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Shopping for energy

As you turn on the A.C. this spring, saving money on utilities might come to mind. Some states let you choose your energy supplier for electricity or natural gas. Maybe you’re getting offers from companies, asking you to switch from your local utility company. Before you make a move, here are some questions to ask.                                                                   

  • What are the rules in your state? Your state utility regulation agency will have rules that third-party energy suppliers or energy marketers have to follow. Check them out before shopping around so you know what your state says about how you sign up or cancel a contract with an energy marketing company.
  • How much will this cost? Is the rate every month the same, or does it vary? Is there an enrollment fee, a fee to end your contract early, or other extra fees or service charges? Does the price include an introductory rate that expires? Then do the math: based on a typical month, what would switching companies save you each month — if anything?
  • What else comes with it? Energy marketers might offer more than just electricity. Are they promising that their power comes from renewable sources, like wind or solar? Do they include a more advanced thermostat to help you save money?
  • How long will this last? The contract you’re considering — how long does it last? Can the price change during that time? If it does, how will they tell you?
  • What if you’re not satisfied? Who do you call if there are problems with your bill? How do you cancel the contract if you want out?
  • What happens at the end of the contract? When your contract expires, what happens? Will the company contact you, or does the contract roll over if you don’t contact them? If the contract rolls over, are the prices the same? Or will your price change?

To find out more about what’s allowed in your state, contact your state utility regulator or your local utility company. Remember, the choice is yours; you should never be pressured by door-to-door sales people or telemarketers.

If you’re not happy with the price you’re paying for energy, contact your state utility regulator about how you can switch to a different supplier. If you have a complaint, contact your state utility regulator, your state Attorney General, or the FTC.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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