Buyer beware: this is the official PUC powertochoose.org website
Shop. Compare. Choose. But what if it wasn't that easy?
The Texas Public Utilities Commission runs powertochoose.org, the electricity comparison website that is supposed to help Texans shop for and find a retail electric supplier. While it is popular with both consumers and consumer groups as a neutral source of electricity price information, the the website has unfortunately been subject to recent manipulation, by retail electric providers (REPs)& and electricity comparison brokers alike.
"It’s come to my attention that some REP have been working the system," said Donna Nelson, chairman of the Public Utility Commission, at a recent public meeting. Referring to energy providers that may be listing misleading information on the state-run website, Nelson continued: "They’ve got all these tricky little things in their prices, and whatever the fact sheets are called – the nutrition label – that makes it really difficult for customers."
In fact, several REP have been listing electricity prices on powertochoose.org for as low as 1 ¢/kWh, which - particularly when transmission and distribution charges average around 4 ¢/kWh - seems too good to be true. Indeed, such plans often include fees or other provisions hidden in fine print of contract terms and conditions, or they may only last a few months before the REP raises the price. While Texas REP operating in the deregulated ERCOT service area are free to set prices as low or as high as they choose, their prices must include regulated transmission and distribution costs, making it clear that no REP could remain financially viable while charging 1 ¢ rates over the long term.
Nelson advised PUC staff to closely examine the prices listed on the powertochoose.org website to verify whether some Texas REP are breaking any rules. The agency’s executive director appeared to question whether the site's continued existence was encouraging REPs to play games with their prices, questioning its usefulness. While the state-run site enjoys credibility as an objective and neutral site - retail providers do not have to pay to be listed on powertochoose.org - it has been criticized by consumer groups for being easy to manipulate.
Indeed, as the Dallas Morning News Watchdog has pointed out, it's not just inside powertochoose.org where manipulations occur. Retail electric providers and electricity comparison brokers alike are focussing in on the site's title, "Power to Choose", creating similarly-named websites that fool customers into thinking they have reached the state-run site. Some sites include "power to choose" in their website url. Others include the phrase in the description of the website itself, while still others purchase Google ads using the keywords.
Find out moreHow to Avoid Mistakes When Shopping for Electricity in Texas
Understand Electricity Price Types in Texas
10 Questions to Ask Any Energy Supplier
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Have you been fooled by a Power to Choose imposter? Let us know in the comments section below!