EDMONTON – A St. Albert woman said she is fed up with Direct Energy Regulated Services after it took more than a year to resolve her billing issues.
Bonnie Dell moved out of her condo in St. Albert in October 2014 and cancelled her account with Direct Energy Regulated Services.
Dell said her bill was normally around $70 a month but when she got the final bill, it came to $497.23.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s not right,’” she said.
Dell called to dispute the final bill but said she ran into issues every time she spoke with customer service.
“I would get a ticket number every time. ‘We will open this ticket. We’ll investigate it and we’ll get back to you.’ But then I wouldn’t get a call back so I would phone back. I haven’t heard from you. They would open another ticket. They weren’t exactly sure what was happening with it,” she said.
But Dell, who by then had moved into a house, kept receiving bills for her old address.
“I wasn’t living in the condo. They said I had to prove I wasn’t living there so I sent the copy of my house sale document from the lawyer over the Internet twice to them, proving that I had moved out on that date,” she said.
Unfortunately, that still wasn’t enough to resolve the billing issue.
Dell finally stopped receiving bills in March 2015, but by then, her final bill came out to $1103.48. In June 2015, she received a letter from a collection agency.
“That’s when I lost my mind a little bit,” she said.
Dell explained the situation to the collection agency, which said it would pause her file, and she called Direct Energy yet again.
“I opened another ticket…and said ok, so now I’m not being overly nice anymore. This has got to be done now. This is starting to affect my credit rating,” she said.
“I again opened a couple tickets, heard nothing about it for the rest of the summer. I’m now annoyed.”
In December 2015, Dell received another call from a different collection agency about her outstanding bill.
Dell explained her situation again and called Direct Energy with the agency on the line. She was told someone would be in touch with her January 2016.
“I said it would be awesome if you called us back. I didn’t hear a thing,” she said.
When Global News reached out to Direct Energy Regulated Services about Dell’s situation, we received the following statement:
“Direct Energy appreciates Ms. Dell’s patience as we worked through her case. We have fixed the issue and have come to a mutually agreeable resolution. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.”
However, it did not respond to our specific questions about why Dell continued to receive bills after she cancelled her account or why the issue had dragged on for more than a year.
Dell said a representative from Direct Energy’s corporate office in Texas called her the next day and apologized to her about her file. The company also offered her $75 for her inconvenience.
“She said ‘We’re going to wipe the whole thing clean.’ I said, ‘Well technically I still owe you the remainder of the month for October 2014 and I’m happy to pay that.’ That’s been my thing all along,” she said.
Minister of Municipal Affairs Danielle Larrivee, who spoke to Global News on behalf of Minister of Service Alberta Stephanie McLean said the government has heard a lot of concerns from residents about Direct Energy.
“[It] is certainly not okay. Very much we recognized Albertans have a right to be frustrated about not getting the customer service they deserve. We very much agree the energy bills should be fair and easy to understand,” Larrivee said.
Larrivee said the deputy minister of Service Alberta and the deputy minister of Energy will be working on a report expected this spring about how to improve customer service and provide better consumer protections.
“We recognize Albertans have a right to be frustrated and they deserve better consumer protections. We will be working with the Utilities Consumer Advocate on that,” she said.
Leah Brownridge, marketing and communications coordinator, with the Better Business Bureau in Calgary said consumers have a few options to turn to when faced with similar situations.
“Consumers can either seek their own legal advice if they wish to do that, through a lawyer or what not. If they want to try and reach out to the business directly themselves or they could visit the Alberta Consumer Utilities Advocate Group as well and see if they can have some kind of recourse through them,” she said.
“They can still file complaints with us at the BBB and we can certainly try to work with the consumer.”
As for Dell, she is pleased the issue has now been resolved but she said there are still more questions than answers.
“I’m pleased it’s going to be over. The sad part is the media had to get involved. Who knows how long this would go on for?” she said.
“It bugs me when you’re being honest and you have your documentation and you’re sending everything. It doesn’t get resolved because of that. The only reason it got resolved is because the media got involved.”
Service Alberta charged Direct Energy Marketing Ltd. under consumer protection legislation in 2014 and 2015 with allegedly failing to cancel a contract and failing to provide a refund on time.
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