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Shocking! Power companies mislead consumers.

In Business, Children and Family, Economy, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, Technology, Uncategorized on September 4, 2013 at 9:39 am

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Today, everyone is trying to save money. From groceries to utilities, we are all looking for a way to hold on to every dollar, particularly our seniors and others on fixed or limited incomes. Unfortunately, some companies are taking advantage of tough times by promising extensive savings on electric bills by switching to third party power suppliers.

Three years ago, my father’s electric bill was increasingly high. I had seen information on a company called “DPL Energy,” being advertised as a partner to Dayton Power and Light (DP&L), offering as much as a 25 percent savings. So, we signed up for the program and DPL Energy became our official service provider.

Confusingly, the electricity bill still comes from DP&L. As time went on, the savings was negligible and outweighed by a definite increase in additional fees for using the outside provider.

IMG_6295Essentially, these companies are “resellers” who broker DP&L’s electric power at a lower rate. Your electricity still originates with the main provider and you continue to call them for outages, emergencies and so on. Plus, once you’re signed up, they make it extremely hard to go back.

Much like cellular phone contracts, if you leave one of these third party plans, there is a termination fee or you must wait until the contract expires – and even then there may be a charge. Having saved nothing, we waited, and finally cancelled the plan. About a year after we left DPL Energy’s plan, my father was apparently signed up with another one of these companies called IGS Energy, although, we have no clear idea how.

According to IGS, someone came to his house and “signed him up by phone.” You read that right. We were told he was signed up in person, but the salesman called in the request for service. First, I don’t believe that anyone went all the way out to where he lives in the middle of nowhere on a cold call without getting any sort of signature verifying his enrollment. I am still investigating this part of the story.

In the end, dad made a couple of late payments and IGS dropped him anyway, but here’s where things get really expensive. According to the DP&L representative I spoke to, since we were signed up with a third party provider, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) requires DP&L to charge a deposit equal to 130 percent of your average monthly usage. Dad’s deposit fee was over $600. You are essentially being punished for having left the behemoth power company.

Most dangerous of all is the fact that the only requirements to sign up for these misleading programs is your power company account number and the word “yes” anywhere in your conversation with them. Imagine a telemarketer speaking to an elderly person or someone hard of hearing and saying, “I am calling about your DP&L bill.” That’s all they’re going to hear. Panic, concern and fear take over and they listen to whatever the caller has to say because they are afraid of losing power for some reason. It’s really despicable.

Additionally, my investigation turned up the fact that these third party companies are unregulated by the PUCO. There was no explanation as to why there is no oversight, but nothing about their operation is managed by a government agency.

Since DPL Energy is misleadingly branded alongside DP&L while simultaneously claiming not to be the same company, it seems more to me like a way for the mammoth power provider to collect unregulated revenue with plausible deniability. Perhaps Ohio Attorney General DeWine could tear himself away from snooping in the personal records of honest citizens and focus his resources on investigating unscrupulous power companies?

The moral here is to be careful. In my experience, there is no savings with these third-party power companies. Exorbitant fees, inconsistent billing practices and misleading advertising all outweigh any potential benefit.

 

Watch the news story on this topic with Gery L. Deer and WKEF-TV, ABC 22 Dayton … 

http://abc22now.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/wkef_vid_15751.shtml

 

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