Public Utility Commission shocked at deceptive pricing on their The Power To Choose website

I’ve been saying this for a while.

Electricity resellers provide rates to the PUC to be published on their website the The idea is to provide a single location where consumers could “compare” prices from various resellers. As I have said in the past, “It ain’t easy”. In fact it is at times deceptive and today the PUC agrees. From Texas Regulators Eye Deceptive Electricity Pricing” by Jim Malewitz of the Texas Tribune:

Donna Nelson, chairman of the Public Utility Commission, said Thursday at a public meeting. “They’ve got all these tricky little things in their prices, and whatever the fact sheets are called – the nutrition label – that makes it really difficult for customers.”

The rates that are published do not clearly show the “gotchas”, gimmicks, or extra fees. Most prices are also based upon your particular usage. A great rate for one person could be a horrible rate for another. Gotchas and fees include a monthly usage fee, a discount for using more electricity, a penalty for using less, and penalties for not using automatic withdrawal from your checking account.

Because of these, sometimes hidden, charges the fails to provide real rate comparison. Even if the charges are not hidden there is no way to really compare but there is a solution.

Consumers have access to their usage history through their reseller. The PUC could allow a user to input their monthly usage for a year and then perform the calculations to determine how much electricity would actually cost per reseller. This would not be perfect since your usage may vary but it would be very close and would serve as a basis for comparison.

As an example. A provider on the PUC website advertised a rate of 5 cents/kWh for using more than 1000 kWh a month and 11.5 for using less. My home is 2400 sq ft and I use over 1000 kWh just 4 months of the year. After performing these calculations the average rate I would pay is 9.9 cents well over the 8 cents I was paying pre-deregulation.

So…the PUC is finally getting it. Just remember who lobbied for deregulation, Ken Lay and Enron.

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