Tips for Changing Energy Providers
Thanks to recent energy de-regulations, your municipal energy provider no longer holds a monopoly on gas and electric services. This means you can shop around for alternative electric and gas suppliers, to find better rates.
And those suppliers are well aware of this new opening in the market. You might have noticed television and radio ads for new providers in your area. Or, perhaps your current power company has included bill inserts advising you of your right to shop around. But, if you are like a lot of people, you have probably also had a sales person show up at your door.
It might be tempting to switch providers, and you certainly should if you are certain that you can cut your utility costs. But you should also exercise caution before changing gas suppliers, especially if you are approached by a door-to-door salesman.
The truth is, anyone can come to your door saying they represent a gas supplier. There are so many new companies that consumers don’t really know who is real and who isn’t. That means that unscrupulous individuals can take advantage of people by posing as power company representatives to gain access to private financial information. And individual consumers aren’t the only victims.
Even if the person is truly an representative of the company, they get paid for each sale they make. That means the individual might use high-pressure, or manipulative, techniques to get you to sign up on the spot, without having all the information.
Unfortunately, many people sign up and realize that the new company doesn’t save them a penny. Or worse, they end up paying more for their service, and get locked into a contract to boot.
This is not intended to scare you away from changing gas suppliers. There are plenty of honest companies that really will save you money. This is more intended to make you aware of the potential pitfalls to making the change without doing your homework first.
1. Read your current utility bill.
Sure, we all pay attention to the amount due and usage lines, but look instead at the actual rates. There should be a section of your bill that shows your delivery service charges including how much you pay per hundreds of cubic feet (CCF) of gas, per month. There may also be a section that tells you the price a competitor would need to offer for you to save money by switching. All of this information can help you determine if you should switch, and what questions to ask of any potential provider.
2. If a solicitor comes to your door…
…do not switch providers, show them your bills, or give them any other information. Instead, get the name of their company and any information that they can provide. Call the company directly, or visit their website. Use the information you culled from your bill to compare against their rates. And ask them to send you any rate quotes in writing. Be sure to read all of the small print about the terms and stipulations for switching over, including if there’s a contract or fee for switching service.
3. Check with the Better Business Bureau…
…or with online consumer boards for information about the company in question. People who are already using the services are a good source of information about how the service works, and satisfaction rates.
4. Don’t sign anything…
…until you are completely comfortable with the information, and are certain that you fully understand the process. If you have doubts at any point before you sign then walk away.
Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this article.