Variable-rate pricing causing price spikes for some electricity consumers

Winter spikes in electric bills among customers who are on variable-rate pricing are costing consumers hundreds of dollars, state officials warned today.

Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz and Attorney General George Jepsen said some customers are paying more than double the standard rates offered by Connecticut Light & Power Co.

"This kind of rate shock can really hit customers in their wallets, as this can be up to approximately $100 more per month than the standard offer rate for the average residential customer," Katz said in a press release.

"A number of companies offer variable rate products that are marketed with an attractive and competitive teaser rate that is quickly replaced by significantly higher charges without notice," Jepsen added. "We have also received complaints from customers who enrolled in fixed rate supply arrangements who were automatically transferred to exorbitantly high variable rate products at the conclusion of the fixed rate term."

Katz and Jepsen urged residents to check the rates they are being charged on their electrical bills. They also issued a list showing that 10 companies — Discount Power, Choice Energy, Palmco Power, Starion Energy, Public Power, NextEra Energy, HOP Energy, Xoom Energy, Blue Pilot Energy and Perigee Energy — are charging at least some of their customers more than 17 cents a kilowatt hour, with some customers receiving bills for 24.9 cents an hour. That's far higher than the standard rate of 9 cents an hour.

State officials suggested that customers contact their electric supplier if they have a question about a bill. Consumers can change companies or switch back to standard service, but they could face termination fees of up to $100.

A call to one of the electric suppliers on the state list was forwarded to a recording addressing questions about high rates. Discount Power blamed the rate spikes on "exceptionally cold weather" and record prices for natural gas.

Questions about variable-rate electric bills are under review by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. Katz and Jepsen said in a joint statement that they are seeking stronger protections for consumers against unfair marketing, and they suggested that members of the public with complaints should forward them to PURA.

Additional information about electric prices is available at http://www.ctenergyinfo.com/compare-energy-suppliers. Residents also can use Connecticut's toll-free Energy Information Line at 1-877-WISE-USE.

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