MASSACHUSETTS UTILITY CUSTOMERS who switched to competitive electricity suppliers paid $177 million more over a two-year period than if they had stayed with the local utility company (National Grid, Eversource, or Unitil) as detailed in a thoroughly documented March 2018 report by Attorney General (AG) Maura Healey. An April 2018 report from the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) Competing to Overcharge Customers: The Competitive Energy Supplier Market in Massachusetts confirms the AG’s overall findings and provides disturbing examples of how these companies engage in deceptive practices to sell overpriced electric service.
The AG has brought successful unfair practices claims against several of these suppliers, including Just Energy and Viridian, resulting in almost $10 million in refunds to consumers and forcing the defendant companies to cease their unfair practices. The AG, NCLC, and others have asked the Legislature to ban the sale of competitive electricity to individual consumers since so many consumers have been harmed and the deceptive practices have proven impossible to eradicate, here and in other states wrestling with the same problems.
Competitive supply companies routinely misrepresent that they are “working with” the local utility company; target their sales pitches to elders and communities with large numbers of people who do not speak English as the primary language; and trick people into signing their names to documents without disclosing that the document is actually a contract to switch to the competitive supplier. Low-income communities in particular have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous competitive suppliers. As the Attorney General found, low-income consumers participate in the market at twice the rate of non-low-income consumers, and suppliers also consistently charge low-income consumers higher rates (17 percent higher, on average) than non-low-income consumers.
Read their full Op-Ed in the CommonWealth Magazine here.