Frequently asked questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about switching retail energy suppliers.

 

Frequently asked questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about switching retail energy suppliers.

Who are the companies soliciting me to change my energy company? Are they legitimate?
The companies are likely third-party competitive retail energy suppliers. An approved retail energy  supplier must have a license to do business in the District granted by the Public Service Commission.
If I sign up with a retail energy supplier, will I no longer be a customer of Pepco or Washington Gas?
Pepco and Washington Gas are your electric and natural gas distribution companies, respectively. They deliver the electricity and natural gas to your home through their infrastructure. Those relationships will not change — they’ll remain your distribution companies. In most instances, Pepco or Washington Gas will show supply charges as a separate line item on your bill. Pepco and Washington Gas purchase either electricity or natural gas from wholesale suppliers, a practice called the commodity service. Retail choice allows you, as a consumer, to purchase the commodity service from a retail energy supplier.
Why do we need retail energy suppliers?
Retail energy suppliers are available to provide competition in the market. Economic theory states that competition in a market leads to lower prices as well as variety of service offerings. Retail energy suppliers compete with the default service supplier and other competitive retail energy suppliers on price and can also provide energy offerings committed to a particular public benefit, like energy exclusively from solar, wind or other renewables.
I’ve heard that retail energy suppliers can be deceptive. Is it possible my bill will be higher than it was before?
It’s important to fully understand the terms of the supplier’s offer before you switch — prices can change during the term of the contract. Additionally, if you feel that a third-party supplier has misrepresented or misstated terms to coerce you to switch to that supplier, consider filing a complaint with the Public Service Commission.
I accepted an offer and was able to lower my bill for about three months, but after that it jumped to 3-4x what I was originally paying. Is that legal?
It appears your contract contained a variable rate. A variable rate contains a set price for a given amount of time, but after that, the rates become variable and are determined by the swings in the electricity or natural gas supply market. If the market price increases, so will the cost of your service. Correspondingly, if the market price decreases, your rate should decrease.
What if I accept an offer and then change my mind?

Customers are allowed a 3-day “rescission period” from the date of contract execution to cancel the contract and not be charged a termination fee. Once you request to terminate the contract with the supplier, you’ll be returned to default supply services from Pepco or Washington Gas and be billed for your energy use with the supplying company prior to the termination of the contract.

My contract ended but my supplier automatically renewed me for another two years. Can they do that?
Contract renewal terms are typically included in the original contract — you should be aware of how and when the contract will renew when you sign the original contract. An “evergreen” contract is often renewed automatically, or by notice from year-to-year, until canceled by either party. The renewal can be after completion of the act or maturity; the renewal continues until cancellation.
Someone signed me up to receive energy from their company without my permission. Is this legal?
No. This practice is called “slamming” and is not permitted under the District’s Consumer Bill of Rights. You should be careful when sharing account numbers with third-party supplier solicitors as an account number by itself can be used to improperly sign you up for their services. If you believe this has happened to you, please consider filing a complaint with the Public Service Commission.
I’d like a supplier who provides renewable energy. Do you have any recommendations?
By comparing offers, you can see which suppliers include more or less renewable energy in their portfolio. However, the Public Service Commission does not make recommendations regarding retail energy suppliers.
I’ve been frequently contacted by a solicitor from a retail energy supplier and I want it to stop. What can I do?
Contact the supplier directly and request that they cease all contact with you — all calls, mailings and house visits. You may also request that the supplier only stop a particular contact method (e.g., no phone calls).
Is budget billing from a supplier available?
In some instances, yes. Please ask your supplier if they offer such a plan or service.
If my bill seems incorrect or my rate is inaccurate, what should I do?
You have several options:
  1. Contact your supplier to confirm the accuracy of your bill and rate.
  2. Check your contract’s disclosure statement for the terms and conditions.
  3. Conserve by learning ways to save energy.
  4. Consider switching to a different supplier.
If I still have a problem with my bill after contacting my supplier, what can I do?
Please contact the Public Service Commission directly.
 
Questions to ask suppliers
Take the time to thoroughly read offers and terms of service prior to signing a contract. There are several questions you should consider asking suppliers, including:
  • Is it a fixed rate or variable rate?
  • What is the length of the contract?
  • Is there a cancellation fee?
  • What are my monthly savings if I switch?
  • Will the contract automatically renew at the end of the term?
  • How much notice must I give if I don’t wish to renew?
  • How is the electricity generated (e.g., coal, gas, nuclear, hydroelectric)?
  • Is the generation provided from renewable sources? If not all, what portion is?
  • What type of renewable power will be used (e.g., solar, wind)?
  • Is there a security deposit, enrollment or any other similar fees?
  • Is there a credit check, late payment fee or other similar fee assessed? (If yes, be sure to get a list of the charges and what each charge will cost.)
  • What kind of billing and payment options are available?
  • Will low-income customers be able to participate?