Knocking on Your Door vol. 12: “you are not required to sign with Direct Energy as a Pepco customer”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jordan Barab

“Dear PoPville,

TLDR; you are not required to sign with Direct Energy as a Pepco customer. You have many choices on how to source your energy as a Pepco customer. If they come to your door, hopefully you won’t feel obligated to sign with them.

I just wanted to write in and warn the rest of your readers about Direct Energy, who came to our door last night. Direct Energy is a legitimate provider of energy to Pepco, and due to energy deregulation in DC, is one of the many providers Pepco customers have the option of choosing to purchase their energy from. If you choose to sign on with one of these providers, your bill will still come from Pepco, but Pepco will purchase energy from the provider you selected instead of whomever they choose. The benefit of purchasing from a provider is often being locked into a fixed rate, and the ability to factor in environmental considerations (by purchasing only solar, or from a clean energy provider such as Ethical Electric).

The salespeople who came to our door from Direct Energy made several misrepresentations, which made the customer feel like they were required to sign up for their service:

-First, they cited the reason for coming to our home was that we had not responded to a notification in our Pepco bill within 6 months. We were unable to locate this notification, and they made it seem that there would be an issue with Pepco if we didn’t respond. They said that by responding to this notification we would stop our rates from rising.

-Second, they spoke about the deregulation as something that had recently occurred and warranted a change in our service. DC Pepco customers have had provider options for quite some time, and to my knowledge, nothing about that has changed recently. (Please let me know if I’m mistaken and there was a recent change!)

-Third, they had us sign a form that authorized the company to contact us and make the change to their service. After signing this form, the salesperson immediately entered our contact info into his iPad and had corporate call us IMMEDIATELY following our conversation. This gave you no time to do alternate research, or even substantiate their claims of deregulation and rising rates.

Interested in hearing if any of your readers had a similar experience with Direct Energy, and if so, if they felt that in the sales interaction that they were required to make the switch.”

22 Comment

  • Serious question – why do people even respond to door to door sales? Once I hear that the person at my door is trying to sell me something, it’s “No thanks” and a closing door.

    • Exactly. In the internet era, there is no way that I’m going to sign up for any service at my front door. I’m going to research it on the web and find the best deal.

    • Candy, vacuums, salvation, etc. are pretty easy “no thank you” and shut the door items. When someone ostensibly representing a vital utility makes confusing threats about your service, even intelligent, well-educated people are likely to listen. This is reprehensible.

      • +1 to sproc – I could see many smart people pausing to listen to this as they may not be aware of the energy deregulation situation. It’s especially confusing as the Pepco is still doing the billing.

      • I would say that someone who signs over their utility service to a random door to door salesperson after a five minute pitch without taking the time to look into the issue is neither intelligent nor well-educated.

        • Hey, cut the OP some slack. I’m surprised that he/she was taken in, but from what I hear, these alternate energy providers do a pretty good job of misrepresenting themselves.

          • Seriously? Ok – PSA: never sign any contract/agreement that you do not understand. 2nd PSA: reputable businesses do not need to engage in high pressure door to door sales pitches.

    • Hey all, OP here. Certainly agree with all of you that closing the door on salespeople is the best option, but I brought this to attention because this visit was not represented as a sale. They stated that the reason for their visit was that we were 6 months delinquent on a response related to our Pepco bill, and that they were required to ‘review’ this notification with us. It wasn’t until about halfway through their pitch on deregulation that they even mentioned that they didn’t work for Pepco. As Kes mentions below, they made it sound like there would be consequences through the utility for inaction.

      Also, we made certain that our information was only to be used for an informational call; we did not sign a contract at our doorstep. I am remotely familiar with the consumer choice options for service in DC, and did research to confirm my suspicions as soon as they left. However, out of concern for my neighbors that are not familiar with DC’s deregulation policies (new residents, etc.) I sent this in to PoP.

      Thanks for the recommendations for avenues to report– after reviewing the regulations, it also appears that going door-to-door after sunset is not permitted, in addition to the misrepresentation.

  • Pretty shady stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  • it would make my day for these folks to come by. please file a complaint with the office of the people’s counsel.

    i’m all for salesmen, but against misinformation and this kind of pressure.

    info on all your choices for electricity generation/transmission suppliers can be found here. pepco has to do the distribution and handles the bill, but you can choose for these two other components.

  • I hope the original poster will take the time to file a complaint with the DC Public Service Commission. I complained to them once about Washington Gas, and they were really helpful. You can file a complaint here
    Also, if you are looking for an electric provider (you really can choose your own, and you really can save money or choose a greener provider), DC PSC has a helpful flyer here. I think they update it once a month. Interestingly, Direct Energy isn’t on the list. Not sure why that is.

  • This is why I don’t engage people who bring an agenda to my front door. Salespeople, Lawyers, Bible-Toters, etc. I just ask they send whatever it is in writing and give me time to look it over. They never do, of course.

  • Shiesty as hell, but hey, it (almost) worked?

  • HaileUnlikely

    Yes. I told them that I have been a satisfied customer of Ethical Electric for the last 2 years and they just said “ok, thanks” and walked away.

  • They came thru my neighborhood in NE a few months ago. The salesguy was *very* persistent, despite my repeatedly telling him to come back later. He insisted on seeing a bill, mentioned the locked-in rate if we signed with them and made it sound like we *had* to sign up with somebody, or else Pepco would somehow transfer our account or charge us more or something. They were also offering a $50 gift card for signing up. So I finally agreed, and he did the iPad contract bit, then left saying I’d get a phone call right away. The phone call person’s pitch mentioned I could not back out of the contract and had no grace period (salesguy said I had three days to change my mind.) So I said I didn’t feel comfortable with that and didn’t agree. Am still getting my electric bills just fine from Pepco and still paying them. I do want to go solar eventually, so I’m glad I ultimately didn’t lock-in with these guys, but the OP is right about it being very high-pressure, and implying all sorts of dire consequences to your electric service if you don’t sign up.

  • The procedure of having someone from corporate call you while the salesperson is at the door is standard for door-to-door energy sales, as I understand it, and it’s actually there to protect the consumer – i.e., so the corporate office, not the door-to-door salesman, collects your sensitive data. That said, this does sounds like the salesperson did some ethically questionable things. I believe you are allowed to rescind your selection of an electric provider within a few days of making your choice, so you might seek to do that if you don’t want to use Direct Energy.

  • Thanks to the OP and Dan for posting. I received a visit at my house yesterday from Direct Energy and didn’t know what to make of it. It felt scammy because the salesman didn’t have an ID or a business card but some of what he said made sense. Also, he couldn’t provide me with a number to call at a later date. Thanks for filling in the holes and educating me!

  • Thanks for calling this to people’s attention, OP. This issue has come up on PoPville before, but it’s always good to get a reminder.
    Previous threads:
    Feb. 2012 –
    I didn’t include this phenomenon in the list of scams that the Prince posted a while back ( ) because it’s not a clear-cut scam the way the others are. But it seems that door-to-door reps from one or more third-party energy company are misrepresenting who they are and giving people a hard sell, so maybe this should qualify as a scam after all.

  • The best deal that I found for windpower was signing up with Groundswell. They gather a group of interested residents and negotiate twice a year for the best price for 100% wind. I had previously signed up with Washington Gas Energy Services for a locked in rate for 50% wind, but by signing up with Groundswell, I am now paying less for 100% wind than I used to pay for 50% wind. And the supplier through Groundswell ended up being Wash Gas Energy Services. The next sign-up period will be in the spring.

    Groundswell is also now offering bulk solar installs, but significant discounts.

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