Greater Boston Legal Services Sues SFE Energy for Deceptive Practices in Door to Door Sales of Residential Gas and Electric Services

I hope Greater Boston Legal Services’ press release below will be of interest for Somerville News Weekly.  

SFE Energy has customers in Somerville and throughout Massachusetts who have been impacted by their deceptive practices targeting low-income households of color and limited English speakers.  Thank you for your consideration!

Boston, Massachusetts―Late yesterday, Greater Boston Legal Services filed a class-action lawsuit against SFE Energy Massachusetts (“SFE”) for allegedly using unfair and deceptive practices in their door to door sales to solicit and sign up Massachusetts families for their costly gas and electricity services. The suit alleges that SFE’s agents misrepresented themselves to potential customers as being associated with the customers’ then current electric and gas suppliers (such as Eversource and National Grid) and failed to properly disclose the costs and terms of their utility services in violation of public policy and Massachusetts regulations.

“SFE Energy knowingly used deceptive practices and misleading promises of lower costs to trick families in Somerville, Everett and other Massachusetts communities into enrolling in high-cost contracts, targeting low-income households of color and limited English speakers,” said Alexa Rosenbloom, an attorney at the Greater Boston Legal Services.

SFE, based out of Ontario, Canada, operates across Massachusetts. According to the complaint, the utility supplier purposely preyed upon unsophisticated individuals and those with limited English proficiency. Plaintiff Rafael Fuentes of Somerville almost exclusively speaks Spanish but, according to the complaint, was misled into signing a three-year contract by a sales representative who did not translate or offer documents in Spanish, and Mr. Fuentes was led to believe he was speaking with someone from Eversource, his provider at the time. As the result of switching to SFE, Mr. Fuertes ended up paying approximately 50 percent more for electricity and three times as much for natural gas than if he had remained with Eversource.

The Massachusetts legislature deregulated the utility market in 1997 to spur competition with the aim to lower costs for consumers. SFE is one of about 50 competitive energy suppliers (CES) operating in the Bay State. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has received more than 700 complaints about CES between 2014 and 2018. Last year, the AGO concluded that Massachusetts consumers in the competitive supply market paid $176.8 million more than they would have paid if they had received electric supply from their electric company during the two-year period ending June 2017 and recommended that the state not allow CES for residential customers. The National Consumer Law Center also issued a report in 2018 with similar findings and recommended the Massachusetts legislature enact much stronger consumer protections. To date, neither the legislature nor the DPU have heeded those recommendations, although consumer complaints have continued to increase.

Massachusetts residents who believe they were deceived when signing a contract with SFE for their electricity and/or natural gas service should contact Alexa Rosenbloom at Greater Boston Legal Services at 617-603-1542 or ARosenbloom@gbls.org.

To view this press release in a browser, please click here.

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About Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS): GBLS assists consumers, survivors of domestic violence, homeless families, elders, people with disabilities, homeowners facing foreclosure, tenants in no-fault evictions, low-wage workers, families with no source of income, and immigrants facing persecution. Annually, GBLS provides legal assistance to more than 9,000 families and individuals who live at or below 125% of the federal poverty standard. GBLS also provides legal counsel to dozens of community-based groups and organizations and conducts strategic impact advocacy to bring about positive systematic change throughout the region and state. For more information, please visit www.gbls.org.
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