HOUSTON, Sept. 20, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Over the past summer, the Public Utilities Commission of Texas has been baffled by Retail Energy Providers using pricing gimmicks that dupe Texas consumers into high monthly bills at its Power to Choose website.(1) The PUC of Texas' best solution was to tweak some sort settings, limit the number of REP plans, and offer a "series of user-friendly PDFs and videos intended to guide and inform the customer."(2) The chairman has even recently said that if the PUCT can't figure out a solution, then the commission may just shut down the Power to Choose website.(3)
For example, if you use a small amount of energy each month, you expect to be rewarded — right? Unfortunately, nearly all electricity plans from Texas REPs are advertised as costing more per kWh the less electricity you use. It’s a little like buying in bulk: Providers often discount your bill when you cross certain kWh thresholds. For instance, one 12-month plan from StarTex Power quotes 8.1 cents per kWh for 1,000 kWh a month and 8.8 cents for 2,000 kWh per month, but 12.1 cents for 500 kWh per month. Why the difference? Customers get $35 back each month if they pass 1,000 kWh of use, and another $15 back per month if they cross 2,000 kWh. In this case, using half as much electricity as your neighbor on the same plan wouldn’t get you half the bill.
The PUC’s mission is to protect customers, foster competition, and promote high-quality infrastructure. In addition to regulating the states electric utilities and implementing legislation, the PUC offers Texas residents assistance in resolving consumer complaints. If you have a complaint with your electricity company you can go to the official PUC website and file an informal complaint.