March 5-11 marks the Federal Trade Commission’s National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW). NCPW aims to share information with Americans on avoiding scams, identity theft and other consumer protection issues. The Retail Energy Supply Association (RESA) also recognizes the importance of consumer protection, especially for energy shoppers in competitive markets. RESA strives to help educate shoppers on their options when choosing a retail energy supplier that best meets their needs.
Retail energy markets allow consumers to choose among competitive suppliers. This provides energy consumers with many options for energy management, efficiency, renewable “green” energy and price. As most consumers can choose from various Internet or telephone service providers, consumers in many states can now choose an electricity and natural gas supplier for their home or business. In honor of National Consumer Protection Week, RESA is helping energy consumers identify six rights when it comes to choosing an energy supplier:
- The Right to Prioritize: The first step in making an informed decision is determining priorities. Do you want to find a supplier with a renewable energy product? Do you prefer gas or electric? Maybe you want to find the least expensive plan available. In a competitive energy market, the choice is yours!
- The Right to Analyze: Use your current provider as a point of comparison and review your bills from the past year in detail. Are there any charges on your statement that you don’t understand? How much have you been paying each month? Does your current provider offer good customer service? Once you know the cost of energy and service for your residence or business, it will be easier to identify what you may want in an ideal supplier.
- The Right to Research: If you live in a state with a competitive market, you have the power to choose an energy supplier that suits your needs at a competitive price. To determine the best provider for your home or business, diligent research on credible websites and platforms is imperative. Explore RESA’s website in the state’s section to learn more about your state’s available energy options, contacts, state news and more.
- The Right to Understand: There are many options in the retail energy industry, including rates and plan length. Fixed-rate and variable rate are two examples of product plans. In a fixed-rate plan, you will pay the same rates for your service throughout the plan contract. The only factor that will vary is usage, which you can control. With a variable rate plan, your rates change monthly depending on the current market price. Furthermore, most energy providers offer different plan lengths, ranging from 3 to 36 months. To determine which products and services make the most sense for you, you will need to understand what the energy supplier is offering.
- The Right to Credibility: Once you have completed the initial research into your state’s energy options, dig a little deeper into the reputation and credibility of the retail energy supplier. Does the company have a respected history? Is it well-established? Be sure to read the company’s customers’ reviews and see if the company has any Better Business Bureau reports.
- The Right to Choose: As an energy consumer in a competitive market, you can choose your energy supplier, so exercise your rights and explore your options!
RESA believes that consumer protection and education go together and that consumer education is the cornerstone of a well-functioning, competitive marketplace. Therefore, national Consumer Protection Week is a time to celebrate the educated consumer’s engagement and recognize the critical role of competition and the right to choose.