Direct Energy Marketing faces 4 counts under consumer protection legislation
Service Alberta launched an investigation following two separate complaints
Direct Energy Marketing Ltd. has been charged with four counts of violating fair business practices for its customers.
Service Alberta launched an investigation following two separate complaints: failure to cancel a contract and failure to provide a refund on time.
In February 2015, Direct Energy Marketing Ltd. allegedly enrolled a consumer with an energy contract, even after the consumer made a request to cancel the contract within the legislated 10-day "cooling-off" period.
Direct Energy Marketing Ltd. is charged with two counts under Section 19 of the Energy Marketing and Residential Heat Sub-Metering Regulation for enrolling a customer in an energy contract after the consumer asked to cancel it within the cooling-off period.
In October 2014, Direct Energy Marketing Ltd. allegedly failed to provide a refund within the legislated period of time after a contract to supply a furnace to a home was cancelled at the request of the homeowner.
Direct Energy Marketing Ltd. is charged with one count under the Fair Trading Act for failing to refund a deposit within 15 days after cancellation, and one count under the Energy Marketing and Residential Heat Sub-Metering Regulation for using a contract that does not contain all the prescribed clauses required within the contract.
Penalties under the Fair Trading Act include a maximum fine of $300,000 or three times the amount obtained in the offence — whichever is greater — and up to two years in jail.
The cases were first heard in Edmonton provincial court Oct. 30.
A Direct Energy spokesperson issued a written statement in response: "Since this is an active court case, Direct Energy has no comment at this time," it said.
Premier Rachel Notley shed little light on the charges.
"To be honest, I haven't been specifically briefed on that," she told reporters.
"I assume what it is, is that the matter is just taking its normal course through a fairly independent regulatory process. I am sure that those who have been tasked with the responsibility could make sure that Direct Energy follows the rule, have completed their investigation and just moved on, as they should, to the next stage.
"I have not been part of that decision-making process."
Scores of Direct Energy customers have contacted CBC about billing errors made by the company's regulated arm since November 2014.
The plaintiffs in the case made their allegations in a lawsuit, but the judge did not comment on their viability. The lawsuit was settled in March 2015.
During that same time, CBC Edmonton reported Direct Energy sellers were still engaging in misleading sales tactics, despite the company's six-year-old legal commitment to clean up its practices, which followed hundreds of complaints to the government in 2009.
At the time, the director of the Fair Trading Act said there was reason to believe sales agents' presentations may have broken the law by failing to explain the difference between Direct Energy's regulated and contract divisions.
Angela Blundell told CBC news in May that a Direct Energy salesman used the same sales pitch on her this spring.
Contacted again on Wednesday, Blundell said she was thankful she came forward with her complaint.
"It makes me glad that I did reach out and make my opinion known," she said. "Because I think obviously enough people have complained that now Service Alberta is finally looking into it."