The Attorney General's Office for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced earlier this week that it had reached a settlement with Just energy, an electricity supplier, to resolve several deceptive marketing allegations. The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleged that:
"... Just Energy, through a third-party telemarketing vendor and door-to-door agents, engaged in deceptive marketing and sales that misled consumers into signing contracts based on attractive introductory pricing, only to later increase their electricity supply costs."
This blog first reported about Just Energy in 2010. After that blog post, consumers in the United States and Canada summited comments, followed by sales and sales management representatives of the electricity supplier. I did not see any mention of the settlement agreement in the Just Energy website. Based in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada0, the company lists a local office for Massachusetts residents in Buffalo, New York. Affiliated companies include Amigo Energy, Commerce Energy, Hudson Energy, and Tara Energy.
The Attorney General's announcement also stated:
"... ust Energy sales representatives allegedly failed to disclose complete and accurate pricing information to its customers by promising savings or representing that they could help consumers keep their electricity bills low. Instead, consumers were charged rates that were higher than the rates for the electricity supply provided by NSTAR and National Grid. Just Energy also allegedly induced elderly and non-native English speaking consumers by continuing to offer electricity supply services even after it became clear that they did not understand the terms of the proposed contract."
"Slamming" is when a consumer's service is switched without their consent. The allegations included slamming:
Consumers were allegedly switched from their distribution company to Just Energy without their authorization... The AG’s Office alleges that Just Energy made false representations concerning its electricity products, including that its products would provide “green” or “renewable” energy at prices comparable to basic service, and that its products were offered as part of a state-run program..."
Terms of the settlement agreement require Just Energy to pay $3.8 million into an independent trust to provide restitution to affected residents, and to pay $200,000 to the Commonwealth. To avoid slamming and deceptive marketing, the Attorney general's Office advises consumers to do these four things:
- Check your utility bills: to make sure that your service has not be switched to a different provider
- Protect your sensitive information: do not show your utility bills to door-to-door sales people. Only show your utility bills after you have decided to do business with a provider.
- Be cautious: your current service provider does not send door-to-door sales people.
- Know your rights: do not let door-to-door sales people into your home unless you know them personally. Contact local police if the sales agent refuses to leave or you believe you are threatened.
I congratulate the Attorney General's Office for protecting consumers and enforcing the laws.