Common Consumer Questions

General

  • What is the difference between a supplier and a utility

    • In areas where energy competition is allowed, the utility is primarily a “poles, wires, and pipes” company, meaning that they are responsible for maintaining and repairing the infrastructure, delivering electricity and natural gas to consumers, and ensuring reliability.A competitive energy supplier, on the other hand, is a company that sells the energy that the utility delivers. Suppliers compete in an open marketplace by offering a variety of services and incentives, and consumers choose those products that most appeal to them and best meet their energy needs.
  • What does deregulation mean to the consumer?

    • Deregulation (or energy choice) allows you to choose a competitive energy supplier just as you choose cell phone plans and cable and internet packages. Choosing a competitive energy supplier is no different. There are a wide variety of products and pricing options in the market to consider (e.g., fixed rates, variable rates, billing options, renewable energy sources, etc.)
  • What happens if I am in aggregation?

    • Generally, aggregation is when a community chooses a competitive energy supplier on behalf of all the residents in that community. In most cases, individuals have the option to opt-out of the aggregation program, and choose their own competitive energy supplier or purchase their supply through the utility.
  • I’m having trouble with my meter, who do I call?

    • For any problems with your meter, or other service issues, call your local utility. Even if you purchase your gas or electricity through a supplier, your utility is REQUIRED to respond to any service issue.

Billing

  • How does consolidated billing work?

    • In a consolidated bill, the utility’s charges and the competitive energy supplier’s charges are presented together on one bill, which is most often delivered by the utility. Your invoice will display both the delivery and service charges (the charges of the utility), and the price you are paying for each unit of energy you use, which is the energy supply (the charge of the competitive energy supplier). The energy supply charge will be displayed as a line on your utility invoice.
  • How does dual billing work?

    • With the dual billing option, your competitive energy supplier and your utility provide separate bills for their respective charges.  Both the competitive energy supplier and the utility are responsible for calculating their respective charges, preparing and sending their own bill to the customer, and receiving and processing the customer’s payment.
  • Why do I owe money to the utility after switching to a supplier?

    • This is known as reconciliation. Because of the way energy markets work, energy is often procured on your behalf before you actually use it or pay for it. For various reasons, the utility may be allowed to collect for this energy cost from you. For example, you may have been on a budget billing plan – this is when the utility averages customer bills out over twelve months which allows customers to pay a fixed amount each month. When you terminated your supply service with your utility, although you had made your monthly payments, you may not have paid-in-full for the amount of electricity or natural gas that you had consumed.

      Remember, when you switch to a competitive energy supplier, you will continue to receive a monthly invoice from your utility for the delivery and service charges. For more information, see the sections titled; “How does consolidated billing work?”  and “How does dual billing work?”

Cancellation

  • Why is my service being shut off?

    • Electricity and natural gas supply service may be shut off, suspended, or terminated for failure to pay your bill. Before any interruption in service may occur, and depending on your state’s specific regulations, your supplier and/or utility must take several steps to contact you before shutting off service, including by: sending overdue billing notices, providing payment plan options, providing notice of termination of service, attempting to contact to you by phone or in person, and during certain times of the year, leaving written notice at your property. Service can be restored once a payment or billing arrangement has been agreed upon.

      Please note that the service is turned on and off by the utility. Any questions on this matter should be directed to your utility.

Switching Service

  • Why is there a delay in getting my service with my new supplier started?

    • Switching to a new supplier can take one to two billing cycles, and depends upon a variety of factors including the date of your next meter reading. For more information, contact your competitive energy supplier or your utility.

Soliciting

  • Door-to-door representatives

    • Are they allowed?

      • Specific regulations vary by state, but door-to-door solicitation is allowed. There are often restrictions about what time of day they may contact you and which members of your household are able to contract for a new supplier.
    • What should I look for to confirm a sales person is legitimate?

      • Door-to-door sales persons must display an identification badge with their name, photo, and the organization they are representing. If you feel that someone is falsely representing themselves as an agent of a supplier, you may report them to your state attorney general or local authorities.
    • Why would a supplier rep need to see my utility bill?

      • A sales representative would need to see your bill in order to explain what, if any, savings their company may provide you with, and to determine your current contract term. You will also need your utility customer account number or similar other customer ID, usually displayed on the bill, if you choose to enroll with the supplier. If you are uncomfortable providing this information in person but are still interested in switching to the supplier they represent, you may request the representative follow-up with you via email or regular mail.
  • Concerns about telemarketer calls

    • Suppliers may solicit business through phone calls, email, mailers, and door-to-door service. If you would like to avoid telephone calls you can register with the Do-Not-Call Registry.

Price

  • I haven’t seen any cost savings since I switched to a supplier.

    • While often times consumers see a price drop after switching, there are other things to keep in mind when switching to an energy supplier: the terms of your contract may not deliver savings but provide other value through additional benefits tied to your contract including other home energy services. If your supplier guaranteed savings in your written contract or in written marketing materials, call the company to discuss why savings are not appearing on your bill.
  • Why is the utility reading my meter? Can the supplier override the utility’s reading?

    • As the utility is responsible for maintaining and repairing the infrastructure and ensuring reliability, this also means the utility is in charge of the administration of your account which includes the reading and maintenance of your meter. The supplier does not have any control over the utility’s meter reading.
  • How does the supplier make money? Is this a scam?

    • Competitive energy suppliers generally are licensed or deemed eligible by the state, and must abide by local, state, and federal rules and regulations governing competitive suppliers and the sale of electricity and natural gas products. If you have any questions or concerns about the legitimacy of a specific supplier, you can contact your state’s public utility commission.

      Competitive energy suppliers purchase electricity and gas in bulk, and through hedging and market analysis, are able to purchase these commodities to best take advantage of the open market in order to serve competitively priced products and services to their customers. Competitive suppliers are also able to offer you a variety of different products and services which are not available through your utility.

  • Why do energy prices change? What impacts energy prices?

    • Like any commodity, electricity and natural gas prices fluctuate on the open supply and demand market. Energy prices are impacted by a number of factors including weather, supply and demand, macroeconomic factors, politics and regulation, and more.

Contract Concerns

  • Why am I being charged a cancellation fee?

    • As with any service contract, if you end your term early, there may be a cancellation fee incurred. A competitive energy supplier must provide, in writing, the terms of your contract including price term, length of contract, and other fees that may apply.

      A cancellation fee may apply because competitive energy suppliers hedge/purchase the energy supply from the open market for their customers in advance (to be served for the customer’s entire term of service) as they aim to secure a competitive price for their customers. When a contract is cancelled before the current term of service has ended, the competitive energy supplier is impacted with a financial loss. To ensure fair market practice between the supplier and the consumer, the consumer may be directed to pay an early cancellation fee to cover the financial loss incurred by the competitive energy supplier.

      The same early cancellation policy may occur if you are on auto-renewal with your current competitive energy supplier.