Connecticut Consumer Counsel Warns That REPs are Fleecing Ratepayers
Connecticut Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz is advising state residents and business owners who currently purchase their electricity from third-party retail electric providers (REPs) to take a close look at their invoices this month. Data provided to the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) demonstrates that 86 percent of Eversource customers and 77 percent of United Illuminating (UI) customers paid more than the standard service rate in August, if they used a retail electric supplier – with some customers paying prices as high as 23.7 cents per kilowatt hour (cents/kWh).
Retail suppliers served 34.7 percent of Eversource Energy residential customers and 38.5 percent of United Illuminating (UI) residential customers as of August 2015. The Eversource standard service rate is 8.2 cents/KWh, while the United Illuminating (UI) standard service rate is 9.12 cents/KWh. Both standard service rates are set through December 31.
In August 2015 alone, Eversource customers who chose electric suppliers paid, in aggregate, approximately $8.4 million more than the standard service rate for their electric generation, and UI customers who chose electric suppliers paid, in aggregate, approximately $2 million more than the standard service rate, according to PURA and the Consumer Counsel.
Thus, in the month of August nearly nine out of ten supplier customers paid more than the standard offer in Eversource territory, and nearly eight out of ten supplier customers paid more than the standard offer in UI territory
“Customers should be aware that switching to a retail electric supplier can be a risky proposition,” said Consumer Counsel Katz. “Some suppliers are charging certain customers more than twice the standard service rate, even in the summer months. OCC has determined that, between January and August of this year, Connecticut customers of electric suppliers, as a group, paid more than $23 million more for electricity than if they had been on standard service. OCC will continue to update this number, as well as OCC’s Fact Sheet on the Electric Supplier Market, as more data becomes available.”
Specifically, among the electric suppliers that charged at least 20 percent of their customers 13.9 cents/KWh or more in the month of August are the following: Choice Energy, Clearview Electric, Connecticut Gas & Electric, Direct Energy Services, Energy Plus Holdings, NRG Retail Solutions, Palmco Power CT, Public Power, Spark Energy, Sartion Energy, Verde Energy USA, and Viridian Energy.
Consumers can check whether other electric suppliers have rate offers that are below the standard service rate by visiting www.energizect.com/compare-energy-suppliers. In comparing supplier offers, the OCC cautions that consumers should also be mindful of any fees charged by suppliers that would diminish any projected savings.
Legislation passed this year in Connecticut prohibits electric suppliers from signing up customers for variable rate contracts with rates that can change monthly and from renewing existing contracts into variable rates. The prohibition became effective on October 1, but applies only to new contracts and contracts that are renewed after October 1; and does not eliminate variable rates if a customer was on such a rate as of October 1.
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