Connecticut Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz and Attorney General George Jepsen are urging consumers to use caution when they receive a sales call from an electric supplier asking for account data over the phone.
In a news release today, they warned consumers not to give their Connecticut Light and Power Company or United Illuminating account numbers, or any other confidential information, to electric suppliers over the telephone or to a door-to-door salesperson unless they have made the decision to switch suppliers. Both agencies have received reports of consumers being switched to an electric supplier without their permission or knowledge.
"We've received a spate of complaints from customers that they are being asked for their Connecticut Light & Power or United Illuminating account numbers during a sales call, and then they are being switched to an electric supplier without their permission," Katz said. "The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority is investigating these complaints, but in the meantime, I urge consumers not to give out account numbers, unless they've definitely decided to switch suppliers."
Jepsen said the new complaints "are particularly concerning given the widespread issues we're investigating about high electric rates from some alternative suppliers.
"We know that a large number of customers are currently seeking new suppliers to avoid exorbitantly high rates, and we urge consumers to be extra vigilant about disclosing their account information unless they're absolutely sure they understand and want to accept the plan they're discussing," he said.
Jepsen and Katz also encouraged customers to check the information available on www.energizect.com or to speak with an energy professional at (877) 947-3873 prior to switching to a supplier, rather than making a snap decision in response to a sales call. This service allows both residents and businesses to compare supplier options and rates, review the standard offer available from their electric company, and to see what is available to them before making any decisions, they said.
Katz also advised consumers to be very cautious about signing up for "variable electric rates," that is, rates that fluctuate month-to-month.
"We've received many complaints about these types of rates," Katz said. "We've heard from many customers with bills that have doubled or even tripled in one month. Variable rates can change without warning. Overall, consumers need to know exactly what they're signing up for, and closely monitor their bills."
In addition, Katz and Jepsen want consumers to be aware that they do not have to choose an electric supplier; rather, consumers may elect to stay on the standard service rates of CL&P and UI, which are 9.235 cents per kilowatt hour and 9.0041 cents per kilowatt hour, respectively. Both CL&P and UI's standard service rates are fixed for six month intervals. Current standard service rates are fixed until June 30. During June 2014, consumers can monitor www.ct.gov/occ or www.energizect.com for the latest standard services rates.
Katz and Jepsen are active participants in Public Utilities Regulatory Authority Docket Number 13-07-18, a proceeding that will establish rules and guidelines for electric suppliers. To follow or participate in this docket, visit: www.ct.gov/pura/.