The PUCT of Texas has written some new rules for the public to review about if prepaid electricity companies in Texas should begin transitioning their customers over to a HAN device (Home Area Network). This is typically a ZigBee Smart Energy chip on the meter that allows a home electric meter to send back real time prepaid electricity data to the electric utility. As of June 2009 there were no commercially available in-home devices for checking your real time prepaid electricity meter data however the PUCT has made it available on their portal but you have to wait one day before you can see it. Start looking out for the smart meter Texas portal which will be available for anyone with a smart meter as well as those prepaid electricity customers using a smart meter and Zigbee smart meter chip to allow prepaid information to transfer over to the electric utility. At this time this smart meter payment system is not available for prepaid electricity customers in Texas. You will need to continue to use Ace Cash, telephone payment, and other arrangements.
How Often Can Prepaid Electricity Payments be Made?
A prepaid pay as you go electric company in Texas must allow you to make payment weekly. So if you want to prepay for your electric service every week they cannot decline your payment. The prepaid electric company must let you know atleast every two weeks what your estimated current balance is, the time and date, and estimated number of days of remaining electric service on your account.
A prepaid electric company must respond to your request to what your remaining prepaid balance is by atleast the following day prior to 5 p.m.
How To Qualify For An Electric Rate Discount?
If you qualify for an electric rate discount from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Texas Lite Up program then the prepaid electric provider must assist with working with these agencies. The pay as you go electric company must assist with provisioning energy assistance that comes from DHHS or Texas Lite Up.
It should be noted that a prepaid electricity company is not responsible for making sure your information is accurate with the DHHS. If there is even a difference with a phone number or date of birth you will be declined by Texas Lite Up. Unfortunately Texas Lite Up does not communicate this to the electric company so you will want to call and find out from both the provider and Texas Lite Up what information they have on file for you is. Everything must match or your assistance will be declined.
If you qualify for food stamps or other government assistance you will automatically qualify for energy assistance provided your information is the same at both places. Be sure to check!
Why Not Use a Traditional Electricity Company in Texas?
Considering that prepaid electricity companies in Texas charge the highest energy prices among all providers why not pay a deposit and save several hundred dollars? If you are considering a pay as you go Texas electric company you are likely a low-income electric service customer. The department of health and human service and Lite-Up Texas already have a rate assistance program for you. Texas electric companies are required to work with DHHS low income residents in working out arrangements to lower deposit amounts as well as your per kWh electric rate. Prepaid electric companies will end up costing you a fortune but a traditional electric company will give you a cheap price for energy and you can avoid the deposit. Try some of these traditional electricity companies in Texas first before going with a pay as you go energy company. You can try Champion Energy, Bounce Energy, Ambit Energy, TXU Energy, Startex Power, Green Mountain Energy, Reliant Energy, and the list goes on. Some will be easier to work with than others but ultimately your price per kWh and customer experience will be better served with one of these electric companies than by using a pay as you go provider.
Required Notifications To Help Avoid Being Disconnected
At the time you enroll with a prepaid electricity company you should be notified by them about how and when payments should be made. How and when account statements will be made available to you. How is electric service usage estimated. If you will receive a notice to pay for more service prior to being disconnected. When will these statements be delivered and how long after delivery do you have to prepay before disconnection. How and when you will be told of your remaining electric usage balance including time and date, and estimated number of days left.
Understand Your Fixed Electricity Rate
If your pay as you go electric company is offering you a fixed electricity rate they are required to disclose: price per kWh, number of kWh the fixed cost is based on, a statement about whether the price will change and why. Some electricity companies are advertising a fixed price based on teh current market prices but when your electric switch occurs charging you a different price. Be sure to watch out and ask about this practice before choosing a prepaid electric company.
A Facts Label Clearly Identifies What Makes Up Your Electric Rate
An electricity facts label is required by the PUCT to be offered to a pay as you go electricity customer. The facts label is like a food label on a can of food and should spell everything out for you. Some providers however will quote one price on the Facts Label and charge you something different. They get away with this practice because they say the price on the Electricity Facts Label was based on that date and not the date of the electric switch. Be sure to ask about this before choosing an energy company.
How Long Do I have To Change My Mind?
You have 3 days to change your mind about signing up with your prepaid electric company. The 3 days starts when your electric service is officially switched and turned on and not when they receive the contract from you.
Is The Advertised Electric Rate What Your Are Paying Now?
A prepaid electric company cannot charge more per kWh than what the provider of last resort is charging. You will have to contact the PUCT to see what the POLR rate currently is.
Somewhere on the electricity bill you should see something that says, “the average price you paid for electric service is”. This will be the electric rate per kWh you are paying. Make sure this rate matches what they advertised to you.
Pay As You Go Electricity Usage Estimates
The prepaid electricity provider should use historical electricity usage data that you have accumulated to revise their usage estimates. If your prepaid electricity company is using estimated usage from the previous tenant even though they have several months of your usage data they could be overcharging you by a lot.
Prepaid Electricity Bill Due Dates
A payment due date should be listed on the electric bill you receive from your pay as you go electric company. Be sure to look out for this.
If the Texas prepaid electric company has a 24 x 7 call center or payment center receive payments than they can make the bill due no later than 5 days after you receive it. Make sure you send in payment or you could risk a disconnection. I would try making payment late in the night to test whether or not they have a 24×7 payment center as this 5 day due date can be a little difficult especially if there are times when you cannot pay.
If the pay as you go electricity provider does not have a 24 x 7 payment center than the due date cannot be less than 10 days after the customer receives the bill.
If your bill is sent by email then according to the PUCT you received it the day the electric provider emailed it to you.
When Is A Prepaid Electric Bill Considered Late?
Your electricity service payment is considered late if it is not received before close of business on the payments due date. During holidays the electric bill due date is extended to the next business day after the holiday.
Prepaid Electricity Facts Label
Your electricity facts label should indicate the number of days a payment of $20, $50, $100, and $200 can be expected to last at monthly usahe levels of 500 kWh, 1,000 kWh, and 2,000 kWh.
The Proper Disconnection Notice You May Receive From A Prepaid Company
The disconnection notice can be sent along with your electric bill or request for a deposit. “Disconnection Notice” should be prominently displayed on the notice. The disconnection date cannot be a holiday, weekend day, or day that the REP is not available to take payment. The disconnection cannot occur less than 5 days after the notice is issued if they have a 24×7 payment center. If the prepaid electric company is not open all hours to take payments then you have a full7 days to make your late payment before being disconnected.
Being Underbilled For Several Months
If you were underbilled for several months and then all of a sudden you receive a gigantic electric bill you have some options. The PUCT allows for you to be put on a deferred billing arrangement with your pay as you go electric supplier. You can pay in $50 installments until you have paid back the underbilled amount without being disconnected for non-payment.
Electric Service For Critical Care Customers
If you have a serious illness and tell the electric provider that if they were to disconnect you it could cause serious harm to yourself and even death than they must send you a waiver. The waiver basically states that you agree to be disconnected if you make a late payment. If you choose not to sign this waiver the REP must switch you to another product or electric provider that avoids a disconnection in electric service.