Beware Of Switching From CL&P & UI, It Could Cost You

January 18, 2013
By

Roula Karavitis of Monroe is one of the more recent victims of Connecticut’s electric deregulation program.

Believing the family would save money on its electric bill, last year Karavitis switched from Connecticut Light & Power to North American Power, one of the scores of alternative suppliers in Connecticut.

Karavitis signed up with an introductory rate of 6.99 cents per kwh, which was promised for “up to three months.”

The operate words are “up to.”

The first month the family did receive the advertised rate, which was cheaper than CL&P’s 8.279 cent rate then.

The following month, according to the complaint Karavitis sent the state Attorney General’s office and to CtWatchdog, their rate jumped to over 10 cents per kwh.

“The whole point of offering separate generation services is to create competition and lower rates for the consumers,” Karavitis wrote to North American Power.  “Your company is practicing in bait and switch tactics.  As a competitor, your variable rate should never be higher than the local utility. Otherwise, there is no point in having other companies offer generation services.”

Karavitis then asked to be switched back to CL&P.

While the idea for competition was to result in rates lower than what the two major electric utilities could charge, it hasn’t turned out that way.

In fact, starting January 1 this year, both CL&P and UI have lowered their generation rate making it even more difficult for alternative suppliers to beat their prices.

CL&P’s residential rate is now 7.615 cents per kwh for the first six months of the year. UI’s rate is 7.697 cents per kwh for the rest of the year.

An easy way to check whether you can beat the price that CL&P and UI charge is by going to the following website and compare prices – http://www.ctenergyinfo.com/view_rates.htm?electricity_rates_id=1wvbdgfp.

Before switching to an alternative supplier check to see whether the rates are fixed and for how long. If they are variable you are rolling the dice. Also check to see if there is a fee to be transferred back to UI or CL&P if you are not satisfied.

Some alternative suppliers will try to induce you by giving you “free” airline points or other bonuses. Keep in mind that nothing is free.

North American Power did not respond to my request for a comment.

So I called the company as a consumer seeking their rates.

I talked with Robert who told me that the introductory rate is now 6.99 per kwh and he did make it clear that it was only for one month.

However, he said that the rate would probably drop later in the winter.

That seems somewhat unlikely since customers with North American longer than one month are now paying 10.99 cents per kwh, according to the state website.

Interestingly enough, relatively few people have filed complaints with the state Attorney General’s office or with the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority against alternative suppliers, considering that there are hundreds of thousands of electric customers in Connecticut.

According to Susan Kinsman, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office, PURA received 341 complaints (including 10 forwarded from the Attorney General’s office) since last June. Of those, 43 complaints were against North American Power and 14 involved billing disputes.

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31 Responses to Beware Of Switching From CL&P & UI, It Could Cost You

  1. Barry Moyer on January 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Another work of art by our politician’s.

    • -------- on January 20, 2013 at 2:48 am

      Barry Moyer said it: Another work of art by our politicians.

      It is worth repeating.

      Some consumer advocates dug deep into this, trying to find who, if anyone, has ever benefited from Connecticut’s electric deregulation.

      It came down to some hedge funds somewhere.

      So, it wasn’t that deregulation was a failure, it was a political favor.

      We have, what, the second highest rates in the country? It is not because of a lack of supply or a more expensive supply or anything like that.

      • EarlyOut on January 20, 2013 at 9:44 am

        Well, I used Dominion as my supplier for two years, and their rates were consistently lower than CL&P’s rates, often by quite a bit, so I certainly saved some money. Recently, Dominion’s rates shot up again, at the same time that CL&P’s rates came down. So, starting a few days ago, I’m back to CL&P as my supplier.

        There’s nothing wrong with competition. People just need to pay attention.

        • joan cyr on January 21, 2013 at 6:05 pm

          I have used Dominion the last couple years. I have not found anything that they have offered as deceptive. I looked for a fixed rate that was guaranteed until the end of each year. They have also sent me a letter advising me about my rate change next month, thus will have to notify them prior to the increase, what I am going to do. As far as I am concerned they have always been above board.

          NorthAmerican Power is another story. They have been sending cards stating their low rates. If you read the small print the rates were only good to 8/3l/12. I called them about the deceptive advertising and they were quite irate that I pointed this out to them. It is the consumer’s responsibility to read well and ask questions.

  2. Lynda Pistey on January 18, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    How do I switch back to U.I.??

    • George Gombossy on January 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      Call them.

  3. Pat Ayars on January 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    I recently switched back to CL&P. I had been with another supplier. Since the rate decrease, I am saving $.10 per KWH. It was a very simple telephone call.

  4. Dennis Hubbs on January 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Heh heh…this made me chuckle. We switched from CL&P to Energy Plus, saving a significant amount over the then CL&P rate. Got our bonus airline points OK. Several months later, the rate jumped to over 14 cents per KWH, up from 7! Needless to say, we switched back to CL&P immediately (they took care of the changeover with one phone call). Good thing I checked the bill!! Most of these changes come with fine print that makes the “deal” a sour one eventually, so beware indeed!

    • Rich Sobolewski on January 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      Mr. Hubbs,

      • Rich Sobolewski on January 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm

        Mr. Hubbs, There is an investigation by the Attorney General and Office of Consumer Counsel surrounding Energy Plus’ billing practices etc. before the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

        • Roy on January 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm

          After the teaser period with Energy Plus ended, my bill increased exponentially. I am on the “budget” plan. With Energy Plus, I was paying $159.00 per month. Now, with another supplier, I am paying $111.00. I have learned to read EVERYTHING very carefully.

  5. Rich Sobolewski on January 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I switched last weekend to Dominion. It is fixed for 9 or 10 months at 7.49 cents. It does have an early termination penalty though.

  6. Walter Yodis on January 18, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
    I got hooked, too.
    I thank Bill J. (the chief meteorologist at WICC) for promoting and endorsing N.A.P.
    I will switch back to UI as soon as I receive my $50 rebate.
    Bill, you owe your listeners an apology!!

    • Bill J on January 19, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      Walter-
      What I stated remains true…NAP does offer a lower rate, which is initial…and the $50.00 rebate…which is true..and there is no contract or commitment time..all true. What this article fails to say is WHY the rates jumped for ALL variable utilities..and that answer was Hurricane Sandy. This was an unprecedented storm and impacted all utility costs in the northeast! North America averages lower that most utilities over a 12 month average. No variable rate company will be lower every month.
      So I can not apologize for something I clearly and accurately advertised..and I still have them on all my properties as my electric supplier. As I advertised…you can switch back anytime but you did get a lower rate as advertised and you will get your rebate!

  7. John L on January 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    The bigger ‘swept under the rug’ crime in CT’s deregulation process is that CL&P and UI got plenty of positive publicity for ‘lowering’ consumer rates this month. The reality is that they lowered the supply side of the bill, but still easily have the highest delivery charges in the region. In other words, CT rate payers’ total cost per kilowatt, taking the whole bill and dividing it by kwHr usage, is still the most overpriced in the northeast.

    The utility companies have a monopoly on the delivery side on the electric bills. They routinely ask PURA for rate increases and get them approved. There should be an investigation into how much of that side of the bill is being used to subsidize the generation side of the bill. It’s nothing but a shell game where the rate payers all lose.

    In a level playing field, deregulation works as far as saving consumers money – the same way that any competitive market does. Sadly, the utility companies are not saving anyone money in CT.

    • Robert Brien on January 18, 2013 at 7:45 pm

      to John L.

      You are right…a call to both companies states that one does not service the other’s geographic area. It is a true monopoly for “delivery” of product. They are not the panacea they let out to be. BUT, they are obligated by the tariffs and fees asigned by the state, in order to “guarantee” (LOL) a support system for delivery.

      The issue is though, with articles like these, is to give you the financials to the lowest common denominator (as in cents) so that it looks like a lot (i.e., from 7 cents to 14 cents). These differences are really in the $50 ot $100 range PER YEAR. While it is true a good consumer should always check pricing, the bigger issue is to check the fees for closing or changing to an alternate company. That’s where they make their money.

      • EarlyOut on January 20, 2013 at 9:54 am

        You really can’t have competition for delivery of the product. How many sets of separate power poles and lines are you willing to tolerate in your neighborhood?

        What this points up, however, is the fundamental problem of having profit-making companies providing what should be a public utility. It’s not practical to have multiple power grids, or multiple municipal water suppliers, or multiple sewer systems. Since they have to be monopolies, they should be municipal or state systems, not businesses that pay their executives huge salaries, and are under pressure to return dividends to their investors.

  8. Tom W on January 18, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    In late December, I contacted Ambit Energy to ask their rates. They took all my billing info and offered me a reasonable rate, but not as good as what I had, so I declined. Lo and behold, I get an email on Monday saying I am now their customer. A call to CL&P confirmed that I had been switched from my current provider (Direct Energy) to Ambit. So I called Ambit to complain and they agreed that they had a “mixup” and should not have signed me up, but it was too late. I would have to spend one or two billing cycles with them now, before I could be switched back to my previous provider. A call to PURA achieved little – they took the info and said they would contact Ambit on my behalf. So there is no penalty to Ambit for slamming me – and I pay a penalty for two months before I can get back to who I want. PURA should have a way to immediately undo changes to accounts that get slammed. Any help available George??

    • George Gombossy on January 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      Your comment helps shine the light on the issue.

    • Bob Trotta on January 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      Tom W-

      Your FIRST mistake was giving them all your information! All you should have done was tell them whether you were a customer of UI or CL&P(God forbid). That’s all they need to know to give you their rate. Besides, ALL the necessary information about rates/suppliers etc. is available here:

      http://www.ctenergyinfo.com/choose_entry.htm

      However, I DO agree with you that PURA SHOULD be able to reverse this IMMEDIATELY! The company should be investigated to see if this is a common practice. If so, they should be BANNED from doing business in CT! I swear- all these offices in Hartford, whether it’s PURA or the Ins. Commissioner etc., don’t seem to be able to do ANYTHING that would help US! They always make it seem like their hands are tied or they have no control over a situation! If Blumenthal was still here, he’d be all over this especially if the media was involved! At least he got things done for US!

    • -------- on January 20, 2013 at 2:52 am

      I’ll say more — when the PURA liason to Ambit gets back to you, tell them you want them to forgive the bill. that is totally reasonable and my guess is they will say yes.

      They slammed you. You owe them nothing.

  9. Bob Trotta on January 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    WHY should anyone complain to the Attorney General’s office
    about these alternative suppliers! The old adage BUYER BEWARE is MORE true these days than ever before! Everywhere you turn,
    someone is trying to rip you off, be it an insurance company,
    a bank, a credit card company etc. If anyone signs up with an
    electric supplier offering a low variable rate, WHAT would ever
    make them think that it would stay at that rate past the first
    month? It’s their stupidity to begin with and NOT the supplier in question. So, what is there to complain about to the Atty. General? READ WHAT YOU’RE SIGNING UP FOR!

    I just switched to a company that has a FIXED rate for the next 12 months at 7.57 KWh through UI.

  10. Janice Robertson on January 18, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    I enrolled last year with a particular company for a fixed rate thru 7/31/12. However, because my town’s meters are all read on the 18th of the month, I lost out on the fixed rate from 7/18 thru 7/31 and was told by the company that CL&P should pro-rate the bill. CL&P told me they don’t pro-rate. I called PURA to report this deceptive practice and was told there was nothing the agency could do about it, though the rep did take my complaint. Another thing that is aggravating, there is no set date when these companies change their rates, that I can determine, so to be on top of the rates, one must check the ctenergyinfo.com website on a regular basis. We customers should be able to sign up to receive automatic emails on these rate changes so we can be better informed. The consumer is absolutely not being well-served by these utilities and the CT PURA.

  11. Mary on January 18, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Clearvue Electric took advantage of the elderly. Reports were filed with the DPUC and the police department in Shelton. Took months to change back to UI.

  12. Glenn on January 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I never switched from Cl&P, because I assumed it was a scam. The best deal I ever got in the mail, would have saved me four or five dollars a month, and I didn’t think it was worth it.

    We are careful with the amount of electricity we use, by turning off lights we are not using, and turning the heat down during the day, when no one is home.

    My electric bill in the winter, for a two story home, runs about $110.00 I can’t complain too much.

    We all know how bad life gets, when the power goes out.

    As far as the delivery charges, they are more than is needed to actually deliver the power, but how much has CL&P spent, to repair the damage of the last two storms. It is in the millions of dollars.

    If they didn’t have that surplus of money, they would have to get it from us somehow.

    Just my 2 cents.
    Glenn

  13. John on January 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    The author seems to be confused by ideology. The article reads:

    “While the idea for competition was to result in rates lower than what the two major electric utilities could charge, it hasn’t turned out that way.

    In fact, starting January 1 this year, both CL&P and UI have lowered their generation rate making it even more difficult for alternative suppliers to beat their prices.”

    Let me clarify for those who do not understand free market capitalism which apparently is not being taught in schools any longer. Competition forces improvements in service while lowering prices. Monopolies, i.e. competition is prohibited, lead to marginally functional service and constantly escalating prices. It is impossible to form a monopoly in a free market. Monopolies can only be formed by government control.

    Further, the idea that companies are evil and government is good is just collectivist demagoguery. A company can only stay in business if it provides goods and services that the consumer freely wishes to purchase. Contrast this with any government monopoly where you as the consumer are forced to purchase inferior products at very high prices – CL&P (lines), Metro North and public schools are a prime examples.

  14. R. Weed on January 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Dear Mr. Gombossy,

    I read the article in today’s New Britain Herald with much interest because I, too, am about to switch suppliers; I just haven’t gotten a chance to do it.  With the link provided in the article I decided to do it this morning. My criteria has always been (1) must be fixed rate, (2) must be guaranteed for one year (3) no switching fee.  Based on this, I chose Choice Energy, which is listed on the chart as having a fixed rate through all of 2013 of 7.499 cents per kWh.  However, when I clicked on the link to take me to their website to sign up, the signup form gives me a VARIABLE rate of 8.99 cents per kWh!  Needless to say, I didn’t sign up.  As it is Sunday, they are not open, so I didn’t try to call, but I thought I’d shoot you an email to show my concern of more bait and switch.  I also sent them an email asking them to explain the discrepancy.  If the info on the CT Energy Info site is inaccurate, it needs to be fixed. How many people would inadvertently use that form to sign up for this contract at this much higher and non-fixed rate without being aware that the rate changed from what the chart on CT Energy Info stated?

    Thank you for your time.

  15. Andy on February 17, 2013 at 11:40 am

    I recently got a bill from Dominion December 2012. ….Fixed Rate changed to a variable rate increased from .079 to .1199 a KWH, a 4 cent increase. Dominion was able to switch me back to a fixed plan the following month, and only billed the variable rate for the 2 week period of the previous bill. Buyer beware and know when your fixed rate expires!!!!!! I called it a scam, they called it winter pricing. I did file a complaint with the DPUC.. I also put in a calendar entry to remind me to switch when the fixed plan is over to CL&P.

  16. Justin MaGuire on June 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    No one has touched on the ability to switch to a supplier that uses 100% renewable energy as opposed to the default 17% percent. Yes it costs more (about $5 a month), but at least people have that option.

  17. Kevin Flood on March 18, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Got a “page not found” error on the Energize Connecticut link. But this worked: http://www.ctenergyinfo.com/compare-energy-suppliers

  18. Robert on March 26, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    NextEra Energy is another culprit in this scam. My rate jumped from .08 to .18 in 1 month. That’s over 100% increase. This bait and switch tactic needs to stop. They need to limit the amount your generation rate can increase over and above the average market rate by month. Perhaps 10% to 20%.

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