State officials are urging consumers to use caution when they receive a sales call from an electric supplier asking for account data over the phone.
Consumers are specifically being warned not to give their United Illuminating (UI) or Connecticut Light and Power Company (CL&P) account numbers, or any other confidential information, to electric suppliers over the telephone or to a door-to-door salesperson unless they have made the decision to switch suppliers.
Reports have been received of consumers being switched to an electric supplier without their permission or knowledge, according to Elin Swanson Katz, Connecticut consumer counsel, and George Jepsen, the state’s attorney general.
‘A spate of complaints’
“We’ve received a spate of complaints from customers that they are being asked for their CL&P or UI account numbers during a sales call, and then they are being switched to an electric supplier without their permission,” Katz said.
“The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority is investigating these complaints, but in the meantime, I urge consumers not to give out account numbers, unless they’ve definitely decided to switch suppliers,” she said.
Be wary of providing information
“Consumers should always be wary about providing personal or financial information, including account numbers, over the phone,” Jepsen said.
“While we regularly receive complaints about spoofing — where the caller has deliberately falsified their telephone number or caller ID information — these new complaints are particularly concerning given the widespread issues we’re investigating about high electric rates from some alternative suppliers,” he said.
“We know that a large number of customers are currently seeking new suppliers to avoid exorbitantly high rates,” Jepsen said, “and we urge consumers to be extra vigilant about disclosing their account information unless they’re absolutely sure they understand and want to accept the plan they’re discussing.”
Avoid snap decisions
Customers also are encouraged to check the information available on www.energizect.com or to speak with an energy professional at 877-WISE-USE prior to switching to a supplier, rather than making a snap decision in response to a sales call.
This service allows both residents and businesses to compare supplier options and rates, review the standard offer available from their electric company, and to see what is available to them before making any decisions.
Caution urged on ‘variable rates’
The Consumer Counsel’s Office advises consumers to be cautious about signing up for “variable electric rates” — that is, rates that fluctuate month-to-month.
“We’ve received many complaints about these types of rates,” Katz said. “We’ve heard from many customers with bills that have doubled or even tripled in one month. Variable rates can change without warning.”
Don’t have to change suppliers
In addition, Katz and Jepsen want to make consumers aware that they do not have to choose an electric supplier. Rather, consumers may elect to stay on the Standard Service rates of UI and CL&P.
Both UI and CL&P’s Standard Service rates are fixed for six month intervals, with the current period going through June 30, 2014.
The Consumer Counsel’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office are active participants in a Public Utilities Regulatory Authority proceeding (Docket Number 13-07-18) that will establish rules and guidelines for electric suppliers. Learn more about this proceeding at www.ct.gov/pura.