Texas Electric: Cramming, an Often Overlooked Crime

by jsgs45 on May 3, 2010

In Texas a few electricity companies have built up a pretty sizable electric service business by doing what is known as cramming. These electricity providers understand the amount of customer confusion that is out there and how to exploit it. Many millionaires have been made in the Texas electricity service market by cramming in additional fees without the customer even knowing it. The customer occasionally finds out but because of legal loopholes these electric providers continue to exploit the energy consumer.

The PUCT fines can be very unsubstantial and when a complaint is filed the electric company only needs to pay up a few hundred dollars to shut the complainer up. In one case a variable electric rate is advertised to be the lowest in the market. This provider than charges a different rate once the meter is read. When the consumer complains the Texas electric provider explains that the meter was read at a different future date than when the contract was signed.

They explain that the contract price is subject to change based on when the meter is read which is specified on page 8 of the electricity agreement. So the consumer is left believing it is their fault for not reading the fine print on page 8 even though the advertised rate was clearly something different. This type of advertising doesn’t hold up in court and so for the few customers they have to refund money to it is actually a win for the provider and always a loss of time and money for the innocent electric service customer.

 

What Is Electric Cramming?

 

Electric cramming is when an unauthorized energy supplier charges you for services that they aren’t even providing. Most customers don’t realize that this is happening to them, so it can go on for months – or even years – if you are not diligent about checking the charges on your Texas electric bill. Cramming can consist of advertising one rate and than making up a fictitious scenario like the one above. The electric company collects additional fees through the spread in price when you promised to lock in and when the service is switched. The electric company is using your promise as a hedge to play in the energy commodities market.

Pretty smart maneuver and not even the PUCT seems to be aware that this type of thing goes on. It is openly discussed in executive meetings at some of these disreputable electric companies how customer confusion will play a part in the electric rate products they offer on their websites.

So although the electricity provider is playing by the rules based on vague PUCT rules they are manipulating the system to trick customers into paying additional electric service fees.

If You’ve Been Crammed, Following Is What You Need to Do

1. Contact Your Texas Electricity Supplier Immediately: Tell them about the charges and that you are a victim of electric cramming.

Note: You should pay the rest of your Texas electric bill on time (just don’t pay the cramming charges). If you don’t pay the legitimate portion of your bill, you risk having your electric service terminated.

2. Ask for Removal of Charges: Your electric company will usually comply with this request immediately.

Tip: If you go back through old bills and find that you’ve unwittingly paid cramming charges, ask for a refund.

3. File a Complaint: If you can’t come to a resolution with your Texas electricity company, you can file a complaint with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) by calling 888-782-8477.

When you start examining your Texas electric bill for unauthorized charges, you may notice that what you pay per kilowatt hour (kWh) is higher than the norm. If this is so, you may be using a prepaid electric service plan where costs can be 25, 30 or 40% higher than those who have regular plans and enjoy some of the lowest rates around.

Even if you have bad credit or what’s considered a low income, conventional Texas electricity companies have low-deposit and no-deposit electric plans that can help you save – a lot – on your monthly energy bill. All you have to do is contact your Texas electricity company to find out about which options they have that can help you.

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