The government is starting to listen to the mounting series of complaints about IDT Energy‘s sales rep’s tactics; Brooklyn Council Member Bill De Blasio is asking that you report the following if an ESCO comes to your door:
A friend of sent me your article on ESCOS [Energy Service Companies]. My father is a senior citizen and he signed up, and his energy bill has sky rocketed, we have called his energy resell co. three different times asking them to cancel his contract every time they say we will it will take about 30 days, but nothing is happening, can you advise me how to get him out of this contract?
A reader on Manhattan’s Upper West Side spotted an IDT energy salesman going door-to-door this week. The tipster nabbed a copy of IDT’s enrollment forms so you know what to look for when the scammy salesmen try to wrangle you into signing up for services that can triple the cost of your energy bill.
In case you missed any of 7-part undercover report on IDT-Energy, Midtown Promotions, and the fabulous worlds of energy resale and multi-level-marketing, here’s a recap:
After only three days with Midtown Promotions, I could already tell that I’d wait weeks, maybe months or a full year before coming upon hard evidence of fraud, if I found any evidence at all. After leaving James and Doreen in the Bronx, I took the afternoon off and went to work on these diaries.
From the moment I met up with James, and Doreen, who was going our way, things began to fall apart. Eric told me to follow James, not Carl, who was going solo. I was to listen to James’ instructions, follow his example, and go to wherever he decided we should spend the day. Today was Mt. Vernon, NY, almost 90 minutes from the offices of Midtown Promotions.
If you’re just now tuning in, we’ve been doling out daily pieces of our multi-part investigation into IDT-Energy. They’re an energy reseller in the New York area and we’ve received multiple complaints about their salesperson’s dressing as ConEd workers and doing other funny stuff at the door to get people to sign over. So we sent in Brian Fairbanks undercover to get hired at Midtown Promotions, a direct-sales marketing company IDT-Energy contracted to get subscribers.
I work from home and was in the middle of a busy period when a young man came to my door saying that he worked for ConEd or that he was doing some work for ConEd — he definitely identified himself with ConEd. Anyways, he told me he that he was doing work in the building and that he needed to see my bill to check if I had a message on it indicating that I was one of the ones in the building who would be getting a discount next month. Well, chock it up to me being distracted or just plain gullible, but I never even thought for a second that it was a scam. He seemed like he was merely performing a check, not anything more. He then proceed to tell me that I was, in fact, one of the lucky ones, and that I’d be seeing a 7% discount starting next month (all the while making notations on my bill, supposedly indicating where the savings would come from).
Before the morning meeting started, I left my man-purse on a set of boxes right by the blackboard, with the microphone discreetly poking out of the pocket.
A guy may come to your door pitching the fabulous savings you’ll get by switching to an energy reseller. But before you sign on the line which is dotted, ask these questions:
“Several companies are engaging in these very aggressive tactics against consumers and small businesses, many of the people and the businesses are getting ripped off,” said City Councilman John Liu. “There needs to be stronger regulation.” — BEN POPKEN
The NY Post ran a good article looking into whether the savings promised by door-to-door energy resale reps like IDT Energy ever really materialize for subscribers:
“I’ve had complaints from residents, as well as small businesses, who have unwittingly switched to a different energy provider and seen their bills go through the roof,” said City Councilman John Liu (D-Queens).
One Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, IDT customer – a bartender who gave her name as Carmel – said her electric bill jumped from $40 to $70, and she is anxious to cancel.
While scanning the collateral Brian picked up in his investigation, we nearly choked on this gem buried in their terms and conditions: it says that you’ll get 7% savings for the first two months, but after that, there’s no telling whether your bill will be higher or lower than what it would be with ConEd (click to enlarge image).
I sat in the offices of Midtown Promotions, watching the receptionist field calls from job prospects, still surprised at having been one of those callers not even twenty-four hours prior.
Midtown Promotions has no yellow pages entry, no website, and no apparent internet job postings. Cruising their profile on Rip Off Report, a site where, natch, consumers file complaints against companies they feel ripped them off, I found a number for Midtown Promotions main office. It took several discussions with the editor of The Consumerist before we felt we nailed down the approach to the first phone call…
You too can work for an energy supplier and seize a piece of this exciting money-making opportunity! At least, that’s what the Craigslist ad told us.
You may know well the great promise of Network Marketing.
We love the part where they say the amount of money you can make from this depends on,
The timing of entry of the networker into the company growth curve.
aka, it’s better to be at the top of the Ponzi scheme. For the uninitiated, network marketing is just another name for multi-level-marketing (MLM), structurally similar to a pyramid scheme, except usually there’s an actual product being sold. Employees get money for selling products, and for signing up new recruits. A cut of your commission flows up to the guy who signed you up, and you get a cut of your recruits’ commissions, and so on up the pyramid. The FTC ruled that MLM isn’t illegal per se. Often they’re set up so the people on the very bottom don’t make much, or even end up losing, money. Amway is a famous example.
Max from Queens tells us what it’s like to have IDT Energy knocking on your door:
My front buzzer rang a little while ago while I was in the shower. I figured it was UPS, and that my roommate would go out to get it. A short while later, the bell on my apartment went off, and I guessed that he had forgotten to grab his keys on the way out. So I grabbed a towel, and went to let him in. Instead of my roommate, there was some dude with a binder.