Questions to ask before signing up for Electricity Service

Power-to-choose

 

 

 

You have the power to choose your electricity company in Texas, and with great power comes great responsibility. That responsibility is to yourself to make sure you know what questions to ask yourself or your energy provider regarding your electricity service. Knowledge is power, and questions are the key to gaining knowledge.

 

 

 

  • What does it mean to be crammed or slammed?
    • Cramming is when your retail energy provider (REP) is adding charges to your bill that you did not authorize.
    • Slamming is switching your electricity service from one provider to another without your permission. There is an exception to this, which is if your REP closes down, you are switched to a Provider of Last Resort (POLR) automatically if you do not choose a new provider.
  • If I am switched without authorization, what can I do?
    • The first step is to contact the REP you were switched to and ask them why you were switched. Ask them for a copy of the authorization given for the switch. If they cannot provide one, contact the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) toll free at 1-888-PUC-TIPS or www.puc.texas.gov/consumer.
  • What happens when my contract is near expiration?
    • You must be notified of expiration at least 30 days before the contract is up for renewal.
    • You may switch your provider or plan without penalty within 14 days of the expiration date.
    • If you do nothing when up for renewal, your current REP will continue service with a monthly plan.
  • Can I be back-billed or re-billed?
    • If there is an error on behalf of the REP or you did not receive a bill, the REP can re-bill you within 180 days of the original bill date.
    • If a correction of charges is greater than $50, you can request a deffered payment plan.
    • If your electricity meter was tampered with, the REP can re-bill you even after 180 days.
  • Is it possible my bill has been estimated?
    • If your REP does not receive a meter reading from your utility, they may estimate the amount of energy used based on your usage history. As soon as the meter is read again, your next bill will be adjusted to account for the estimate versus the actual usage.
    • Generally, you cannot receive an estimated bill more than three billing cycles in a row.
  • A deposit has been charged to my bank! What can I do?
    • Your REP may require a good credit history to provide service. In this case, a deposit of no more than 1/5th the estimated annual billing or the sum of estimated billings for the next two months.
  • What is the AMS meter charge?
    • If your home has a smart meter, utilities can assess this surcharge to recover the cost of the meter.
  • What are the causes of service disconnection?
    • If a bill, payment plan, or deposit is not paid, service may be disconnected after proper notice. The service cannot be disconnected on or before the disconnection date listed in the notice.
  • What can I do if I have trouble paying my bill?
    • If you are having trouble paying your bill, contact your REP to set up a payment plan before your service is disconnected. You will be eligible for a deferred payment plan if you have not received more than two termination notices in the past year. If you are unable to keep up with the payment plan, however, your service could be disconnected.
    • If you have a medical condition that requires electricity use, you can have your physician that ordered the electric device contact your REP by phone and send a written statement. You will then be able to enter a deferred payment plan for the balance due.
  • I want to choose a better date to pay my bill by, can I do that?
    • Most REPs allow you to set your own due date, but if they do not, it will be due 16 days after the date the bill was issued.
  • If I cancel my service before my contract ends, will I face a penalty?
    • Your REP will list any early termination fees in the Electricity Facts Label (EFL) in your plan’s documentation. However, you can change your plan or provider within 14 days of the contract end date and not face a penalty.
  • Can I prepay for service?
    • If your REP offers prepaid billing, you can pay for the estimated usage before the billing cycle, and your REP will account for under and overpayments periodically.
  • Who can see the information I provide to my REP?
    • Your REP will share your information (including name, address, and billing information) with your utility and potentially a billing company, if the REP does not do their own billing. Any company this information is shared with must sign a nondisclosure agreement to prevent leaked information.
    • Your information could also be shared with PUCT regarding oversight of your REP, a consumer reporting agency, an energy assistance agency, or local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
    • Your REP may share information regarding name and address for the purposes of marketing other products and services to you. The REP must provide an opportunity for you to opt out of this type of information sharing.
    • Some REPs may require you to release information for the purposes of marketing before providing electricity service, but you always retain the power to choose a REP that does not require this.

What is an Electricity Facts Label?

When choosing a Retail Energy Provider (REP), you will find that each REP offers several different plans. These plans differ based on contract length, green energy, promotions, and price. To find out exactly what each plan offers, you need to look at the Electricity Facts Label, or EFL. The EFL is more or less the “fine print” of your energy plan. In looking for the best Dallas electricity prices, be sure to read the EFL to ensure that the plan will meet your needs. The EFL gives you the power to choose a plan perfectly suited to your home or business.

Every REP is required to have an EFL on their plans. They lay out in plain terms how much you will pay per kilowatt hour (kWh), what fees are associated with the plan, how long the contract lasts, and whether there is a penalty for breaking the contract. Contract lengths can be month to month, which is a variable rate plan, or they can run between 3 and 36 months, typically. Variable rate plans can have rate changes every month, based on supply and demand of electricity. This means that if the supply is high, you will likely pay a slightly lower rate than the previous month, but if the supply is low or interrupted by something (weather, power generation facility issues, etc), the price could increase from the previous month. Fixed rate plans lock in your rate for the duration of your contract. Regardless of how the market conditions change, your rate will remain where it is, for better or worse.

Additional fees, such as the cost of transmitting electricity will be included in the EFL. Each Transmission and Distribution Service Provider (TDSP) assesses a cost per kilowatt hour for getting the electricity to you. This rate is usually lower as you use more electricity over the course of a month. Think of it as like buying in bulk; you get a discount on the larger volume. TDSPs each manage a particular region, so where you live will determine who your TDSP is, unlike REPs, which you can choose one of several in an area. This transmission charges are broken down by energy use per kWh, delivery per kWh, and delivery per month. It’s also possible that you’ll see a “Base Charge” if you use less than 2000 kWh per month, but this is included in the average transmission costs.

Other fees that could be assessed include late fees, disconnection/reconnection fees, and third party payment fees, if you use a check cashing store or bill payment center. The EFL will also tell you your contract length and explains how even in a fixed rate plan, your rate can change due to changes in TDSP charges or legislation. You will also see a section telling you how much, if any, of your electricity is generated from renewable sources like wind or solar power. Finally, all contact information for the REP will be listed, should you have any questions or concerns about the plans. Reading your EFL carefully will ensure you choose the best plan with the cheapest electricity rates and aren’t surprised by fees that may appear.

Retail Electricity Providers (REPs)

Texas has had a deregulated energy market for over a decade, giving Dallas and other cities the power to choose an electricity provider based on various criteria, including cheap electricity. Deregulation was a major step to freeing up the market from monopolistic utilities drive driving prices down. But, since the market was deregulated, utilities were split into three parts: Generators, TDSPs, and REPs. Power generators are facilities like wind or solar farms, coal plants, and natural gas plants. These places generate the electricity. The Transmission and Distribution Service Providers (TDSPs) transmit the electricity over the wires. They are sometimes called the wire company, and they maintain all the power lines and restore power if it goes out. Retail Electricity Providers (REPs) are merchants who sell electricity to you, the consumer.

REPs like TriEagle Energy purchase shares of electricity from electricity generators. When you sign up with a REP, you pay for the electricity you use. This payment covers the cost of the electricity shares you consume, as well as the use of the wires for it to get to you. All REPs offer multiple plans, allowing you to choose one that best suits your needs. You can choose a month to month plan, which tend have higher monthly rates, and they can go up or down each month (also known as a variable rate plan), but there is no cancellation fee. Longer contract terms will have a cancellation fee if you back out early, and they can last usually anywhere between 3 and 36 months, but the rates tend to be lower and they will stay locked in.

Locked in rates means that if you have a plan for 10 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and the cost of electricity goes up a couple cents, you will continue to pay 10 cents/kWh. By the same token, if the price goes down, you will still pay the higher rate. Still, these plans offer a security in knowing more or less what your electricity bill will be each month. You can also choose plans based on whether they offer electricity from renewable sources like solar or wind power. All plans have an Electricity Facts Label (EFL) that will tell you exactly how much renewable energy, if any, is used in your plan.

Shopping for electricity doesn’t need to be difficult or overwhelming. Shop Dallas Electricity will help you find the best deals on cheap electricity rates in Dallas. Remember, ultimately, you have the power to choose the plan and the type of electricity you use, whether it be conventional or renewable. Take advantage of this power and find an electricity provider for yourself today!