CONSUMER ALERT: Check Your Utility Rates! Are You Being Ripped Off by a Third Party Supplier?
Alex "Solar Girl" Steele
If you’re like most homeowners, you probably receive your utility bill and pay it off quickly, without worrying too much about the fine print. A majority of us focus on our consumption when trying to manage our electricity expenses, so we overlook key aspects of our monthly statements without noticing that some of the biggest cost drivers are coming from outside of our homes! Are you familiar with third-party electricity suppliers? In Massachusetts and a number of other states, a program known as Energy Choice allows consumers to select a unique electricity supplier in a competitive, free-market setting. This can be advantageous for people who want to use renewable power, but do not have the ability to add solar to their property. Third-party electricity suppliers can also help people break away from unreasonable investor-owned utility rates and de-monopolize the energy market. However, consumers should always do their due diligence when working with a third-party supplier, and keep an eye on their utility statements every month to ensure no surprise charges end up costing more than you bargained for.
Competitive electricity supply can sound like a great opportunity, especially if you’re living in an area with high supply charges. Delivery and transmission rates are always set by the utility, but you can control your rate to some degree by shopping around for the most affordable supplier on the market. Consumers can research a variety of electricity suppliers and their rates through state-sponsored hubs such as the Massachusetts Energy Switch Website, and swap their suppliers with relative ease. There is little manual work on the end-user’s side, because all they have to do is indicate which supplier they’d like to switch to, and the rest is handled by the supplier and the utility. Just because it’s simple, though, doesn’t mean you never have to think about your electric bill ever again!
After someone makes the switch to a new supplier with a lower supply charge, they typically enjoy a lower bill for some time. However, some deceptive practices can result in surprise rate hikes right under a customer’s nose. After a set time period - typically 6 months or one year after the initial sign-up date, the supplier may increase the rate with no notification to the customer. If a ratepayer isn’t staying on top of their bills, they could be left scratching their heads, wondering why their electric bill has suddenly increased substantially, when their supplier is supposed to be offering a reasonable rate!
Some competitive electric suppliers use less-than-ethical tactics to procure customers, as well. If you’ve ever received a piece of mail from one of these companies, you may have noticed the language of the letter guides you to think you have to switch to their service - some request a response by a certain deadline, or explicitly ask you to sign up with them without disclosing that you have the option to abstain. Marketing practices like this are legal, but they can be misleading and confusing to consumers, guiding them to make purchases without all of the information they need to make an informed decision.
If you haven’t taken a close look at your electric bill in a while, we strongly recommend you do so. In the section labelled “Total Charges for Electricity” or “Detail of Current Charges”, look for the area related to “Supply”. The supplier should be clearly stated there. If your supplier is listed as someone other than your utility company, you are purchasing power from a third-party source! This isn’t always a bad thing - sometimes these rates really are lower than your default energy mix! However, you should always be attentive to your bill, to avoid surprise charges when your subscription term rolls over. Don’t be afraid to shop around for more competitive rates if you’re unhappy with your current supplier.
For those consumers who can’t go solar, a third-party electricity supplier can be an attractive option. However, if you own your home, going solar can save you thousands more than a competitive supplier ever could, all while boosting your property value, adding equity to your home, and helping to protect the planet! Whether your main concerns around your electricity consumption is affordability, efficiency, or ethics - Solar Wolf Energy has the solution for you!