I have taken several calls from readers who said they tried to phone Dominion East Ohio to request a change to natural gas service and were told the information in my column last week was incorrect.
The information was correct; some of the Dominion representatives were incorrect.
That’s certainly frustrating for readers and me. Dominion spokesman Neil Durbin said after researching some of the phone calls and accounts I reported that were having difficulty, it appeared that some Dominion representatives needed further training.
The column detailed how Dominion had supposedly streamlined its process to request what is called the Standard Choice Offer (SCO). This is a monthly variable price with a state-approved formula that I have chosen for service this winter.
Before, you needed to call Dominion after you saw the Standard Service Offer (SSO) on your bill so you could request the SCO by your third month to make sure you got the correct rate. Now, you should be able to call right away.
You can also have Dominion cancel your other provider and switch you to the SCO. But again, I caution that you either know what your cancellation fee is with your current provider if you leave early or call that provider to find out. Also, if you think your contract with your provider “expired” this year and you didn’t call or notify the company that you didn’t want it to renew, in all likelihood, that contract did renew and you are on a new contract with probably a new rate and possibly a cancellation fee with that company.
Companies are allowed to automatically renew you if you do not contact them to cancel, so it is your responsibility to know your contract and rates.
Go online to find previous columns about natural gas at www.ohio.com/betty. There’s also an archive of my energy-related stories at www.ohio.com/energy.
Lynne Black, executive director of a number of contractor-related associations in the area, phoned me the other day asking whether I would warn consumers of a scam that has been popping up.
Black is the leader of the Air Conditioning Contracting Association’s Akron-Canton Chapter, the Mason Contractors’ Association of Northeast Ohio, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry of Northeast Ohio, the Subcontractors Association of Northeast Ohio and the National Subcontractors Alliance.
While Black said she has heard specific information about one particular contractor in town, she wouldn’t be surprised if others are doing the same thing. The contractor, who is not a member of any of Black’s associations, is going to people’s homes and scaring them into thinking their furnaces are in need of immediate replacement. He often persuades the consumer to pay two-thirds as a down payment — in some cases that’s been $2,000. (Black said it varies according to contractor and company, but many will ask for nothing down or one-third down and the rest at delivery.)
When consumers change their mind and have contacted the contractor within the state’s three days’ right to cancel a sale, the contractor tells them he is charging them a 6 percent cancellation fee.
If the sale is canceled within the three-day window, consumers should get 100 percent of their payment back, Black said. It is illegal to charge any cancellation fee, she said.
“This is bad for all of the industries that look bad when they’re not all to blame,” Black said.
Cynthia Sich, executive director of the Summit County Office of Consumer Affairs, said any time a contract is signed in your home for a sale over $25, the consumer has three business days to cancel the sale in writing without any penalty. Business days are considered Monday through Saturday.
Black said consumers who have had problems with a contractor may call her at 330-762-9951, ext. 22, and she will do her best to help. Her associations also have directories of contractors who are members.
Sich said consumers can also call her agency at 330-643-2879.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.