Have you ever done something stupid? Something that you regret instantly, and for days afterward you’re thinking “You idiot! What the hell were you thinking?!”

On Saturday night at around 6:30, there was a knocking on my door. I answered, and there was a man there who said he was from a company called Summitt (not a typo) Energy and could lower my electricity bills.

Now, my policy has always been to let these people say their piece, and then politely turn them down the moment they start to sell me something. I don’t like to slam doors or hang up phones or interrupt people. That’s just me.

This guy though – Ryan was his name – managed to play right to my weaknesses. He was able to sell me something without really selling me something. And like an idiot, I nodded my head and went along with it. I don’t know why I did this. At any point I could have said “Not interested”, and closed the door. Was I afraid of hurting this complete stranger’s feelings? How stupid is that?

When Ryan had completed his spiel, he produced a contract for me to sign.

Rule #1: Never sign a contract. If you sign a contract, you’re going to be responsible for whatever is in that contract. Everyone knows that. And I should know that better than most, what with the whole law school thing.

And so of course I signed the damn thing.

Now, in my defence, I read the whole contract first. And I noted a clause which allowed me to cancel the deal within 10 days without penalty, and as I signed the contract I fully intended to make use of that clause.

But still, what the hell is wrong with me? Why would I sign a contract intending to cancel it later when I could have simply not signed it to begin with? Am I that much of a pussy that I can’t say no to people?

 

Very quickly, I realized that these Summitt people were clever. Ryan had come by my apartment on 6:30 on a Saturday. That wasn’t an accident – Summitt’s customer support centre closed at 6:00 on Saturdays and wasn’t open on Sundays, meaning the earliest I would be able to contact someone was Monday, burning two of my ten days.  Nevertheless, I immediately sent an email to cancel the agreement.

On Monday morning, I immediately called the office to ask if my email had been received. I wasn’t too surprised to receive an evasive answer – the customer service agent informed me that it would take about 48 hours for my email to be processed, and that I should call back again tomorrow. I took the passive approach again and backed down, though I did send a second email to confirm cancellation.

On Tuesday morning, I still hadn’t received any reply to my email. By this point, it was pretty obvious to me that Summitt was going to try and stall in hopes of getting past the 10 day cool down period. Presumably, they were assuming that they were dealing with someone with no understanding about how contracts work. Unfortunately for them, I was well aware that our contract was likely cancelled the moment I sent that first email. Nevertheless, I wanted to hear them confirm the cancellation as otherwise they could try and enforce it, and getting them to stop would be a gigantic pain in the ass.

So, I called customer support again on Tuesday. Lo and behold, this time the customer service agent told me that it ordinarily takes about 72 hours for emails to be answered, and that I should call back tomorrow. This time I didn’t back down, and I told him that I’d been fed a very similar line yesterday, and that I expected that if I called tomorrow I would be told that it ordinarily takes 96 hours for emails to be answered. I pressed him to assure me that the contract would be cancelled, and after putting me on hold for a while he told me that the contract would probably be cancelled by tomorrow. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but it was something at least. I asked for his name and employee number. He said his name was Al, and I fought off the urge to tell him that he could call me Betty. He refused to give me his last name, but fair enough.

This morning at around 9:30 I received an email from Summitt, replying to the email I had sent on Saturday. It said that in order to process my “request”, they required more information from me.

I saw how this was going to play out. I was already on the 5th day. If I sent them another email back giving them the information they requested immediately, it would probably be another four days before they responded. But the fourth day would be a Sunday, and so they probably wouldn’t respond until the Monday. That would be my 10th and final day to get out of the deal, and no doubt they’d try something else to stall for that last day. I wondered how many people they’d locked into contracts in this fashion.

Well, I wasn’t going to let that happen. No more Mr. Nice Guy. I sent them an email with the information they requested, and capped it off with this paragraph:

 

I wish to make my intentions very clear just in case it becomes necessary to litigate this dispute in the future. I am not “requesting” cancellation. I am cancelling the agreement. “Request” implies that I must wait to hear whether or not my request is accepted or denied, and that is not the case here. As this was a direct agreement under the Consumer Protection Act, section 43(1) of said Act grants me the right to unilaterally cancel the agreement without reason within a 10 day period. Furthermore, the Electronic Commerce Act puts in place a strong presumption that my cancellation is received the moment my emails are sent to your customer service inbox. Even if this agreement was not successfully cancelled on November 15th or 17th (which I do not admit), it is most certainly cancelled now. That your customer service requires three days to reply to emails is irrelevant, and attempting to delay cancellation until after the 10 day cooling off period has expired is a clear display of bad faith.

Yours very truly,
Michael Danese

23 minutes later, they replied to confirm that the contract was cancelled.

Let me repeat that: 23 minutes.

Amazing, isn’t it? Somehow telling them that I’m not an idiot caused their response time to drop from 86 hours to 23 minutes. I didn’t have to get rude or overly aggressive, but I stood my ground, and that seems to have been enough.

So, what are the lessons here?

1. Michael, for the love of God, don’t sign contracts that people bring to your door, you numbskull. This whole thing could have been easily avoided if you’d just grown a set.
2. Grow a set! Stop being such a goddamned pussy. Stand your ground once in a while and don’t let complete strangers push you around.

I’m still furious with myself for getting into this mess in the first place, but in a way I’m glad it happened. Lesson learned – I won’t let this happen again.

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