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Beware of Utility Scammers – April 2019

Posted on May 10, 2019


The following warning comes from the Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). Read more about this scam in the Boston Globe Yvonne Abraham column from 4/13/19.

THE MAIN POINT (What you should know)

If someone claiming to be an energy company representative calls you, shows up at your door, or approaches you in a store parking lot offering savings on gas and electric bills, it is recommended that you hang up or turn them away. *DANVERS RESIDENTS need only be wary of suppliers of gas, as Danvers Electric both supplies and delivers electricity to its customers.

THE DETAILS (If you want to know)

In 1997 the state deregulated the electric utility market and allowed for a competitive supply. The traditional utility companies—National Grid, Eversource, Unitil, still deliver the electricity and send out bills, but the energy may be supplied by another company (known as a competitive energy supply company or CES). Examples of such companies are SFE Energy, Provider Power, and Xoom Energy, among many others.

While competition sounds like a good thing, in reality it has not been. As the Attorney General’s office has found, Massachusetts consumers in the competitive supply market paid $176.8 million more than they would have paid if they had received electric supply from their electric company during the two-year period from July 2015 to June 2017. Moreover, low-income customers make up a disproportionately large share of the competitive supply market and have lost even more from competitive supply than other consumers.

Not only are low-income customers losing more from this industry, they are being targeted along with people of color and immigrants. The CES companies are using aggressive and deceptive sales tactics to sign up these individuals, sometimes without their even knowing so. For example, they are going door-to-door and pressuring vulnerable consumers into contracts based on misinformation and false promises of lower prices. Worse, they are making it extremely (and expensive) for consumers to get out of their contracts.

If someone comes to your door asking to look at your utility bill, they are probably from an alternative supplier rather than from a traditional utility company and caution is advised.

WHAT TO DO

If you suspect you’ve been already have been switched to a CES supplier, you can learn by looking at your bill (it’ll have a spot where it lists a customer’s supplier) or contact your utility company to ask.

If you feel you have been pressured, misinformed, or otherwise taken advantage of you can take the following steps:

 

 

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