Direct Energy customers in Alberta complain about billing mistakes

After months of frustrations for customers, Direct Energy appears to be rectifying its billing problems.

Since the company moved its call centre to Guatemala last year, people have been getting bills for charges they say aren't theirs. Sometime for homes they don’t even own.

One of them is 79-year-old Hendrika Mast, who keeps a stack of Direct Energy bills near the phone in her home in Barrhead.

Some of the bills are for someone else's house in Drumheller.

“I'm trying to sort this stuff out on my knee on my La-Z-Boy chair,” she said. “I don't own a house in Drumheller.”

Mast said she mistakenly paid a Drumheller bill last December, but has since repeatedly tried to contact the company.

“But you can never get somebody to talk to,” she said.

So she stopped allowing any bills to be paid automatically from her bank account.

Soon, she was getting calls from Direct Energy's collection agency, and began to worry about her credit rating.

Finally, on Monday, Direct Energy called to say the problem has been fixed.

“He apologized for all these problems that they caused me,” Mast said.

The company offered to reimburse her for the Drumheller bill she paid by mistake.

Since Direct Energy introduced its new billing system, complaints to the Alberta government are more than seven times higher than they were for the same period a year ago, according to Scott Seymour of Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA).

The company said problems affected only a small number of people, and customers who have not found a resolution can call the toll-free number printed on their bills.

But CBC continues to field calls from customers with complaints.