AG shuts down door-to-door marketers who claimed big savings for utility customers

AG shuts down door-to-door marketers who claimed big savings for utility customers

The Massachusetts Attorney General has shut down a door-to-door marketing company, used by Massachusetts competitive electric suppliers. This comes four years after 25 Investigates first uncovered the deceptive sales practices that investigators say cost unknowing consumers millions across the state.

In 2015, Mario Cruz said for about a month he went door to door with the same pitch.

"You give me your bill, all I need from you is three things. Your name, your address, and your account number.  I don't need you to make the confirmation call, I can have somebody else make the confirmation call,” Cruz told Boston 25 News.

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The pitch, he says, came with a promise that customers would save money if they switched electric providers.

Cruz says he was trained by marketing company, Platinum Advertising to sell for Liberty Power. Both companies are based in Florida and doing business in Massachusetts.

"I felt like I was doing something illegal, I felt like I was doing something wrong, something that wasn't honest,” Cruz said in 2015.

Boston 25 News brought this whistleblower's account to Attorney General Maura Healey and we weren't the only ones.

"We started to receive complaints about this company about high-pressure sales tactics from consumers out there,” Healey said. "These companies would send people out, they would knock at doors and keep knocking until somebody came and then they would rather aggressively engage with that person and ask to see the utility bill and say hey I've got a better deal for you."

Instead, Healey says they were offering bogus teaser rates or dramatically overstating savings.

Her office shared one of platinum's recruitment videos from 2014 that claimed its’ workers made ‘some of the highest commissions in the industry.”

"Millions and millions of dollars a year that's what consumers in Massachusetts are losing from these actions of competitive electric suppliers,” Healey said.

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So, Healey's office not only investigated the suppliers, but Platinum Advertising as well. In her exclusive interview with 25 Investigates, she says she's shut down platinum for one year in Massachusetts. They're also paying a 150,000 dollar fine.

"Anybody out there who thinks they've been taken advantage of by one of these entities, please report it to your local law enforcement or report it to my office,” Healey says.

As for Liberty Power, the Attorney General's office has a separate and ongoing investigation into it.
When we did the story in 2015, Liberty Power told us "Since we began our Massachusetts residential door-to-door program in 2014, (over the course of our program) we have permanently removed 17 sales agents from the campaign due to complaints and have also imposed fines on the third-party sales channels that have agents in violation of our policies."

25 Investigates reached out to the power company again Thursday. They told us, "In May 2015, Liberty Power did a short trial with Platinum Advertising before the pilot was quickly ended; we have not worked with Platinum since. Liberty Power is committed to delivering a quality sales and marketing program and working with partners that share our commitment to providing an exceptional customer experience."

The AG's office says a separate investigation into Liberty Power continues.

We reached out to Platinum Advertising for comment on action taken by the Massachusetts AG’s office. They told us, "Platinum cooperated fully with the investigation by the AG’s Office from the beginning.  While Platinum denied the allegations of the AG’s Office, Platinum was nevertheless pleased to have reached an amicable settlement with the AG’s Office.  Platinum looks forward to implementing better practices as described in the Assurance of Discontinuance and resuming business in Massachusetts following the agreed upon 1-year suspension."

Healey says consumers should never show their utility bill to someone who just shows up at their door. That should be a big red flag.