Consumers benefit from electric deregulation in a variety of ways. First, commercial and industrial electricity users can better manage their energy costs. This results in lower prices for goods and services and reduces our cost of living. In addition, customer choice also encourages innovative rate structures and leverages new technologies like smart meters and learning thermostats. Most importantly, consumers can directly benefit by choosing competitive rates and lowering their monthly electricity bill. While there are many benefits, electriicty choice can also result in problems like slamming.
Many of us became familiar with the term slamming when long distance telephone service deregulated in the late 1980s and into the 1990s. Slamming refers to the unauthorized or unintentional switching of service providers. Whether it telecom or electricity, the definition of the term is the same. Fortunately, Texas lawmakers and regulators kept the lessons from telecom in mind when they developed consumer protections for electric service.
Residential and small business electricity consumers are subject to a protected switch. A protected switch simply means that these consumers must be notified when their electric service is being changed from one provider to another. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) will send you a postcard as shown in the sample. The message is short and to the point: ERCOT has received a request to change your service to a new electricity provider. This postcard notification is simply a heads up as to what is happening. It acts as an additional layer of protection against slamming.
Changing Electric Companies
Should you receive a notice from ERCOT indicating a change in your electric service provider, there are some things you should do. If you enrolled with a new electricity provider, make sure the information on the ERCOT notice matches your choice. If everything checks out, the change in service will proceed without any additional action. Keep in mind that ERCOT only acts on the information provided by the electricity company. It does not referee consumer disputes or make decisions on early termination fees. This postcard notification of a pending service change is the only interaction you will have with ERCOT.
Unauthorized Service Request
You should take action in the event the information on the ERCOT postcard comes as a surprise to you. You may recall enrolling with a new provider but the name on the postcard sounds unfamiliar. Contact them at the phone number shown on the postcard and ask them how they received authorization to switch your service (door-to-door, phone, or online enrollment). This may help jog your memory if, in fact, you did request a change in service.
Second, be sure to check with any other adults living in your home. Sometimes the right hand may not know what the left hand is doing when it comes to shopping for Texas electricity. Seriously, this happens often and it is good to make sure that someone else in the home did not take action without letting you know.
If you are certain the switch is unauthorized, call the new provider and your old provider at the numbers shown on the ERCOT postcard. In most cases, making these two phone calls clears everything up and cancels the switch. In the event the matter is not resolved, you can file an informal complaint with the Public Utility Commission of Texas. If you use their online complaint form, there is a box where you can select “slamming” as being the problem.