An Abbotsford businessowner is urging gas customers to check their invoices after winning a protracted battle against a third-party provider who had him paying triple the normal gas rate.
Earlier this month, Maximum Collision owner Carl Jamieson finally received a cheque for more than $25,000 in overpaid gas charges.
Jamieson had unknowingly overpaid for gas for more than three years after an employee had unwittingly – and without authorization – signed a five-year contract in March of 2010.
That contract was brought to Jamieson’s attention a month later, and he thought he had cancelled his contract with the company, Active Energy.
Unbeknownst to Jamieson, though, the company had opened a second account for the business. And unlike the cancelled account, which was to provide gas to an office fireplace, the second heated Jamieson’s entire body shop.
Heating costs immediately tripled, but the additional expenses were masked by the size of the business and went unnoticed by Jamieson’s bookkeeper. The gas invoices still came from Fortis, with only a single line of text suggesting anything had changed.
The ensuing three years saw Active Energy, also known as Active Renewable Marketing Ltd., draw the ire of gas customers around British Columbia.
In 2011 the owner of a Burnaby auto repair shop found that her gas bills had skyrocketed after the company became her supplier. The contract with the company bore an owner’s signature that appeared to have been misspelled.
And in 2012, Cranbrook RCMP launched a fraud investigation that found allegedly forged signatures on contracts between businesses and Active Energy. Around the same time, the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) had established a compliance inquiry into 24 different customer disputes against the company.
Jamieson, though, didn’t know he was a possible victim until last December, when a company called Access Gas wrote to inform him that it had acquired his contract. (Active Energy and Access Gas applied in November to have the latter company acquire the contracts of the former.)
“I said wait a minute, I don’t have any dealings with these people,” Jamieson said.
After learning he actually did have still a contract on the books – and that the contract had him paying three times the normal rate – Jamieson asked the BCUC to force Access Gas to pay him back.
Jamieson argued the contract was invalid as the signing employee lacked the authority to enter into such a contract. .
After dozens of calls, Jamieson offered to drop the issue if Access Gas paid back 90 per cent of what its new acquisition had overcharged. Access offered 25 per cent.
That offer only solidified Jamieson’s resolve. In April, the BCUC ruled in his favour and ordered Access to repay the money. An appeal failed and Jamieson finally received a cheque earlier this month.
Having won his battle, Jamieson wants other businesses who may have been victimized to know it’s not too late to reclaim overpayments.
“I think there are others that don’t know,” he said.