconduct.
- Failure to act. The Ontario Legislature recognized that complaints against energy sellers were unacceptably high. Yet Summitt denied the problem and only changed its systems when forced to do so by compliance proceedings.
- Lack of accountability. Summitt has attracted more complaints since last June, giving rise to a gap between its written policies and enforcement of those policies. It should suspend door-to-door sales, pending a public audit and implementation of new procedures.
Summitt Energy arguments in its response to the case
- Not complete. It’s not enough for the board to cite 19 instances of misbehavior by five agents. That’s too small a proportion of Summitt’s total sales to show a consistent pattern.
- Not credible. Customers who complained likely didn’t pay attention or misunderstood the sales agent’s purpose and identity. They weren’t victims of misrepresentation.
- Not relevant. The five agents with higher than normal complaints were all from the same marketing company, which no longer sells retail energy contracts for Summitt.
Read the full story at thestar.com, Roseman: Ontario failed to protect people from energy deception
My response on door-to-door natural gas and electricity sales
There should be a law in Ontario that says: if an energy retailer aka gas and electricity suppliers or any company that uses door-to-door sales who receive a certain amount of complaints. That company should be ban from using door-to-door sale in the province.
What kind of company goes around knocking on random doors with a multi-years legal binding contract uninvited at your home or business?
Summitt Energy is a 3 years old company and this is not their first time accused of door-to-door deceptive. Back in January 21, 2009, Summitt Energy was fine by OEB $70,000, read here.
How many more door-to-door sales fraud Ontarians have to go through? When is Enough is ENOUGH?