Calgary

Direct Energy bills pile on Calgary church that isn't a customer

Members of a small church in northwest Calgary are tired of getting bills from Direct Energy when they aren't a customer and the bills aren't even addressed to them.

Company says it's trying to fix the mistake

Wild Rose United Church office and building manager Paula Peterson says she wants to know how Direct Energy could be sending them bills for 9 accounts they don't hold for properties they have nothing to do with. (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

Members of a small church in northwest Calgary are tired of getting bills from Direct Energy when they aren't a customer and the bills aren't even addressed to them.

"We will not pay this, we don't owe this. We are not their customer, we're an Enmax customer," said Paula Peterson, the office and building manager for Wild Rose United Church in Crescent Heights.

She has received nine bills with separate account numbers for as many different addresses throughout Alberta.

They are all addressed to the United Church of Canada, even though churches under that denomination operate autonomously.

Peterson says none of the properties have any connection to her church, and some aren't churches at all.

At first it was amusing, she says — but it's not funny anymore.

"Perhaps they're trying to put it off as a computer glitch, but that would be some computer glitch. It's a very difficult thing to change information so where I'm coming from, someone has just made this decision ... let's randomly hand it all to one church," said Peterson.

She has called the Direct Energy number listed at the top of the bills repeatedly and has filed a complaint with the Alberta Utilities Commission, which promised to look into it.

Peterson has even called the police.

"This should not be happening."

Peterson says she wants the bills to stop coming and for the situation to be resolved.

"I mean we are a church and can't handle this, but if I was a homeowner and got seven or nine different accounts and wasn't taken seriously this could put someone under," she said.

Direct Energy apologizes

In a statement, Gary Newcombe, the company's vice president of government and regulatory affairs, says he's sorry to hear about the account error with the church.

"We understand the frustration associated with billing errors like this, and are looking into why it occurred and will fix it."

He says the company has added a new "Alberta-based rapid response customer service team" employing staff in Edmonton and Calgary.

A representative has reached out to the church to apologize and it should now stop receiving bills, Newcombe said.

"We will continue to work directly with the customer as we resolve this issue. We value our Alberta customers and are committed to providing them with long-term, high-quality customer service," he said.

Other billing errors

Direct Energy has run into other problems with its billing process recently.

An Edmonton man says the energy provider sent him 16 bills in one day for the small townhouse where he lives in Mill Woods. 

A Calgary woman says she's been billed by Direct Energy even though she never opened an account with the provider, and has not lived in the Grande Prairie home it was sent to since 2010.

This past April, Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean told CBC News she is aware of similar complaints and called the company "ridiculous" — she has asked her staff to come back with options about how Direct Energy can improve their customer service.

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