Hidden Fees and Charges

A tricky issue when a Texas energy consumer is a savvy shopper and is looking for the cheapest Houston electric provider is the issue of hidden fees and charges. There are only a small handful of Texas electric companies that practice hiding their fees and charges but they are out there. Even though there have been lawsuits against some of these electric companies it just isn’t enough to stop this practice. The PUCT has setup several rules to protect the Texas energy consumer but for commercial businesses in Texas it can be a little harder to receive the same type of protection. For small commercial business you have just as much protection as a residential energy consumer which is actually quite a bit. You simply need to make your complaint heard by faxing or emailing the PUCT of Texas with the issue you are having with a unethical electric company.

So far we can clearly point out 3 electric providers in Texas that are obviously duping their residential electric customers into false rates. We will stay away from naming names to avoid the legal issues that can sometimes be caused by this but we believe by explaining some of the tactics you the consumer will be able to avoid these deceptive trade practices. There are enough consumer complaints on the Internet when doing a search about some of these electric companies to clearly point out which electric providers are to blame.

Two of the Texas electric companies we have pinpointed have hidden the TDSP charges by simply not disclosing these fees when selling a residential electric rate online or over the phone. You will have a hard time calculating what their electric rate is when looking at their facts label or any other piece of information like the terms of service or energy contract. We pulled up one facts label that supposedly averaged all fees and charges but even the Texas electricity providers facts label had failed to average in the TDSP charges. We verified this by calling the electric company in question and asking them if the TDSP charges were included in the facts label. It was strange that these pole and wires charges were hidden from even the facts label as the point of the facts label is to bundle all charges together to give the energy consumer a complete picture of what the total charges would look like. Since they are one of only 2 providers out of over 30 we known of that have hidden their electric service charges in this way we find it hard to believe that their business model isn’t based on keeping the customer in the dark about what the total bundled rates looks like.

There is another provider in Texas that also leaves off the pole and wires charges and their excuse is that the unbundled rate is how they do it in several other states and they are just carrying that practice over to Texas. This just doesn’t fly with me as they know that almost every other provider besides the one mentioned above bundles all fees and charges. We find the practice of signing up customers on an electric rate they  know will be perceived as several cents cheaper than the competition isn’t right. What would you do if you thought you would be paying a rate 3 cents cheaper than the surprise electric bill you receive? Most consumers would be very upset but these electric companies are playing the numbers and large business volume game. If they have a few disgruntled customers they really don’t care. As long as they are obeying the rules and laws even if through a loophole they will continue the practice.

You can fight this type of deceptive trade practice by contacting the Attorney General of Texas and writing a detailed complaint with any evidence about what the electric provider in question has done.

The final electric provider that we want to discuss confuses the residential electric service customer and commercial customer in a slightly different way. This company provides the TDSP charges in their rate but they have a fuel surcharge that can go up or down with fuel prices. Even if the customer has signed a fixed Texas electric rate agreement they may have a higher rate when they get their bill if fuel prices go up. Fuel prices eventually always go back up so who really believes this is a “fixed electric rate”? This company has been sued multiple times but has settled out of court with all their customers and continues to sell electricity in this way.

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June 17, 2009
Filed Under: Energy

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