Don’t get “slammed” when picking a new electric provider.
It’s not outright fraud, but a high-pressure tactic called slamming is a problem for Lubbock electric customers, Lubbock Power and Light said.
“It’s a practice where somebody will come to your door,” said Matt Rose, public affairs and government relations manager for the city-owned utility. “Through their interactions with you, they signed you up for a contract with a particular company without your consent, sometimes without your knowledge.”
The deals are not valid and consumers can get out of them. On a social media post, Toni White said TXU signed him up without his permission.
“If you have been switched to a Retail Electric Provider without your permission, you may have been slammed. Slamming is Illegal.” – Public Utility Commission of Texas
“We had a guy from TXU come by,” White said in his post. “He was supposed to be giving us estimates. But he signed us up with TXU without us knowing. It happened to my brother-in-law as well.”
When people asked in the comments, he added he never signed a contract.
TXU has not yet responded to a request for comment from LubbockLights.com.
The ‘unwelcome’ packet
If you have not made a choice, the first clue you have been slammed might be a welcome packet in the mail from an electric provider.
Electric customers in Lubbock have until February 15 to choose a provider or be placed with one of three default providers. Staying with Lubbock Power & Light is not an option.
Only 20 percent have made a choice as of this week, Rose said. That means so far, most of you should not have a packet.
If you got slammed, report it to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) toll-free at 1-888-782-8477. The PUC also said to contact the company and ask to be switched back to your original provider.
“Simply call,” Rose said. “They can call that company and say, ‘I’m not a customer of yours.’ And they can go sign up with whomever they like.”
“You simply can go pick your chosen provider. That’s the choice that’s going to be valid,” Rose said.
But even if you did agree and just changed your mind, you still have 72 hours to back out, Rose said.
“They have the ability to say, ‘I don’t want to be with that company,’” Rose said. There are both state and federal protections for electric customers.
Slamming ain’t new to Texas
Texas customers filed a little less than 4,500 complaints against electric providers last year with the PUC. Roughly 9 percent were for slamming.
The biggest three companies for slamming last year were Just Energy with 47 complaints, Reliant with 43 and TXU with 42. None of those numbers include Lubbock which opened for selection on January 5.
Cramming – unauthorized charges on your electric bill – is also a problem but represents less than one percent of all PUC complaints.
“We’re not seeing anybody as a true scammer,” Rose said. But that’s not good enough to let your guard down. Some of the companies are aggressive.
“We have a lot of folks that are advertising around Lubbock for things that are really not more than multi-level marketing,” Rose said.
Electricity is never free. What they’re really asking you to do, Rose said, is sign up 20 of your friends for their company.
There’s no promise the person knocking on your door is legitimate.
“In many instances you should not give them any sort of personal information,” Rose said. “There’s always a risk that your information could be exposed.”
The city’s electric utility website lists the companies that got permission to knock on your door. Even so, take their pamphlets or business cards, then contact the company on your own, Rose suggested.
White reported slamming
White called TXU to successfully straighten out the account and reported the man who came to his door.
“I don’t know if anything is gonna happen to him,” White said on social media.
When White tried calling the man directly, “He just refused to answer the calls.”