Calgary woman wants explanation from Direct Energy after 'mistake' bill rescinded

A Calgary woman wants an explanation from Direct Energy as to how they mistakenly sent her a $500 surprise bill for a Grande Prairie home she hasn't lived in since 2010 — and when never opened an account in the first place.

Bobbi Michaud pleased her $500 bill will be reversed, but wants to know how it happened

Bobbi Michaud views pictures of bills sent by Direct Energy to her landlord, which say she has an outstanding balance even though she hasn't lived in Grande Prairie since 2010. She says she never even opened an account with the gas provider. (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

A Calgary woman wants an explanation from Direct Energy as to why they sent her a surprise $500 bill for a Grande Prairie home she hasn't lived in since 2010 — and for which she never opened an account in the first place.

Bobbi Michaud filed a formal complaint with the utilities consumer advocate on Monday. On Tuesday, a representative from Direct Energy called to say they would reverse the charges and close the account.

Michaud first learned about it on the weekend when her former landlord told her the bills had arrived

"I'm glad it's been resolved, though I don't have proof of that yet," said Michaud. 

She said the agent she spoke with on the phone didn't offer an explanation.

"So that was a little disconcerting. They acknowledge the fact that it was their mistake, but she couldn't tell me how it was made."

Michaud says she is most concerned that Direct Energy could have generated an account without her knowledge.

In a statement, a spokesperson from Direct Energy said they have "found that Ms. Michaud was in fact billed in error. We have since reversed all charges and sincerely apologize to her for the inconvenience." 

Working to improve, says company

Gary Newcombe, Direct Energy's vice president of government and regulatory affairs in Canada, says they have been working to improve their billing system since it switched in early 2015.

"We're continuously improving. We've got a service improvement plan in place and we're working through it and we're correcting things as they come up. A lot of these things take a long time to get through the system."

Newcombe says the company has regular meetings with Service Alberta's Utilities Consumer Advocate.

"We have to keep in mind, too, that we send out in order of a million bills every month. Right from the outset of this, we've had a better than 99 per cent accuracy rate on the bills."

Anyone with billing complaints is encouraged to call the company, or the utilities consumer advocate.

Michaud says she is grateful she came forward.

"I hope it means if somebody else sees it, and something similar is happening, that they know and understand they have the right to refuse to pay a bill, and that they can challenge companies like Direct Energy and that they're not at fault."

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