From the Better Business Bureau
A Grand Rapids consumer reports to BBB that a person knocked on her door stating he was there on behalf of DTE Energy to discuss an incorrect charge that might be on her DTE Bill. He asked if her most recent DTE bill contained a “Gas Recovery Fee” and, if it did, that the fee was charged in error. The representative asked to take a copy of the bill and stated he could have the charge removed from future bills and obtain a refund on any “Gas Recovery Fees” already paid to DTE. BBB advises consumers to beware, and don’t be fooled! The company’s true intent is to switch your natural gas service to Direct Energy.
Direct Energy representatives are currently canvassing in West Michigan; however, they may be identifying themselves as “with DTE” or “on behalf of DTE” with no mention of the true company, Direct Energy. Direct Energy is based in Houston, Texas, and is licensed with the Michigan Public Service Commission as an alternative gas supplier. Typically, alternative gas suppliers contact consumers and entice them to switch natural gas providers by offering a lower gas rate than the consumer’s current provider for a specified contract term. Often the rate increases dramatically after the contract term expires.
As for the Gas Recovery Fee, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission, this is a legitimate charge; this charge reflects the actual cost incurred by your natural gas company to purchase the gas you use. The fee will vary depending on the actual amount of gas you use.
Direct Energy has a “C” grade with BBB, with more than 600 complaints on file. The company uses a variety of business names: CPL Retail Energy, Energetix, Inc., First Choice Power, Gateway Energy, Gateway Power Services, Hess Energy Marketing, New Leaf Energy, NYSEG Solutions, Vectren Source, WTU, WTU Retail Energy. In Michigan, the company uses Direct Energy Services.
The BBB Business Review identifies a pattern of complaints alleging the following:
Door-to-door salesmen do not properly identify themselves as Direct Energy employees; instead they are stating that they work for various other energy companies in an attempt to switch consumers without their knowledge.
Increasingly aggressive sales people; consumers state the door-to-door salesman have repeatedly come to their homes, sometimes up to 3 times daily. One recent complaint alleges that the sales person actually pushed the consumer’s door open.
Senior citizens may specifically be targeted.
Consumers are being asked for their bills but think they are actually talking with the utility since the salesmen are not identifying themselves as with Direct Energy.
BBB suggests the following when approached by a door-to-door solicitor:
Do not be pressured into providing personal information or sharing your bill
Request proof of employment with company/Employment ID card
If someone shows up at your house unexpectedly and claims to work for a utility company, call the company and confirm that it authorized the person to visit your home.
Check the company’s BBB Business Review.
If you suspect something is amiss, contact BBB.
Be sure to always research any organization you are considering doing business with by visiting www.bbb.org/western-michigan!