Monday, June 29, 2020

PUC Urges Consumers To Watch Out For Questionable Energy Marketing Pitches

With potential increases in energy sales and marketing as the cooling season kicks into high gear, the
Public Utility Commission continues urging consumers to remain vigilant about questionable energy marketing activities and possible scams, particularly with unsolicited telemarketing calls requesting quick action and promising far-reaching benefits as compared to previous energy bills.
The PUC’s Office of Competitive Market Oversight and Bureau of Consumer Services continually monitor activities relating to energy sales and marketing across the Commonwealth. 

The volume of calls and complaints appears to coincide with recent utility adjusted electric generation prices for non-shopping customers, which occurred on June 1.

Questionable “Rebate Check” Robocalls

OCMO has noted an increasing tempo of consumer complaints centered on robocalls from unidentified sources making vague and potentially misleading statements about customer discounts, refunds, rebates and bonuses if the customer acts now. 

The questionable calls appear to follow the same basic script:

“This is an apology call from your electric (or natural gas) utility.  You got over changed by your third-party supplier.  You will be receiving a rebate check along with a 30% discount on your electric and gas bill. Please press 1 to get your rebate check.”

The calls often appear as a local telephone number on recipients call ID, which is often fake or “spoofed,” or the calls fail to display any number at all.

Identifying Legitimate Energy Sales Calls

When discussing energy supply service with telemarketers, the PUC stresses that telemarketing agents must do the following: 

-- Callers must tell you who they are;

-- They must clearly explain why they are calling; and,

-- They cannot claim to represent the PUC, another utility or other organization.

If the agent fails to do this immediately, the consumer should end the call.  Again, vague and potentially misleading statements – for example, “I am calling about an urgent matter concerning your generation service,” or “about your utility bill,” or “about your discount /refund /rebate /bonus/overcharges” – should also alert the consumer to end the call. 

Additionally, sales agents may not suggest that they are working for or in partnership with a utility – such as your local electric or natural gas distribution company; a government agency-- such as the PUC; or other supplier-- including false claims that other suppliers are “going out of business” or experiencing other problems.

When facing an aggressive sales agent or suspecting a potential scam, consumers are encouraged to contact BCS at 1-800-692-7380.

Two PUC websites allow consumers to shop for competitive electricity-- -- and natural gas--  suppliers allowing you to compare offers.

[Posted: June 29, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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