Energy Watchdog Group Says Griddy Charges the Fewest Fees; Slams Other REPs for Shady Practices
A new report by the energy watchdog group, Texas Ratepayers Organization to Save Energy (ROSE), calls out retail electric providers for their excessively high fees, some of which appear to violate state law. The report found that REPs charge anywhere between one to 19 different types of fees, with one REP charging almost $500 in fees! To contrast, the report found that Griddy charged the least amount of fees with only one at $9.99 a month so consumers can access wholesale electricity.
In Texas, all REPs buy electricity from the wholesale market and resell to consumers. Some markup the price per kWh to make a profit. Others, like Griddy, charge a membership to access the wholesale market. Most, however, make up silly fees to get more money out of consumers. “REP fees are rates that lay hidden within the fine print of REP contracts” the report said, “And are implemented without much discussion by the Commission. The fees are virtually unchecked as to their necessity and the level of rates charged.”
Here are two charts showing REPs who have the most and least amount of fees.
Based on these hidden fees, most consumers have no way of comparing what they think they will pay with what they actually end up paying. From ROSE, “The amount of the REP fees compounded with the number of fees a REP charges can result in doubling or tripling a consumer’s electricity bill.”
Here are the top 17 REPs with the most fees charged:
There are at least 28 different REP fees being charged by various REPs. Here is the median amount REPs charge per fee:
Some of the reasons REPs can get away with charging exorbitant fees is lack of oversight from the PUC:
- There’s no clear language. Some REPs might list a disconnection fee as “Disconnect” or “Disconnection Recovery”. Fees to call a REP’s support team could be listed as “Agent Assist Fee” or “Customer Care Fee” which is too confusing when consumers want an apples-to-apples comparison.
- There’s no standardized placement of fees. Some list them in their EFL, while others sneak fees into the Terms of Service in very small print.
Since there is no transparency or standardizations put in place by the PUC, REPs can get away with charging excessive fees. Some of the mosts abrasive are the disconnection and reconnection fees. TDUs already charge a base fee, but REPs will then charge another fee on top of that, even though all they do is click a button or make a phone call to the TDU to connect or disconnect consumers.
But even worse, some of these fees appear to violate state law. From the report, “At least one REP charges a $400 credit deposit contrary to the Commission’s customer protection rules. Several REPs charge insufficient fund fees in excess of the state law cap of $30.00. Some REPs charge same day reconnection fees when standard reconnections are already done on the same day, giving rise to legality challenges under PURA §17.004 and §39.101, which prohibit ‘unfair, misleading, and fraudulent’ REP activities.”
“Electricity is essential for health, safety and comfort. There should be controls in place to ensure that everyone has access to a continuous supply of power,” said ROSE. “Added fees are critical barriers to those trying to keep the lights on in their home, and food on the table.”
And such, they have recommended the PUC to:
- Standardize the definitions of REP fees
- Require REPs to publish their fees in a standardized format and in a standardized location in their documents provided customers
- Educate the public and the Texas Legislature on the nature, extent and level of REP fees
- Require REPs to post all of their products in a standardized format and locations on their websites
- Cap excessive REP fees
- Bring enforcement actions against REPs charging fees contrary to state law.
We couldn’t agree more with ROSE’s finding. We started Griddy because we were tired of the shady practices in the retail electric industry – especially for something as essential to life as electricity. Seeing how some REPs disguise their fees to fool consumers is sickening. Providers should be transparent and upfront about their rates, all of them. At Griddy, you know what you are getting: For $9.99 a month membership “fee,”* consumers get access to wholesale electricity. Fair, simple, transparent. The way it should be.
*ROSE calls it a fee for minimum usage, but we have members who use under 100 kWh and they still pay the same rate as someone using 1,000 kWh. Full disclosure, we also have a payment processing fee of 2.9%, which we pass through from the credit card companies. But even with that, our rates are still way less than the competition.
**Some of the names have been changed on these charts to their actual REP names consumers are familiar with, and not their registered names.