Beware of Utility Company Scams
Beware of aggressive marketing and “slamming,” in which customers have electricity providers switched without their permission.
You may be getting phone calls about solar energy or saving on your electric bill. If customers agree to switch, their new supplier will notify their utility. After receiving a letter confirming details of their power supply contract, consumers have three days to change their mind, with no strings attached, under state regulations.
Still, regulators say residents should look for details that telemarketers and sales staff may not disclose. Depending when it switches to a competitive supplier, a household may get hit with additional charges from their utility. Some contracts from competitive suppliers include additional monthly charges or hefty early-termination fees.
For some households, price is not the reason for switching. Some environmentally conscious customers choose to buy power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, at a cost above the typical household’s energy bill.
Have you been told you qualify for a 15 to 20 percent discount on your utility bill if you’ll provide your customer account number? Before accepting the offer, know that the likely switch will simply take you to a different energy supplier. Beware. Some suppliers employ telemarketers that recruit new customers with promises of lower rates for switching. But after a brief introductory period, rates may suddenly skyrocket — and you find yourself locked in a long-term contract with high cancellation fees.
In some instances, you may be asked only for your name, address and utility account number — not a credit card. But with that information in hand, the new supplier can switch your power service provider, either with your blessing or by “slamming,” the illegal practice of switching customers to another provider without their consent. Your best bet: If you’re interested in switching energy suppliers, avoid unsolicited offers and instead compare your options at http://web1.env.state.ma.us/DPU/FileRoom/Licenses, our state’s website listing power providers.
To avoid getting slammed (your utility service changed without your permission) or being over-charged by a company practicing deceptive marketing, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office advises consumers to check your monthly utility bills to make sure that your service has not be switched to a different provider without your consent, and protect your sensitive information by only sharing your utility bills after you have decided to do business with a provider.