Opinion: Reputable competitive energy suppliers seek long-term trust with customers

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The New Jersey Chapter of AARP recently submitted the opinion piece “New law puts energy suppliers’ cold calls on ice” (March 10) applauding Gov. Chris Christie and legislative sponsors for a new consumer protection law. The letter also references alleged questionable door-to-door and telemarketing practices by competitive energy suppliers.

We share the AARP’s view that consumer protection rules are imperative to ensure companies provide safe, reliable and high-quality customer service that meets consumers’ energy needs. Equally as important to laws and regulations, however, is a knowledgeable and empowered consumer.

There is certain basic information that all customers should have when it comes to shopping for the energy to power, heat and cool their homes and businesses. This includes understanding the difference between the utility (the “poles, wires and pipes” company) and a competitive energy supplier, knowing how to read and understand an offer from a supplier, and understanding the rights and protections that all energy consumers have.

Reputable competitive energy suppliers seek long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with consumers built on trust, integrity and real value. A group of these companies have formed the American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers (ACCES), a national consumer education initiative dedicated to helping energy consumers better understand what energy choice is and how it works.

While some consumer organizations will take a position in favor or in opposition to competitive energy markets, ACCES simply wants to make sure that consumers have all the information they need to understand energy choice options when these options are presented to them. Consumers should have the opportunity to shop among other energy offers in a competitive marketplace, just as they do in almost every other retail sector.

Making a choice may seem daunting at first, but the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the Division of Rate Counsel, the local distribution utilities, and groups like ACCES have materials available to help. For example, our website, CompetitiveEnergy.org, has a number of videos about energy choice, along with “Myths vs. Facts” and “Frequently Asked Questions.”

In the end, consumer protection rules are important, but it is just as important that consumers educate themselves about the benefits of energy choice in New Jersey and all the options that are available to them to meet their own energy needs and preferences.

Antonio Soruco is spokesman for ACCES (American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers), a group of competitive retail natural gas and electricity suppliers based in Washington, D.C.

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