Tips on how to deal with energy retailers

From the R.R. District
Community Legal Clinic

With the arrival of cold weather, homeowners and tenants are aware once again of one of their biggest winter expenses–their heating bill.
Natural gas and electricity are delivered to your home by your utility (Union Gas and the Fort Frances Power Corp. in Fort Frances; Hydro One in outlying areas), however, as a low-volume consumer, you can choose how you buy the energy itself.
And whether you heat with natural gas or electricity, there are more options out there for your energy retailer than ever before.
Unfortunately, some of these companies don’t always conduct their business according to “fair market practice.”
Some energy retailers sell their service through door-to-door marketing. Energy retailers are licensed by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) and must comply with the consumer protection rules they have established.
Some of these rules include:
•identifying themselves by giving a business card or documents that show the company’s name, the individual’s name, and contact information;
•leaving behind marketing materials if you request it;
•not exerting pressure to make you sign a contract on the spot;
•not making false or misleading statements about the amount of money you would save if you signed with them compared with the cost from your local utility; and
•not offering a contract that has a term of more than five years.
In order to protect yourself further, you should never show your bills to anyone—even if they say they are from a company that you deal with, never give personal information, and never sign anything you don’t fully understand.
If a salesperson tries to pressure or intimidate you into signing a contract, don’t hesitate to end the conversation and close the door.
Always read all information thoroughly before agreeing to any kind of contract, and be sure to find out how much it would cost you to end the contract. Also be aware of any penalties that may be charged if you decide to opt out of the contract early.
Remember, if the service offered is good, the salesperson should not have a problem with leaving their materials with you so you can review them and get advice. Take your time and shop around.
If you have general questions or concerns with an energy retailer, the OEB runs a toll-free call centre for customer complaints and inquiries at 1-877-632-2727.
The Rainy River District Community Legal Clinic is located at 601 Mowat Ave. Call 274-5327 or toll-free at 1-800-799-2485 for more.

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