HARRISBURG — Energy prices are making news, and it is important that Pennsylvania consumers know their options and what to expect if energy and electric costs increase.
Many electric utility providers began notifying their customers that the cost of electricity will be increasing, beginning June 1, for customers who remain with them for “default service,” which is the rate you are charged if you do not choose a competitive electric supplier.
The Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA) and the Office of Attorney General urge Pennsylvanians to know their options in response to price changes and to be careful and wary about door-to-door sales of energy.
“From the gas pump to the grocery store, many Pennsylvanians are feeling squeezed financially because of higher prices for essential items, so it certainly comes as unwelcomed news that many electric utilities are increasing their prices for select customers,” Attorney General Henry said. “Consumers should know they have options.”
Consumers should also be vigilant when dealing with salespeople who may try to pressure potential customers into making quick decisions. Take your time when deciding what is best for you and your household.
While the competitive market may provide some savings, consumers need to be careful to make sure that they know product terms, fees, and variability of their energy contract, if they choose to shop for an alternative provider.
- Shop Smart: If you choose to shop for an alternate supplier, the OCA recommends following these basic tips.
- Consider a utility’s standard offer program or customer referral program: These programs provide a 12-month fixed rate contract that offers 7% off the utility price at the time of your enrollment. Your rate will be fixed, and it will be lower than the utility price at the time you enroll, but the actual percentage of the savings you see may change (or be eliminated) if the price to compare changes in the future. Contact your utility company to find out more.
- Use OCA’s shopping guide or shop on PA Power Switch: Both are official state-hosted and monitored websites. All suppliers listed are licensed to provide service in Pennsylvania.
- Learn about the offers before signing up for service: Looking at the price per kWh is not the only factor. Some suppliers charge additional fees that may include but are not limited to monthly fees, customer charges, or early cancellation fees.
- After enrollment, plan for the end of your contract: Although suppliers are required by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s regulations to notify customers of the end of their contracts, it is best to keep track of this information to ensure the account is not rolled into a variable or higher rate when the contract expires.
- Look at your bills every month: Be sure to monitor your monthly electric bills to ensure you are being charged the agreed-upon rate with your selected supplier.
Regardless of whether you switch to another supplier, you should consider enrolling in a budget billing program. This program spreads seasonal bill increases over a period of time. Budget billing is available to all consumers regardless of income. To enroll, contact your utility company directly.
“The Office of Consumer Advocate wants consumers to be prepared for increased energy costs and know their rights,” Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate Patrick Cicero said. “Door-to-door salespeople should have clear identification. You are not required to let them into your home and you may ask them to leave at any time. Should you sign a contract with a salesperson at your door, you may rescind that contract within three business days.”
Contact the Office of Consumer Advocate if you have questions: OCA has a consumer hotline that can assist households who have questions about their energy bills. Call 1-800-684-6560 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email us at email@example.com.
About the PA Office of Consumer Advocate: The Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA) represents the interests of Pennsylvania utility consumers in cases before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), federal agencies, and state and federal courts. The OCA uses its resources to help the most significant number of consumers and generally focuses on the needs of residential consumers. Attorneys and staff advocate for Pennsylvanians’ access to reliable, safe, and affordable utility services.
Consumers who believe they have been taken advantage of or victimized by their energy company should file a complaint online or contact the Office of Attorney General at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-441-2555.
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