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Shopping for Electricity 101

March 13, 2014

picture of happy mother and child with laptop computerSince becoming deregulated, Power to Choose has given power to the people by helping them to choose an energy plan that best suits them. They also provide resources to help customers understand how billing works, the benefits of deregulation, how to choose and change providers, and your consumer rights.
The first thing you’ll need to do is pick a provider. By entering your zip code, Power to Choose will show you a list of providers in your area, as well as the plans they offer. Every plan listed has an Electric Facts Label (EFL) that specifically details a set of standardized items like rates, fees, and contract terms. If you are switching providers, you do not need to tell your current energy provider that you are switching, as the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) will confirm that you wish to switch and contact your old provider for you. While there is no fee for switching, you may be charged an early termination fee if you are backing out of a contract with your existing energy company. After confirming that you wish to switch providers, you have three business days to cancel the switch, should you change your mind. There will be no interruption in your service when you switch providers.

In the event your current Retail Energy Provider (REP) goes out of business, you will be notified 30 days in advance of them shutting down and can choose a new provider in that time. If you do not choose one, or the REP shuts down suddenly, don’t worry! You will automatically be switched to the Provider of Last Resort (POLR), which you can switch from.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) has rules in place to ensure that your energy bill is easy to read and understand. Typically, you will get a bill in the mail every month, but you can choose to get it electronically as well. Sometimes, companies will offer lower rates for electronic or automatic bill paying. However you get and whomever you get your bill from, the layout and information will be pretty much the same, so as to keep reading it simple. If you have any questions or disputes about your bill, contact your REP. If you cannot resolve a dispute with your REP, contact PUC toll free at 1-888-PUC-TIPS.

Power to Choose also offers resources to help safeguard you from Slamming and Cramming, two nefarious and illegal business practices that can cost you money. Slamming is when you are switched to a new provider without your knowledge or consent. If you receive a letter from a REP thanking you for choosing them when you did not, contact them immediately to discuss the switch. Have them send you a copy of the authorization you gave to switch. If they cannot produce this or you still believe you were slammed, contact PUC at the above number. Cramming is the addition of paid services that you did not request or authorize. If you see charges on your bill that seem out of place or abnormally high, contact your REP to resolve the issue. If it cannot be resolved, contact PUC at the above number.

Regardless of who you choose as a provider, you will have a separate Transmission and Distribution Service Provider (TDSP), also called a Transmission and Distribution Utility (TDU). You would contact the TDSP in the event of a power outage, as they maintain the power lines in your area. The TDSP you have varies by your location, but you would not choose one like you would a REP.

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