HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today urges consumers to be conscious of utility account security when answering telemarketing sales calls from competitive energy suppliers (suppliers) and report any suspicious activity to both their utility and the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services (BCS).
In particular, the Commission encourages any consumer encountering an aggressive sales agent, or consumers suspecting potential scams, to contact BCS at 1-800-692-7380, as well as alert their local utility. Consumers who feel threatened or are concerned about their safety should contact local authorities to report the incident and forward information to BCS and their utility.
The PUC urges consumers to avoid intimidating sales pitches pressuring them to act now, reminding them that they are not required to choose a competitive supplier for their electricity or natural gas supply. Additionally, consumers should contact their utility if a telemarketing sales agent threatens termination of their electric service – only a utility can initiate such action and only after proper customer notification as prescribed in Pennsylvania’s regulations.
The Commission also cautions against any sales agent’s claim that a utility or supplier is “going out of business.” Consumers who have questions or concerns regarding the status of their utility or supplier, including any specific terms and conditions contained in their supplier contract, should contact their supplier or utility directly. If unresolved issues remain after first speaking to the utility or supplier, consumers may opt to file an informal complaint with BCS.
With telemarketing calls, the Commission stresses that agents must immediately identify themselves, identify the supplier they are representing and the reason for the call. Additionally, supplier sales agents may not claim an affiliation with a government agency, such as the PUC, or a local utility.
Also, the PUC stresses that state and federal “Do Not Call” lists and regulations apply to all suppliers and are intended to safeguard consumers on those lists from unwanted calls. In addition to Do Not Call list protections, suppliers are also required to honor requests from individual consumers to not be contacted again.
To avoid the possibility of unauthorized change in suppliers, consumers should be cautious about sharing account numbers with suppliers or their sales agents unless they intend to initiate a change in service. The PUC urges consumers to continually review monthly bill statements and activity with online accounts to ensure there are no unauthorized changes to their service, including changes to their supplier or rates for electric generation.
In April, the Commission issued a Secretarial Letter to competitive electric generation and natural gas suppliers (suppliers), consumer and small business advocates, providing guidance and reminders on sales and marketing practices for Pennsylvania’s retail residential energy market found at 52 Pa. Code, Chapter 111 – and reiterating what is expected of suppliers in any sales and marketing activities and the PUC’s imposition of fines and penalties on suppliers for non-compliance with regulations.
The Commission’s Secretarial Letter addressed sales and marketing activities related to telemarketing, door-to-door sales, direct mail and electronic solicitations, and a supplier’s use of agents, vendors and/or contractors. The PUC continually monitors suppliers and their sales and marketing activities through both the PUC’s Office of Competitive Market Oversight and its Bureau of Consumer Services.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
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