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Just Energy Income Fund ( , formerly Energy Savings Income Fund) is an income fund established under the laws of Ontariomarker to hold securities and to distribute the income of its wholly owned subsidiaries collectively called the Energy Savings Group. The company was established in July, 1997.

Operations

Energy Savings' business, which is conducted in Ontariomarker, Manitobamarker, Quebecmarker, British Columbiamarker, Albertamarker, Texasmarker, Illinoismarker, New Yorkmarker and Indianamarker, involves the sale of natural gas to residential, small to mid-size commercial and small industrial customers under long term, irrevocable fixed price contracts - which, arguably unethically, are high enough they're almost never exceeded by transient rates. Energy Savings also supplies electricity to Ontariomarker, Albertamarker and New Yorkmarker customers.

The fund derives its margin or gross profit from the difference between the fixed price at which it is able to sell the commodities to its customers and the fixed price at which it purchases the matching volumes from its suppliers.

Better Business Bureau

The Better Business Bureau (Chicago) or BBB for short (http://www.bbb.org) currently gives Just Energy a Rating of "F", or it's lowest possible rating.

Reasons for this rating include:

   * 560 complaints filed against business
   * Failure to respond to 83 complaints filed against business.
   * 45 complaints filed against business that were not resolved.
   * Overall complaint history with BBB.
   * BBB does not have sufficient background information on this business.
   * Business has failed to resolve underlying cause(s) of a pattern of complaints.
   * One serious complaint filed against business.


This business has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to a pattern of complaints. Complainants allege they were subject to misleading sales practices, such as unauthorized enrollment in the program offered, and/or misrepresentation of contract length, and/or guarantees of savings, and/or ability to cancel the contract after the initial three day period.Consumer complaints also allege that the sales representatives from US Energy Savings represented themselves as working on behalf of Nicor and/or People's Gas, consequently misrepresenting their identities. Additional complaints allege that consumers who did not speak and/or understand English were likewise solicited and their signatures were obtained, enrolling them into US Energy's five year contract, despite these individuals' failure to fully understand what they were signing.

Other complaints allege that upon signing up with the company on the premise of savings on gas, consumers' bills did not decrease, but instead increased substantially.

Lawsuit

Attorney General of Illinois Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against U.S. Energy Savings Corp. (Now operating as "Just Energy"), for allegedly selling fixed-rate gas contracts using deceptive sales tactics that falsely promise significant consumer savings in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau has received 457 complaints against U.S. Energy, many of which were filed by senior citizens, and has reviewed more than 2,000 complaints from the Citizen’s Utility Board and 254 filed with the Better Business Bureau.

Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to enter an order prohibiting U.S. Energy from engaging in these deceptive sales practices. It also asks for a civil penalty of $50,000 for each violation committed with the intent to defraud and $10,000 for each instance where a violation was committed against a person 65 years of age or older. Further, the suit asks the court to rescind the contracts signed as a result of these deceptive practices and offer full restitution to affected consumers. Finally, it asks the court require U.S. Energy to pay all costs associated with the investigation and prosecution of the lawsuit.

Since 2005, the Attorney General has filed four lawsuits against alternative gas suppliers, and earlier this year, she drafted and negotiated pro-consumer legislation to regulate the alternative suppliers. The legislation, which was drafted by the Attorney General’s office and sponsored by Rep. Thomas Holbrook (D-Belleville), Rep. Marlow Colvin (D-Chicago) and Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), was enacted in April 2009 and requires stricter disclosure practices and limits termination fees.

Specifically, the new law:

• Requires all sales solicitations to clearly disclose the prices, terms and conditions of all products and services;

• Prohibits suppliers from misrepresenting their affiliation with a gas utility, governmental body or consumer group;

• Provides consumers with a right to cancel within 10 days after the gas utility notifies them of the switch and 10 days after the date of the first bill if they find that the service is not as promised;

• Limits early termination fees to $50 and requires any agreement containing an early termination clause to disclose the total cancellation fee.

Controversy

On June 21, 2003, the Toronto Star reported that both Direct Energy and the Ontario Energy Savings Corp., a subsidiary of the then-Energy Savings Income Fund, had been charged with fraud as a result of its agents having forging energy contracts and had been fined. Ontario Energy Savings Corp. defended these charges by stating that the forgery was a result of individual agents, and not indicative of the way the company conducts business.

On January 31, 2007, the Toronto Star reported that agents of an energy marketers - in Ontario, likely either Direct Energy or the Ontario Energy Savings Corp., a subsidiary of the Energy Savings Income Fund - had breached a number of the regulations of the Ontario Energy Board established to protect customers. The article's author also suggested that the prices the marketer was offering to consumers was based on unrealistic projections of how much energy prices would rise in the next five years.

References

  1. http://www.bbb.org/chicago/business-reviews/natural-gas-companies/just-energy-in-chicago-il-86002251#ratingdetails
  2. http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/pressroom/2008_02/20080208_usesc.html
  3. http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2009/05/il_us_energy.html
  4. Direct Energy fined, Ontario Energy Savings Corp too by Toronto Star. Retrieved 19 October 2008
  5. Shop around before you sign energy contract by Toronto Star. Retrieved 19 October 2008


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