Questions to Ask Yourself
To decide if switching is right for you, answer the following questions:
- Am I satisfied with my current Retail Electric Provider?
If you are satisfied with the customer service and rates provided by your current Retail Electric Provider, then switching may not have much of an advantage for you right now. Even if you are satisfied with your current company, you may want to contact them to see if they have a different plan that could provide you with savings, allow you to lock in a price that would provide greater certainty, take advantage of other services or customer benefits or that uses renewable energy. Companies continually change their offers and develop new products in response to market forces, so you may want to check back with your REP several times a year to see if there is a better deal available for you.
- Do I have a contract with my current Retail Electric Provider that includes a cancellation fee?
If you have a contract with your current Retail Electric Provider you should call your current REP to ask about cancellation fees. Depending on the amount of any cancellation fee, you may want to wait until your current contract has expired (your expiration date is printed on your bill) before switching. In some cases, however, the savings you may be able to obtain by switching may be greater than your cancellation fee.
- I am on an average monthly payment plan - will it continue if I switch to a different Retail Electric Provider?
Your current balance will not transfer to your new Retail Electric Provider when you switch. If you owe your current REP money due to an average payment plan, you will have to pay the unpaid balance as part of your final bill with your current REP once you switch. However, all REPs are required by the PUC to offer a level or average payment plan to customers who are not currently delinquent in payment. You are most likely to owe money on your average payment plan during the summer months. Make sure you obtain your current balance prior to switching so that you know what to expect.
- Will I have to pay a deposit?
Depending on your history of paying your utility bills on time, a new company may charge a deposit that could be more than what you might save by switching, although you will get that deposit back from your provider in the future, with interest calculated at a PUC approved rate. Deposits can be waived or paid in installments in some circumstances. Ask the Retail Electric Provider you are considering for more information.
- What if I miss a payment?
Any Retail Electric Provider may disconnect your service for non-payment after providing you with notice. In some cases, your REP is required to offer you a deferred payment plan. If you have problems paying your electric bill on time and your current REP has been willing to work out a payment plan with you, be aware that a new company may not be as flexible when you miss payments.
- Is there a cost to switch providers?
No, there are no costs to switch Retail Electric Providers. However, if you want to switch to your new REP before your next scheduled meter reading, you may be charged a fee for a special meter read to enable the switch. You may also need to post a deposit with your new REP or pay a cancellation fee or any remaining balance on a payment plan to your old company.
- How do I know if my REP is financially stable?
While the PUC cannot guarantee that a REP does not go out of business, we have recently strengthened the qualifications for companies interested in offering service in Texas' retail electric market. In general, the REP certification rules require:
A minimum capital investment of $1 million and surety in the form of a $500,000 letter of credit payable to the Commission. The REP is restricted from returning the investment to shareholders in the first two years of operations and must maintain the letter of credit for as long as it holds the REP certificate.
More detailed and frequent financial reports to the Commission.
An executive team with stronger technical/management experience.
The protection of customer deposits and residential advance payments through escrow or segregated accounts or an additional letter of credit that covers 100% of the customer deposits and residential advance payments.
- 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.