If you live in a deregulated energy market in Texas, you can buy your electricity from one of several retail electric providers (REPs) that compete for your business. Having the power to choose which company you buy electricity from in Texas gives you the chance to shop around and find the best combination of price, customer service and other factors that can give you peace of mind while you save money off monthly electric bills.
Unfortunately, customers are sometimes signed up for electricity service without their knowledge or consent, an unscrupulous activity known as “slamming.” Slamming involves someone switching your REP without your permission. Electric customers usually don’t find out they’ve been slammed until they get a bill from a different electric company than the one they’re supposed to be getting their electricity from.
Customer Rights for Resolving Slamming
Fortunately, slamming is prohibited in Texas and, once a customer has notified their REP of the unauthorized switch, there’s a process established by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to help customers who’ve been slammed:
- The unauthorized REP must return the customer to their original REP as quickly as possible.
- The unauthorized REP must fix any billing issues, including paying for all transmission and distribution charges associated with returning the customer to their original REP.
- The unauthorized REP must refund, within five days, all charges paid by the customer for the period of time that the customer was with the unauthorized REP.
- The customer will pay for electricity used during the period of time that he or she was with the unauthorized REP at a rate no higher than the rate the customer would have paid to the original REP if the unauthorized switch had not occurred.
How to Prevent Slamming
There are several things that the PUCT recommends electric customers do to avoid being slammed:
- Be aware of promotions offering discounts on your electric bill and be careful when signing any document. Although unintended, your signature on a document may be interpreted as an agreement to switch.
- Be aware of telemarketers or sales vendors who promise free gifts, lowered rates or better service for switching.
- Read your electric bill carefully each month.
- Know the name of the electric company that provides your electric service.
- Never sign any document without reading it thoroughly.
- Designate one person in your household who is authorized to make changes to your electric service.
- Print order conformation page if order was placed online.
- Read the fine print for the terms of service and electricity facts label
- If you are being visited by a door-to-door rep, ask for identification.
- To prevent identity theft, do not share your Social Security number or driver’s license number.
- Do not share copy of energy bill unless you have verified the identity of the door-to-door rep.
- Know when your contract with your REP is set to expire. Watch for things like an early termination fee on your electric bill, which may indicate that you’ve been slammed if you haven’t initiated a switch to another REP.
- Notify your REP immediately if you receive a phone call or notice to “verify” a change in your electric service that you didn’t authorize.
- Notify your REP immediately if you fail to receive your regular monthly electric bill or receive an electric bill at your address in someone else’s name.
A Word on Electricity Marketing
The PUCT has customer protection rules that regulate the marketing of electricity supply, including online marketing, telemarketing and door-to-door sales:
- Keep in mind that agents or brokers may earn commissions for getting you to switch to a REP they represent.
- Every door-to-door salesperson is required to wear a badge with the REP’s name, PUCT certificate number and a toll-free number you can call to verify the salesperson is authorized by the REP.
- Door-to-door salespeople should obey no-solicitation signs.
Slamming is rare, but it happens. The best way to protect yourself from slamming and prevent it from happening to you is to be attentive when dealing with certain electricity marketers, know your rights as an electric customer and act quickly to address any concerns you may have about being slammed.
If you think you’re the victim of slamming, or you would like to report a REP or marketer, you can file a complaint by calling the PUCT toll-free at 888782.8477.
“Chapter 25 — Substantive Rules Applicable to Electric Service Providers; Subchapter R. — Customer Protection Rules for Retail Electric Service,” Public Utility Commission of Texas, June 1, 2004.
Public Utility Commission of Texas, “Unauthorized Switching of Your Retail Electric Provider.”
Texas Electric Choice Education Program, “FAQs.”
Texas Electric Choice Education Program, “Your Rights.”