- What has stayed the same in electric service?
- Your current Transmission and Distribution Utility, or "local wires company," continues to deliver electricity to your home. Your local wires company still responds to service interruptions and continues to maintain the poles and wires. You will continue to receive the same reliable service you are used to with your local wires company, regardless of which Retail Electric Provider you receive service from.
- What has changed in electric service?
- You can now choose to buy your electricity from a different electric provider than the original provider for your area. These companies are called Retail Electric Providers. Additionally, your bill now looks different than bills you have received in the past, but each Retail Electric Provider provides the same standard information.
- Do all Texans have the power to choose their electric provider?
- No. City-owned utilities and member-owned electric cooperatives have the option of giving their customers a choice of providers, or keeping things the way they are today. To see if competition is active in your area, visit our "Compare offers now" page, or call toll-free 1-866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839).
- What are the benefits of Electric Choice?
- Texas' electric rates are average compared to rates across the rest of the country, but our usage is among the highest in the nation due to demand for air conditioning during the long, hot summer season. Competition in other industries has often brought lower prices and innovative, new products and services. Having more control over your buying decision should make it easier to determine what matters most to you, whether it is prices, renewable or green energy sources, customer service or simply a name you know.
Electric competition also should help the environment because Retail Electric Providers may offer electricity from environmentally-clean energy sources. Generating electricity from renewable sources such as wind produces less air pollution than generation that relies on burning coal or natural gas. Natural gas is considered a "clean" fuel source in Texas, since it produces fewer emissions than coal.
- With competition, will the reliability of my electric service change?
- No. No matter which Retail Electric Provider you choose, your electricity will continue to be delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company, a company still regulated by the PUC.
- How does the new competition law protect the environment?
Encourages upgrade or retirement of older power plants to meet emissions standards by allowing utilities to recoup the costs of retrofitting or retiring certain older power plants.
Provides incentives for energy efficiency programs that will result in less demand for the production of electricity.
Requires retail electric providers to buy an additional combined 2,000 megawatts of Texas renewable electric generation capacity statewide by January 2009, from sources that include wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass or geothermal.
Texas has routinely exceeded its renewable generation targets and is the largest wind power generator in the U.S.
- Do I have to switch from my current electric utility?
- No. If you decide not to choose a new Retail Electric Provider, your service will be provided by the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider. The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is the electric provider that was part of the original Retail Electric Provider that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity and provides customer service.
- What is an Aggregator?
- Aggregator is a person or organization that helps create an electricity-buying group. An aggregator may be able to get lower prices or other benefits for the group and its members. Electricity buying groups may consist of existing organizations, or new groups may be formed just to buy electricity for its members. Aggregators may include cities and towns, non-profit organizations and business associations. Aggregators must be registered with the PUC.
- Are there any special requirements for Aggregators?
- No. Any groups of people can combine their electric load. However, the aggregator must be registered with the PUC before it can help buy energy for a group's members.
To learn more about how to become an Aggregator, visit the PUC Web site or call the PUC toll-free 1-888-782-8477.
- What are the price benefits of Aggregation?
- The most immediate benefit of aggregating loads is be the ability to purchase electricity at lower prices. Volume discount-electric suppliers usually sell electricity at lower prices to large customers.
- Are there other benefits of Aggregation?
- Yes. As the competitive market evolves, aggregators may be able to secure valuable services, such as energy management services and energy use analysis. Moreover, some providers will offer other services with electric supply, such as wireless paying, Internet access, banking service, financing, security, insurance, etc.
For more information on aggregation or becoming an aggregator, please download our brochure.
Agents and Brokers
Many Retail Electric Providers use agents or brokers to support their marketing and sales efforts. These individuals and companies are paid a commission or other compensation by the REP for getting customers to sign up for electric service. Agents and brokers are subject to the same customer protection rules as the REPs they are marketing. They may make claims of being "objective" but remember they are only selling electric service for the REP or REPs with whom they have a business relationship, so beware of claims that the rates they offer are "the lowest" or that their service is "the best". Always shop around (and consult this Web site) before signing up with an agent or broker, and never sign anything unless you are sure you have been given all the customer protection documents that REPs are required to provide.
Door-to-Door Sales Personnel
Many REPs employ door-to-door sales personnel or agents to market their electric services. The PUC has specific rules for door-to-door sales to protect customers from misleading or unscrupulous sales tactics. Any salesperson or agent soliciting door-to door must wear a shirt that has the name of the REP he or she works for, and must also wear a badge with the REP's name, PUC certificate number, and a toll-free phone number you can call to verify that the salesperson or agent is an authorized representative of that company. If you live in an area or complex that has a no-solicitation policy prohibiting door-to-door sales, a REP salesperson or agent may not solicit your business. The PUC recommends that you never sign a contract or agreement with any door-to-door salesperson or agent before shopping around with other providers or verifying that the person actually works for the company he/she says they represent. If you do sign up, you still have three days to cancel your order, and after that you still have to verify your choice by phone with an independent third-party. The salesperson cannot be on that verification call. If you believe a door-to-door salesperson or agent is not following the PUC's rules, you should file a complaint by calling the PUC toll-free at (888) 782-8477.
- Will my bill look different with Electric Choice?
- Yes. Your Retail Electric Provider is responsible for customer service functions such as billing. The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) has established rules requiring Retail Electric Providers to provide you with a bill that is easy to read. For example, your bill will be issued monthly, you will receive a paper bill via U.S. Mail, and you have the choice of receiving your bill electronically, if both you and your Retail Electric Provider agree. It is up to Retail Electric Providers to design their bills; however, there are many bill components they are required to include. Please refer to our Fact Sheet on Bill Formats for more information on your electric bill.
- Will my bill be itemized?
- It is up to Retail Electric Providers to design their bills. How they decide to itemize charges is up to them.
- Whom do I call with a billing question?
- You should contact your Retail Electric Provider.
- How are billing disputes resolved?
- Billing disputes should be directed to your Retail Electric Provider. If disputes cannot be resolved, please contact the Public Utility Commission of Texas customer hotline toll-free at 1-888-PUC-TIPS (1-888-782-8477).
- What portion of my electric bill am I shopping for?
- The portion you are shopping for is the total price per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which will help you compare offers from Retail Electric Providers. Each Retail Electric Provider must provide an "Electricity Fact Label," which is designed to show the cost of electricity at various levels of consumption, taking into account all of the costs of producing and delivering electricity. It will probably be easier for you to compare offers from different Retail Electric Providers by looking at the total charges in the Electricity Facts Label. Contact each provider you are interested in and request a copy of their Electricity Facts Label to compare offers and determine which is best for your family.
- Will I pay a monthly charge if I use more/less electricity in a billing period?
- It is important to know if the REP or plan that you are considering charges an additional fee if you use less than a certain kWh amount during a billing period. Typical usage cut offs that might incur a fee are less than 1,000 kWh or less than 500 kWh. Different REPs list this fee by different names. Some common terms used are "base charge," "customer monthly charge," or "customer service charge." To determine if there is a usage fee affiliated with a plan and what the minimum kWh usage is, read the plan's Electricity Facts Label or contact the REP directly.
- Is there a penalty for changing providers?
- No. There is no switching fee unless you request a special meter reading at a time other than your regularly scheduled meter reading. There may also be penalties if you break an existing contract with your current Retail Electric Provider. Review your Terms of Service agreement for details.
- If I sign up with a new Retail Electric Provider, when will the switch to that company happen?
- Customers can choose a Retail Electric Provider at any time; after switching to a new provider, you will begin to receive service within seven business days. Before you are switched, you will receive written confirmation in the mail. You will receive your first electric bill from your new Retail Electric Provider on the following billing cycle.
- Do I have a right to cancel?
- Yes. You may cancel within three days from when you receive your Terms of Service agreement by contacting the Retail Electric Provider. If you are hand-delivered a terms of service agreement or you sign up for service using the Internet, there is a three-day cancellation period. The confirmation that will be mailed to you will also provide a way to cancel your switch.
- What happens if my Retail Electric Provider stops serving customers?
- You will not be without electricity. In most cases, your Retail Electric Provider will give you 30 days' advance notice to give you time to select a new provider. If your provider goes out of business suddenly, your electric service will be switched automatically to the "Provider of Last Resort" (POLR). POLR service is meant to be a temporary fix until you switch to another electric provider, and POLR service typically has very high rates compared to standard market offers. Use this Web site to shop for a new provider and you can begin to receive service fromyour new provider within seven business days. If you do not switch to a new provider, you will remain with the POLR and have to pay its higher rates, so it's important to shop and switch providers as soon as possible. You can also read our fact sheet What To Do if Your REP Leaves the Market.
- Which companies are other people choosing?
- Because Texas Electric Choice is a neutral source of information for public education, we do not have that information available, nor do we recommend any particular provider. However, you can see which companies are providing electric service in your area by visiting the "Compare offers now" page. Or, you can call our toll-free Answer Center at 1-866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839) and we can send a list of providers out to you. You should choose the provider that is best for your personal needs.
- If I do not choose an electric provider, who will supply my electricity?
- If you decided not to choose a new Retail Electric Provider, your service is being provided by the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider. The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is the electric provider that was part of the original electric company that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity and provides customer service.
How to Choose
- What if I decide not to switch to a new provider?
- If you decide not to choose a new Retail Electric Provider, your service will remain with the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider. The Affiliate Retail Electric Provider is the electric provider that was part of the original Retail Electric Provider that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity and provides customer service.
- How do I know which providers are providing service in my area?
- You can see which companies are providing electric service in your area by visiting the "Compare offers now" page. Or, you can call our toll-free Answer Center at 1-866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839) and we will send a list of providers to you. Providers may also contact you directly to market their services.
- How can I compare offers from Retail Electric Providers?
- Ask Retail Electric Providers for a copy of their Electricity Facts Label, which contains standardized information about rates, contract terms, sources of power generation and emissions. To compare offers online, visit the "Compare offers now" page to view rates and basic contract terms of current offers from the Retail Electric Providers serving your area.
- Do I have to tell my current Retail Electric Provider that I'm switching providers?
- To switch your electric service to a new provider, contact the Retail Electric Provider of your choice. Your new Retail Electric Provider will send you a "Terms of Service" agreement that provides details of the service offerings and terms as well as a standardized Electricity Fact Label (EFL) that you can use to campare this offer to other providers' offers. You do not need to contact your current Retail Electric Provider.
- What are my rights as an electric customer?
- You have the right to choose an electric provider, which includes the right to be served by the Affiliate Retail Electric Provider (the electric provider that was part of the original Retail Electric Provider that generated and sold electricity in your area, that now only sells electricity). No matter which electric provider you choose, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) will continue to protect your rights.
If you feel that your rights have been violated, call the PUC's toll-free Customer Hotline at 1-888-PUC-TIPS (1-888-782-8477). Your rights include:
- Non-Discrimination: In addition to standard discrimination prohibitions, a Retail Electric Provider may not deny service or discriminate in the marketing of electric service based on a customer's income level, location in an economically distressed area, or qualification for low-income or energy efficiency services.
- Slamming and Cramming: Slamming is switching your electric service provider without your permission. Cramming is adding charges to your electric bill for optional services without your permission. Both slamming and cramming are illegal.
- Dispute Resolution: Retail Electric Providers must promptly investigate customer complaints and customers have the right to make complaints about a Retail Electric Provider to the Public Utility Commission.
- Privacy of Information: Retail Electric Providers cannot release any customer-specific information to other Retail Electric Providers or any other companies without your permission.
- In addition, all Retail Electric Providers must follow a new set of customer protections, by providing:
- An Electricity Facts Label: This gives a Retail Electric Provider's pricing information, contract terms, sources of generation and levels of emissions in a standardized format so that you can compare Retail Electric Provider offers.
- A Terms of Service agreement: This is your contract. It informs you of a Retail Electric Provider's contract terms and conditions.
- A "Your Rights as a Customer" disclosure: This informs you of your standard customer protections as mandated by the PUC.
- Non-English language materials: All Retail Electric Providers must make customer information available in Spanish. Additionally, a Retail Electric Provider must make all materials available in the language(s) in which they market electric service.
No Call Lists
- What are the Texas "No Call Lists?"
- You have the opportunity to add your name, telephone number and address to two "No Call Lists." By placing your name, address and telephone number on one or both of these lists, you identify yourself as a Texas resident who does not want to receive telemarketing calls. One list is created to prevent telephone solicitations to your home phone from telemarketers and the second applies to only Retail Electric Providers and telemarketers calling about retail electric service.
- Why are there two lists?
- As a part of the electric restructuring bill passed in 1999, the Texas Legislature required the PUC to create an "Electric No Call List" for customers who do not wish to receive telemarketing calls from Retail Electric Providers or telemarketers calling on their behalf. The "Electric No Call List" now applies to only business telephone numbers.
In 2001, the Texas State Legislature passed legislation that created a statewide "No Call List." This statewide "No Call List" applies to all telemarketers doing business in the state and includes only residential telephone numbers. Because two separate statutes set up two distinct lists, the PUC is required to create and maintain two lists.
- How do I sign up?
- You may sign up to subscribe to either or both "No Call Lists" in three ways:
- Online at www.texasnocall.com for instant registration free of charge (there is a fee to register by mail or telephone). Utilize this easy, automated method to expedite your registration. The site is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- Call toll-free 1-866-TX-No Call (1-866-896-6225) to obtain an application or to register.
- Send a written request for an application to:
TEXAS NO CALL
P.O. Box 313
E. Walpole, MA 02032
- When registering online, why am I asked for my email address?
- The Texas PUC requests your email address so that we may send correspondence about the Texas "No Call Lists." Your email address allows us to send instant registration confirmation. In addition, you will also receive a notification when your three-year or five-year registration is about to expire. At that time, you will have an opportunity to renew your registration. The PUC or Gryphon Networks Corp., the company that maintains the lists, will not use your email address for any other purpose, nor will it be provided to any third party.
- Will putting my name on either/both lists stop all telemarketing calls?
- The intent of the legislation is to stop unwanted telemarketing calls to customers from companies with whom the customer does not have an existing business relationship. However, customers with existing business relationships may continue to receive calls from these companies. In addition, customers with prior business relationships may receive calls from businesses with which they did business up to one year after the relationship was terminated. Also, if a customer requests contact from a company, the company may respond to that request. Non-profit and political organizations also are exempt from complying with the list.
- Does this apply to calls made by automatic or "predictive" dialers?
- Yes. The "No Call Lists" apply to telephone solicitation calls by any device, including automatic or predictive dialing devices.
- How much does list registration cost?
- Statewide "No Call List." There is no charge to register online. There will be a charge of $2.25 to register each residential number to be included in the statewide "No Call List" by mail or telephone. Your registered telephone number(s) will remain on the list for three years from the date your residential telephone number is first published on the list. Business numbers cannot register for this list.
- "Electric No Call List." If you wish to register ONLY for the "Electric No Call List" by mail or telephone you will pay a charge of $2.55 for each business telephone number, and the number will remain only on the "Electric No Call List" list for five years. There is no charge for online registration.
- How do I pay the registration fees?
- Telephone registrations must be paid by credit card. Mailed applications may be paid by personal check or credit card.
- How long after I place my number on a list, and pay my fee, should I expect to stop receiving calls?
- The "No Call Lists" will be published quarterly and telemarketers must update their "No Call lists" lists from the published list each quarter (January 1, April 1, July 1, October 1). Telemarketers will have 60 days from the date a number appears on a published list to update their internal databases and remove numbers. You will be advised when you register on which quarterly list your telephone number will appear.
- What if I receive a call after the 60th day?
- You may file a complaint alleging a violation with the Customer Protection Division of the PUC, or you may wish to contact the Office of the Attorney General.
- How do I file a No Call list complaint?
- Contact the Customer Protection Division of the Public Utility Commission of Texas toll-free at 1-888-PUC-TIPS (1-888-782-8477), TTY 1-800-735-2988, or file a complaint online at http://www.puc.state.tx.us/consumer/complaint/Complaint.aspx. You may also want to contact the Office of the Attorney General Customer Protection Hotline toll-free at 1-800-621-0508.
When filing a complaint with the PUC, the complaint should explain in detail, the problem, the company involved, steps you have already taken to remedy the problem, if any, and the action you think should be taken. In particular it should:
- Identify the business. Include the name and other identifying information that you may have, e.g., the current business address, telephone number.
- Describe the problem. Describe as completely as you can the problem or complaint.
- Explain what you want. Explain what you want the business to do or how you want the problem solved.
- With competition, will the reliability of my electric service change?
- No. No matter which Retail Electric Provider you choose, your electricity will continue to be delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company, a company still regulated by the Public Utility Commission.
- Whom do I call if I have an outage?
- You should call your Retail Electric Provider immediately at the toll-free number that is listed on your electric bill.
- My Retail Electric Provider is not based in my area. Who will repair the poles and wires in my neighborhood?
- No matter which Retail Electric Provider sells you electricity, the actual delivery of electricity to your home across poles and wires is provided to you by your local wires company. The local wires company is responsible for maintaining the poles and wires and responding to emergencies and power outages, as always. The Public Utility Commission continues to regulate this delivery of electricity to ensure the safety and reliability of your electric service.
- Can my electricity be disconnected for nonpayment?
- Yes. You will receive a termination notice giving you 10 days to pay the bill or make payment arrangements.
Slamming & Cramming
- What is Slamming?
- Slamming is the illegal practice of switching your electric service without your permission.
- What is Cramming?
- Cramming is the illegal practice of adding charges to your electric bill for additional services without your permission.
- How can I make sure I am not slammed or crammed?
- Preventive measures may be taken to prevent slamming and cramming. First, do not give any provider any account information unless you want to switch to that provider. Second, if a provider change is requested, a Terms of Service agreement will be provided to you. You have three days from the date you receive the Terms of Service agreement to cancel your switch request. For more information read the PUC's factsheets on Slamming or Cramming.
Slamming and cramming are illegal in Texas. The Public Utility Commission of Texas will enforce this law. If you think you've been slammed or crammed, call the PUC Consumer Hotline toll-free at 1-888-PUC-TIPS (1-888-782-8477).
- I received a letter from a provider thanking me for choosing them, but I did not choose them. What do I do?
- If this occurs, you should call the Retail Electric Provider immediately to discuss the situation. If the provider insists they were chosen, you should ask them to send you a copy of the authorization. If the provider cannot provide it and you think you have been slammed, call the PUC Consumer Hotline toll-free at 1-888-PUC-TIPS (1-888-782-8477).