A South Cariboo homeowner is warning residents about independent gas marketers in the community that he said are misleading would-be customers.
Daniel Munroe said he was convinced four years ago by a door-to-door salesperson to sign up with a company called Access Gas – an independent gas marketer that offers gas prices at a fixed rate, as opposed to Fortis’ variable rate.
The 103 Mile resident was locked into a five-year term and says the prices he has paid since have been significantly higher than Fortis rates; he was locked into a rate of $6.89 per GJ, while Fortis is currently charging around $2.88/GJ.
“Basically, the salesman said he was with the gas company, and that he would be giving me the lowest rate,” he said. “But that isn’t what they were selling.”
Munroe said he was caught off guard because the salesperson “demanded” to see his gas bill, and made it sound mandatory that he sign up.
He was prompted to speak out about his experience – and higher than average gas bills – when another independent gas marketer, from a company called Easy Energy, came to his house last month, again asking to see his gas bill.
“He said he was with a gas provider and he wanted to check something on my bill to make sure I had the lowest rate,” he said.
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Phone calls and emails to Access Gas were not returned. A representative from Easy Energy told the Free Press that their company has a detailed process they follow when signing up customers to make sure they understand the contract.
“We have a secondary verification process,” customer service manager Emma Owen said. “It consists of 10 questions that a customer has to complete 24 hours after signing up to make sure they understand what it is they’re signing up for. If they say no to any of these agreements, we can’t go through with the contract.”
Owen said customers will receive a letter from Fortis once they’ve completed the verification process, which shows the historic variable rates for Fortis, as well as the rate they’ve agreed to lock into with their new contract. The new customer then has 10 days to cancel.
Asking to see a customer’s gas bill is part of the sales process, Owen confirmed. “In order to enrol a customer for the program, we need their account and point of delivery, which the customer has to provide to us.”
There is a code of conduct to which gas marketers must adhere, said Krissy Van Loon, of the BC Utilities Commission.
Marketers must identify themselves “immediately, truthfully and fully” according to one of several articles in the code of conduct, as well as indicate the purpose of their visit.
Van Loon said customers can file a dispute or a complaint with the BCUC if they feel the code of conduct was not followed. From April 2020 to March 31, 2021, the BCUC received 15 complaints and 72 disputes about gas marketers in B.C.
“Of the disputes, the majority are related to three of the most active gas marketers in B.C., which include Easy Energy, Access Gas Services and Summit Energy,” Van Loon said.
Munroe said he disputed his contract with the BCUC, citing “fraudulent misrepresentation” during the sales process but the commission ruled in favour of the gas marketer.
“I can’t even cancel with them until September 2022,” he said. “I would really like to see a warning to locals who may have been tricked by these sales lately, they only have the 10 days to cancel and find out that they were not signing up for what they were told they were. And they should not show their gas bills to anyone.”