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Commerce Energy using deceptive door-to-door sales practices, BBB says

Lorraine Mirabella

4:48 PM EST, January 10, 2013

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The Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland is warning that Commerce Energy representatives are using "strong-arm tactics" when going door-to-door selling residential electric services in some neighborhoods.

"According to complaints, sales representatives visit the same house repeatedly even after being asked to leave, not solicit, not come back or even when told the resident is ill," the BBB said Thursday in a release.

The group suggests consumers screen solicitors at their front doors.

"Strong-arm tactics and disregard of a homeowner's request not to solicit are two sales practices that have no business in our marketplace," Angie Barnett, president/CEO of BBB of Greater Maryland, said in the statement.

Commerce is an affiliate of Ontario-based Hudson Energy and is licensed by the Maryland Public Service Commission to supply residential electric service. A spokeswoman said she was checking late Thursday on whether the PSC has received complaints about the energy provider.

The BBB said customers also have complained about getting higher than quoted bills when they did switch suppliers.

Barnett said deregulation has led to some confusion over the supply and delivery of energy, putting consumers at a disadvantage.

Under the Federal Trade Commission’s cooling off rule, consumers have three days to cancel purchases of more than $25 made in their home or somewhere other than the seller’s permanent place of business. Sales people must provide a receipt as well as a cancellation form. Companies are required to give refunds within 10 days of getting a cancellation notice, the BBB said.

Complaints about Commerce emerged in December through postings on BBB's Facebook page.

The release quotes one consumer as writing, "They are continually coming to my house and asking to see my Baltimore Gas & Electric bill. I have contacted the company and requested to be put on their Do Not Solicit list. They are still coming to my house."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com