Greece, N.Y. - In recent weeks we’ve received a number of emails and social media contacts from viewers sharing very similar stories about encounters with sales representatives that are offering to help you save money on your utility bill. Others appear to be pitching clean or alternative energy solutions and they appear to either call you directly or knock on your door.
In most, if not all, cases the companies behind these tactics are called Energy Service Companies or ESCO’s. Many, if not all, are very legitimate alternative choices for your energy supply. Yet historically some have been the target of customer complaints because of their aggressive, if not predatory, sales tactics.
"About a week ago we had a guy come knock on the door and say he was with an energy company and he wanted to save us some money on our electric; who doesn't want to save money nowadays?" Ashley Bennington of Greece said of the encounter she and her husband had with one sales representative recently. "But the more we got talking, he actually asked to see our electric bill, which was a huge red flag for us."
David Kavanagh, also of Greece, had a similar face-to-face encounter followed by numerous phone calls from different sales reps.
"Over the next three weeks I got three other calls from different providers and after awhile it started to get pretty annoying," Kavanagh said while also noting one very consistent pattern with each representative. "Yes, they wanted to get information from my bill."
With certain information these ESCO’s can switch customers onto their service. The delivery system and nearly always the billing center would still be through the major utility company, RG&E for example. But you would be buying your supply of electric or gas through the ESCO.
Some of these ESCO’s may lock customers into contracts with steep or unexpected termination fees. Others may not be able to deliver on the savings they promise at first.
"I tried to get them to talk more about energy savings upfront, one of them said they could offer me 10 percent energy savings on average," Kavanagh said of one of his phone calls. "And then when pressed more they dropped it down to 7 percent."
Local utility companies RG&E and NYSEG have reported recently hearing from a number of customers about these sorts of encounters.
"We've heard in the past where they put some high pressure tactics on and they (customers) switch or sometimes they don't really know that they've been switched," RG&E Spokesman Dan Hucko said. "If that's the case we'd ask that you call us up, call RG&E, and we'll switch you back."
Hucko also added that RG&E employees always carry photo identification, never market energy door-to-door, and never ask for a customer’s account number or bill while in the field or in a phone call initiated to customers.
"(We) want our customers to be cautious, to be careful and don't give out personal information if you feel uncomfortable with it," Hucko said.
The New York State Public Service Commission invites customers who have these encounters or questions about ESCO’s to call the Consumer Assistance Line at 1-800-342-3377
A PSC spokeswoman tells 13WHAM News she will look into whether the Rochester area has received a rash of these complaints in recent months.
For more information you can visit the NY PSC’s website by clicking here.