EDMONTON – A Sherwood Park woman is frustrated with how her power company, Direct Energy, has handled her bills.
Mandy Dunlop has lived in the same house for approximately a year. She said her previous electricity bills, which are monthly, have been around $200.
But last month, she received a bill for $626, roughly three times her normal power bill.
“That was quite a surprise,” she said. “It doesn’t really make sense to go up this much.”
Mandy said there were no changes to how she powered her house so she was confused about her bill.
“It’s very frustrating to get a bill that size,” she said.
Mandy called Direct Energy looking for answers but said the company did not provide any.
“I asked a few questions about why there was an increase. Basically what he told me was the rate I was paying, which is fine, but he wasn’t very specific about why there was an increase.”
She ultimately paid her bill in full over fears her service would be cut off. But Mandy said she still wants to know the reason behind the abnormally high bill.
“It’s paying for a service and not getting any response from it. It would have been a lot nicer if he could have at least talked me through why this bill is as big as it is,” she said.
Direct Energy is a competitive energy provider, which means customers enter into contracts with the company and pay a non-regulated rate. Whereas Direct Energy Regulated Services is a regulated service, which does not require a contract yet offers a regulated rate.
The Better Business Bureau said the regulated arm of the company, Direct Energy Regulated Services, is accredited and has an A rating. But Direct Energy is not an accredited company with it and holds a F rating with the BBB.
Leah Brownridge, marketing and communications coordinator with the BBB – Calgary, said the F rating for Direct Energy means the company is not responding to any kinds of complaints.
“Whether it’s from the consumer or from BBB, they are not taking any kinds of steps to resolve matters. Whether it’s a cancellation policy, with contracts, not really clarifying what it is that the consumer is having a problem with, there’s just no effort as far as BBB has seen to have Direct Energy work with them to fix these problems,” she said.
Brownridge said there has been little effort on the part of Direct Energy to mediate and work with consumers in the Edmonton area. However, since Direct Energy is not accredited, it is not obligated to sit down with the BBB.
She said other options for consumers include seeking their own legal advice, reaching out to the company directly or speaking with the Utilities Consumer Advocate for potential recourse.
The majority of complaints to the Utilities Consumer Advocate are about Direct Energy and its regulated arm, Direct Energy Regulated Services.
There were 178 mediation calls last month about Direct Energy. The next closest company, Enmax Competitive, had 13 calls while Just Energy Alberta had seven calls.
|Utilities Consumer Advocate|
|Number of mediation calls – Competitive Energy Providers|
|Just Energy Alberta||7|
It is a similar story for Direct Energy Regulated Services; Utilities Consumer Advocate received 141 calls. The next closest company, Epcor, had 21 calls.
|Utilities Consumer Advocate|
|Number of mediation calls – Regulated Energy Providers|
|Direct Energy Regulated Services||141|
|City of Lethbridge||2|
A spokesperson for Direct Energy told Global News the company opened an investigation into Mandy’s file.
Later, Mandy said Direct Energy contacted the family and told them there was a billing error where several months’ bills were grouped together.
Mandy’s husband Kris asked why there was no warning about it and was told the company was never asked to provide one.
“The company said they screwed up and had bad communication,” he said. “If I had some sort of warning [from them], then it would not have been a problem but there was no explanation.”
While the issue may now be resolved, Mandy is not satisfied with how the company failed to communicate about the family’s bills.
“You want to know where your money is going,” she said.
Mandy was told the bills should be back to their normal amount for the next billing cycle. She said that if it isn’t, she will move her business to another power company.