Monday, May 10, 2010

Direct Energy Just Won’t Go Away

A while back I replaced a hot water heater that had sprung a leak. In my financial analysis of whether to rent or buy a new hot water heater I didn’t take into account the fact that Direct Energy would just keep charging me for the old hot water heater I returned.

I have a nice receipt showing that I returned the old water heater on March 15, but the latest gas bill from Enbridge still has a rental charge of $15.21 (with GST) from Direct Energy. I’d like to refuse to pay, but Enbridge is the enforcer here. They can cut off my gas if I don’t pay whatever amount Direct Energy asks for.

We haven’t been sitting on our hands just hoping that the billing works out. When the previous gas bill had a full rental charge, my wife called Direct Energy. Their records indicated that the heater had been returned March 17 (off by two days but close enough). Everything seemed to be in order. We had to pay in full for the partial month, but there would be no further charges.

She called again when the most recent gas bill had another rental charge. This time the records supposedly indicated that the heater had been returned late April. At this point my wife saw a potential pattern of advancing the heater return date each month and charging us indefinitely.

So my wife tried to explain what she had been told on her last call to Direct Energy. The response from Jannita (spelling confirmed) was “well, you didn’t talk to me.” Apparently whenever you call Direct Energy to resolve some matter, you have to ask for Jannita or else you deserve whatever you get.

This call ended with a promise that the next bill wouldn’t have a charge and the bill after that would have a credit for the extra month charged. On a later call to Enbridge, my wife learned that Enbridge has a record of the heater being returned in late April. So, there is some hope.

Adding to the frustration of this nonsense was the marketing calls from Direct Energy after we returned the heater. Apparently, because we are such good customers we have the privilege of getting a new water heater and paying a lot more each month to rent it. What a deal!

We received two such calls from Direct Energy (and some paper mail with a similar offer). In both cases the caller insisted that their records indicated that we still rented from Direct Energy. In addition we had a competitor of Direct Energy come to our door “to check on our water heater’s efficiency” and try to trick us into switching suppliers. No doubt these sleazy competitors were the reason for Direct Energy’s marketing efforts. The calls probably had nothing to do with us having returned the rented heater.

In the end I’m hopeful that we won’t be charged any further, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for the promised credit.


  1. That sounds familiar, while we didn't have an issue with returning their tank when we bought our own, we did have an issue when we were incorrectly billed for a furnance cleaning (we never use Direct Energy for any service). Took a few months to get the bill corrected and my money back. There should be something we can do to prevent these guys from billing through Enbridge, it makes it too easy for them and no incentive for them to fix any issues quickly.

  2. @Gregory: I agree. Direct Energy have little incentive to correct over-billing when homeowners have an Enbridge gun to their heads.

  3. HUGE take!

    Mrs. MJ shows great persistence (sp?) in her capabilities to bash her head against the Brick Wall that is Enbridge Customer (dis)Service.

    Nothing like a Monopoly to give you the service you deserve (in their opinion).

    Heating my house with Methane from a Big Pond of Pig Fesces sounds like more customer service friendly than Enbridge.

  4. Small claims court! Take 'em to Judge Judy.

  5. @Big Cajun Man and @Patrick: It's not clear to me that Enbridge is the problem here. For all I know the law requires them to collect hot water heater rental fees. It would be nice if Enbridge offered the option of letting a customer refuse to pay for the non-Enbridge part of a bill. I'm not sure if they are allowed to do this.

  6. It sounds like you got yourself into a Dilbert-esque follies of big businesses with departmental silos that don't talk to one another.

    Keep blogging on this. Maybe all the bad pr will get them to finally do something (it seems to work whenever someone complains about Rogers).

  7. @Thicken: I don't actually expect my blogging to make a difference to large companies like this. I'm more interested in learning from readers how to avoid these problems and to show readers how I managed to avoid some problems.

  8. I was told back in September that statement that I received for an unsolicited charge was cancelled and I would not receive any further statements. May 19,2010, with yet another late payment charge of $5.99, they say I owe $405.45 now. Please get your act together I am tired of calling and getting numbers that represent that I have talked to someone.

  9. ontario energy board will help you. they solved my problem.

  10. @Anonymous: That's good to know. Fortunately, Direct Energy has finally stopped billing me, and so I don't have to contact the Ontario Energy Board. Now I'll see if next month they refund the extra amounts charged.