Thursday, March 30, 2017

PUC Offers Tips On Door-To-Door Sales By Energy Suppliers, Consumer Rights

The Public Utility Commission Thursday offered consumer tips on door-to-door sales and marketing activities by agents of competitive electric and natural gas suppliers, reminding consumers of their rights as well as their options when it comes to shopping for and selecting a competitive supplier for gas or electric service.            
“With spring upon us, warmer weather and more daylight, we traditionally see an uptick in door-to-door sales and marketing activity by competitive suppliers,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown.  “PUC regulations provide consumers with layers of protection to help them recognize deceptive sales practices and avoid falling victim to unscrupulous sales agents.”
In Pennsylvania, from April 1 through Sept. 30, hours for door-to-door sales and marketing expand one hour, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. When a local ordinance has stricter limitations, a supplier must comply with the local ordinance.
Chairman Brown advised consumers to immediately seek proper identification before engaging a salesperson.  Brown noted that regulations require agents who conduct door-to-door activities, or appear at public events, to wear an identification badge.  
The badge must:
-- Accurately identify the supplier, its trade name and logo;
-- Display the agent’s photograph;
-- Display the agent’s full name;
-- Be prominently displayed; and
-- Display a customer-service phone number for the supplier.
Upon first contact with a customer, an agent must identify himself by name, the energy supplier he represents, and the reason for the visit.  Additionally, the agent must make clear that he is not working for - and is independent of - the customer’s local utility or any other supplier.  
The agent may not wear apparel or accessories – or even carry equipment containing branding elements – that suggests a relationship with a utility, government agency, or other supplier.
Chairman Brown urged consumers to avoid intimidating sales pitches pressuring them to act now, reminding them that they are not required to choose a competitive supplier for their electricity or natural gas supply.  
However, should they elect to enter into a contract with a competitive supplier, residents should expect the following once the supplier’s sales agent completes a transaction:
-- Before the agent leaves the residence, the customer should receive a copy of each signed or initialed document relating to the transaction;
-- The agent must explain the supplier’s verification process that is used to confirm the customer’s intent to switch suppliers;
-- After customer verification, the agent must provide a copy of the full disclosure statement with all contractual terms and conditions; and Agents must remind customers that they may rescind the transaction within three business days after receiving the disclosure statement.
-- Agents must immediately leave a residence when requested to do so, and furthermore must honor a customer’s request to be exempted from future door-to-door sales and marketing activities.  Upon receipt of such a request, the agent notifies the supplier, which removes the customer from their databases within two business days.
Chairman Brown further urged customers facing an aggressive sales agent or suspecting a potential scam to contact the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services at 1-800-692-7380, as well as alert their local utility.  
Consumers who feel threatened or are concerned about their safety should contact local authorities to report the incident.  The complete list of regulations governing marketing and sales practices for Pennsylvania’s retail residential energy market is found at 52 Pa. Code, Chapter 111.
In addition to door-to-door sales, Chairman Brown reminded consumers that they have other avenues to shop for their electric generation or natural gas supply.  
She noted that for both industries, the PUC operates neutral, independent websites in (electric) and (natural gas) where 24 hours a day, seven days a week consumers can access current supplier offerings, consumer education fact sheets, and information on energy efficiency and conservation.
The PUC’s consumer tips are available online.

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