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State officials warn residents of door-to-door, telephone solicitors

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 4:01 a.m.

State officials are cautioning Pennsylvanians to be diligent when weighing offers for electricity from door-to-door and telephone solicitors.

Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane and Public Utility Commission chairman Robert F. Powelson said there has been a rash of overly aggressive and dishonest pitches in several communities.

Kane said some consumers have been pushed “into choosing high-cost electric generation services.”

Locally, one door-to-door salesman's tactics were pushy enough to prompt complaints at a January meeting of East McKeesport council.

Borough officials said on Wednesday that no further incidents have occurred since that meeting.

State officials said consumers can file a complaint with the Attorney General's office or the PUC.

Furthermore, they said, if consumers feel their safety is threatened, they should immediately call their local police — advice also given by East McKeesport officials.

Kane said consumers can educate themselves through resources such as www.PAPowerSwitch.com.

Her Office of Consumer Advocate said utilities do not normally come to a home unless they've been called. Consumers are advised to ask for identification and to call the utility company to verify if they have a salesman in the area.

Also, supplier representatives must display a photo ID showing their name and the name of the supplier for whom they are working.

Duquesne Light, which serves many area customers, provided similar advice in an August news release.

As for telemarketers, the Office of Consumer Advocate said those receiving calls should ask for the name of the supplier, the price and other terms and conditions.

It said consumers should share account information over the phone only if they are ready to make a switch.

Duquesne Light went a step further, advising that complaints against a telemarketer in violation of Pennsylvania's Do Not Call law should be filed with the attorney general's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555, or online at www.attorneygeneral.gov.

A spokesman for that utility said complaints against a telemarketer in violation of the national Do Not Call Registry can be made online at www.donotcall.gov.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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