Pennsylvania pursuing 5 energy companies that jacked up consumers' electric rates
A Fayette County couple still paying an out-of-state electric company that jacked up rates during the winter said they're glad the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office is seeking to revoke the company's license.
“I think that something should happen with them,” Wendy Groh of Vanderbilt said of IDT Energy Inc., which sent a $939.48 bill in February.
She and her husband, Jeff, said the company's telemarketers hounded them into switching from West Penn Power and promised they would save money. The Grohs were paying West Penn Power less than $300 a month.
They're back with West Penn Power but make $30 monthly payments to cover what they owe IDT Energy.
“How did they save us money?” Wendy Groh asked.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced on Friday that the Bureau of Consumer Protection in her office is joining the Office of Consumer Advocate in filing complaints with the Public Utility Commission against IDT Energy, Respond Power LLC, Hiko Energy LLC, Blue Pilot Energy LLC and Energy Service Providers Inc., which does business as Pennsylvania Gas & Electric.
“We received thousands of complaints from consumers who could not pay their excessively high bills,” Kane said. “Those consumers were deceived, and we are taking those who participated in the deception to task.”
If the PUC revokes the companies' licenses, they won't be able to operate in Pennsylvania.
IDT Energy released a statement saying it will respond to the complaint on reviewing it.
“We take all complaints very seriously, whether directly from consumers or from appropriate authorities,” the company said.
IDT Energy in March said it paid about $2 million in “goodwill rebates” to bring customers' bills closer to rates they paid before cold weather drove up prices.
Representatives for the other companies could not be reached for comment.
Between late February and mid-June, Kane's office got 42,603 telephone calls and 7,551 consumer complaints about electricity bill spikes. During that period, the Office of Consumer Advocate handled more than 3,000 contacts from consumers.
The complaints accuse the suppliers of multiple violations of the PUC's orders and regulations, the Public Utility Code, the Consumer Protection Law and the Telemarketer Registration Act.
The joint complaints claim the suppliers lured consumers by promising low or “competitive” rates if they switched companies. Some customers were switched without their consent — a practice called slamming — and the contracts the companies used don't comply with state law, the complaints say.
Jeff Groh said he filed a complaint with the commission when IDT Energy hiked his bill, but an agency spokesman advised him that IDT Energy's actions were legal.
“I'm glad that they're taking action against all of them,” he said.
If companies want to operate in the state, they should play by the rules, Groh believes.
A bricklayer who makes most of his money during the building season, Groh said that paying the bill has been a struggle, even when IDT Energy gave him a check for almost $600 to pay part of what they owe.
In his business, if the weather is too cold or wet, he can't work.
“So far this year, I've only got one 40-hour paycheck because of the weather,” he said.
Brian Bowling is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Contact him at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fire victim’s ex-boyfriend jumps from Tarentum Bridge
- Steelers rookie says Sam, his former roommate, has changed
- Locke gets rocked as Pirates are knocked off by Diamondbacks
- Fraud case reopens old wound
- McKeesport convenience store sells winning ticket
- Rossi: Buying trust is a must for Pirates
- Farmers finally takes home trophy
- Steelers aim to create more turnovers this year with speedier defense
- Lee Supply does it again, wins Grebb girls’ title
- Two cars strike horse near Fayette fair
- Food a big draw for Festa Italiana lovers in New Kensington