Fixed rate product — A retail electric product with a term of at least three months for which the price (including recurring charges) for each billing period of the contract term is the same throughout the contract term, except that the price may vary from the disclosed amount solely to reflect actual changes in the Transmission and Distribution Utility (TDU) charges, changes to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) or Texas Regional Entity administrative fees charged to loads or changes resulting from federal, state or local laws that impose new or modified fees or costs on a REP that are beyond the REP’s control.
According to TXU it is unclear whether the ERCOT System Administration Fee, TRE Fee, Public Utility Commission assessment, and Gross Receipts Tax Reimbursements are considered recurring charges that must be included in the total average price per kWh on a customer’s Electricity Facts Label and bills, or whether they may merely be identified to customers in the Electricity Facts Label or Terms of Service and then billed as line items on the bill and not included in the total average price/kWh. Currently Retail Electric Providers are treating these fees and assessments differently which is preventing customers from making an apples to apples price comparison.
The PUCT clarifies that any dispute between a customer and a Retail Electric Provider concerning the terms of a contract, any vagueness, obscurity, or ambiguity in the contract will be construed in favor of the electricity service customer.
The Electricity Facts Label for each electric service product shall be printable in no more than a two page format. The Electricity Facts Label, Terms of Service, and YRAC for any products offered for enrollment on a Texas electricity providers website shall be available for viewing or downloading.
According to the PUCT for a fixed rate product, the Electricity Facts Label shall provide the total average price for electric service reflecting all recurring charges, excluding state and local sales taxes, and reimbursement for the state miscellaneous gross receipts tax, to the customer.
I hate to even suggest it if it wasn’t true but some of the Texas electricity companies advertising out there really cannot be doing anything other than making a clever attempt at tricking customers into their rates. Our compare widget will show you the entire rate and make the shopping experience easy and quick.
Why would I say something like this? Just take a look at a handful of some of the electricity companies we wrote about and look at near 300 comments in some cases from disgruntled electricity service customers on some of them. A couple situations had more to do with confusion of what a customer thought a variable electricity rate is which cannot be blamed on some of these providers. Many of these situations involve customers who truly believed when signing up that they were on a fixed electricity rate only to be told in their electricity bill later that additional fluctuating charges have been added on.
- Amigo Energy – Over 80 Comments (Problems associated with POLR customers not understanding to switch to a plan after moving to POLR)
- Dynowatt Energy – Over 80 Comments (many of these are customer confusion over variable electricity prices)
- Freedom Power – Over 40 comments (complaints and confusion by customers of disconnects and extra charges)
- National Power – Over 330 comments (no longer selling in Texas after an attempt to raise customer fixed rates)
- Riverway Power – Over 30 comments (no longer selling in Texas after an attempt to raise customer fixed rates)
This is a very confrontational topic and I will do my best to stay away from naming Texas electric company names but a few different scenarios of what I am talking about come to mind. Below I will give a summary of some of the confusing electricity price advertisements I have come across.
- One electricity provider had an electricity rate on the splash page where they advertise their rates about 3 cents cheaper than the cheapest 12 month fixed rate any Texas electricity company was offering. The rate was being advertised as a fixed rate as well. This was a residential electricity rate and since 90% of all residential electric companies in Texas bundle in all charges minus a monthly fixed base charge we would assume this was a bundled rate. We pulled up the facts label off their site which is supposed to break it down according to PUCT regulations where the rate is bundled together with all charges. The rate showed the same low price in the facts label but had some interesting legal jargon in the fine print that TDSP charges may need to be added in addition. We called this electricity provider because no where on the site could we find a total bundled residential electricity price. The provider after much questioning explained that additional TDSP charges would need to be added to the rate but they could not tell me what these are because they are variable and vary by customer. The lady was right. The TDSP charges are variable and in fact 90% of the TDSP charges are demand related. In other words if you are accustomed to turning on all the machines, lights, AC, and appliances in your house during peak times in the day than your demand charge could be much higher than a typical household. Your variable part of the rate could be 4 cents per kWh or more on top of the advertised fixed rate. Most Texas electricity providers fix the TDSP charges and bundle it into the rate so regardless of what your demand may be you pay the disclosed advertised price you saw and read in their advertisement. How is a Texas electricity provider able to fix the TDSP charges? Well, if you average what most residential customers use in energy it comes out to about 1,300 kWh a month. The demand is also easy to average out. Since residential electricity service providers deal in large volume they can average out the cost of TDSP charges and make them a fixed component of the rate. These electricity companies than bundle the TDSP charges into the advertised rate to give you an exact picture of what your residential electricity rate will look like. Again most electric companies will do this for residential customers and it has become an industry standard norm. Only a handful of energy companies do not use this practice and they seem to keep it a secret on their sites as you usually can only discover that additional TDSP charges will be added when reading the fine print of their contract or asking interrogating questions to the sales rep.
- Another practice involves having a “fuel surcharge” clause in the fine details of the contract in that little tiny print on page 6 or something. Most customers will never ask or look to discover that their fixed rate they have “locked into” can change when fuel prices go up. The Texas electricity grid relies on natural gas to spin the turbines that create our Texas electric power. Natural gas is about 45% of the generation fuel we use to create electricity in Texas and Dallas and Houston are big recipients of this fuel source. Natural gas prices go up all the time and right now are near a low in the market. This low means that “what goes down must eventually come up” as the old commodities adage goes. We beg to differ that you are really “locking in” to anything considering fuel prices go up and down everyday. A fuel surcharge is one of the biggest jokes to put in a fixed electricity rate contract. If you are buying a variable wholesale price for your residential electricity service and want to take on the risk than a fuel surcharge is great. I personally am on an MCPE type of residential electricity rate that goes up and down based on market conditions. It is fine to sign up on one of these rates if you know that is what you have agreed to. The problem is that some Texas electricity companies literally have a business model that is based on assuming their customers have confusion already about price. These electric providers know what they can and cannot get away with. By adding something in the details of the contract while leaving the splash page that hooks in customers void of any reference to the additional fuel surcharge they are deceiving their customers. Sometimes a reference might be made in microscopic print after an asterisks at the bottom of the page. One way or another the electricity provider operating in this manner doesn’t do enough to inform the customer about what electricity rate they are really agreeing to.
- A recent comment by a visitor on our site gave some helpful information about an electricity company that according to him had a business model based on customer confusion over electricity price. We have taken out that Texas electricity providers name since we do not have any way of knowing if this is true but you can read for yourself someone who apparently has a little inside knowledge of some of these games that are played.
Dear A—- Customers-
1st thing 1st…A—- Energy is owned by a company called F—— Energy, a wholesale energy provider. They purchased a large power plant called Basque about a year ago that cost them about 600 million dollars. They are leveraged to the hilt and this cost has been passed on to the consumer through their retail provider A—- Energy controlled by F——.
A—-’s personnel is a patchwork of bufoons and people who don’t know how to deal with customers and are very green when it comes too being an REP. It was once said in a meeting by their pricing person that he wanted to quote, “Take advantage of people who do not know anything about price.” unquote. I notice he made good on his promise to J—– V—, the flamboyant CEO of A—-. I guess this is the reason that they have targeted the hispanic community with this exorbit price. How unfortunate.
Again, they have uneducated people at levels that they should not be at by any stretch of the imagination and they use tactics that are possibly in violation of PUCT rules and regulations. They have over two hundred BBC complaints against them and have had a expose by the Houston Chronicle informing the people of the many complaints. When V— was asked by the Reporter if he knew about the many complaints, V— totally lied to them about his knowledge of the complaints. He knew about all of them and doesn’t give a flying, well you know. I knew they were ignorant about their knowledge, I didn’t know they were that unethical.
So what is my point in writing about the bad Texas electricity companies out there? It is a pretty important topic as having electric providers out there tricking customers and doing illegal things is bad for everybody. It is bad for myself who is in this business trying to do something honest, it’s bad for ethically run electricity companies like the ones in the Texas electricity comparison chart above, and it could easily bring on more government regulation. With a possible government take over of the health care industry, GM, and who knows what other industries do we really want to turn into Canada? These rogue Texas electricity companies do get sued from time to time but they make a lot of money and have increased their profit margins through dishonest business practices. It is important to bring to light the dishonest practices of a handful of energy companies so that Texas electricity customers know that not all providers operate in this manner.
For a clear easy to understand apples to apples comparison of discount electricity rates in Texas please look at the top of this article for a comparison of several reputable electricity providers in Texas. All fees and charges are disclosed, there are no hidden fees or fuel surcharges, and several different fixed electricity rates are available. You can compare from cheapest to most expensive, pick a no deposit plan, green energy plan, Fast move in, or just go with a shorter term option. If you have questions after comparing electricity companies please give us a call at 1-800-971-4020 back to top ^