Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Costly Liars at the Front Door

The Ontario Energy Board is seeking a $495,000 penalty against Summitt Energy for unfair practices in their business of trying to sign people up for 5-year fixed price contracts for gas and electricity. Ellen Roseman reported on this and the detailed allegations can be found here.

Here is my favourite allegation:

“AB attended at the residence of T.V. in Pickering, Ontario. He did not identify himself as being a sales agent from Summitt but rather stated he was a representative of Veridian, the local utility in Pickering. AB told T.V. that he had just changed the meter outside her home and she needed to sign a document to prove that he had attended at the residence. He did not explain that the document was for a five year fixed price contract with Summitt for the supply of natural gas and electricity.”

I don’t think most of us are prepared for brazen lying of the type alleged here. I expect people to shade the truth a little, but just don’t expect something like this while speaking face-to-face with someone who seems friendly enough.

The lesson is that we should read documents carefully before signing them regardless of what we’re told they contain. This is doubly true when the document is presented by a stranger at your door.

The sad truth is that if Summitt’s current practices are still profitable after taking into account this fine, then they have no reason to change anything. Businesses seek profit within the rules imposed on them. Businesses aren’t people. They aren’t friendly or considerate or evil. They are just machines that seek profit. We need laws that make unsavoury practices unprofitable. Hopefully the Ontario Energy Board’s actions are a step in the right direction.

1 comment:

  1. I think you should have more faith in your fellow human. I was just telling the Wallet Inspector on Rideau Street that same point, just before he pointed out there was a problem with my wallet so he was going to have to take it in for further inspection, I hope he mails it back soon.