By Chris Marchand
Should you find yourself with a salesperson on your doorstep offering energy savings on electricity or natural gas or demanding to see your latest energy bill, Kenora Rainy River MPP Howard Hampton says there are a few things you should know.
“What they’re actually offering are headaches, stress and inflated bills,” says Hampton.
One local business that contacted the Dryden Observer in the interest of warning the community, but did not wish to be named, can attest to that. After signing onto a five-year natural gas contract with an energy marketer, management of the medium-sized local business began comparing Union Gas rates with those of their energy contract at the business. Locked into the contract, they found they were paying nearly $2,300 per month more through the energy contract. Over the span of a five-year contract they anticipate their losses to be well over $100,000.
Energy retailers do not produce or distribute electricity or natural gas. They buy it from the same local utility that consumers do (Hydro One and Union Gas) and re-sell it to the customer.
“It’s just adding a middle-man to the picture,” Hampton says of signing a contract. “It’s the same electricity, same gas, the cost is all that changes and that can be a real hit for the consumer.”
Hampton says tactics include warning residents of impending skyrocketing rates and offering them the peace of mind of a fixed rate for five years. Hampton says in 2007 many were convinced to lock into gas rates as high as $0.40 cents per cubic metre when in fact gas prices fell drastically. Currently residential homeowners pay $0.11 to $0.15 per cubic metre through Union Gas.
CBC TV program Marketplace did an in-depth report on the industry in March of 2009 and found that since 2005 not a single person had saved money locking into a hydro contract with a retailer.
Later this month Howard Hampton’s energy retailer expert, Sarah Campbell, will do information sessions on energy retailers in communities throughout the region. Sessions are currently scheduled for Dryden (June 16 and 21 – Best Western 7 p.m.), Vermilion Bay (June 18 – Happy Go Lucky Seniors’ Centre 11 a.m.), and Ignace (June 20 – Northwoods Motor Inn – 7 p.m.).
An earlier session in Kenora in March of this year led to Hampton’s office being notified of nearly 150 retailer contracts, many of whom have been cancelled or shortened as a result.
Anyone who has any questions or has signed a contract and now has second thoughts is encouraged to call Hampton’s Dryden office toll-free at 1-800-465-8501 for possible assistance.