Not so long ago, each household would deal with just one utility company. The electricity and natural gas arrived in your home; the utility set the price with oversight by the state government’s regulatory agency; you paid the bill. Today, consumers have more options. It’s called Energy Choice, which means that consumers can switch energy providers if they choose to do so. Available in 17 states and counting, Energy Choice started in the ‘70s when lawmakers began changing regulations so that energy companies could also offer natural gas and electricity to consumers. It opened up the competitive marketplace.
Now consumers in Energy Choice states considering changing their electric provider can look for the best pricing, which in turn might help them lower energy costs. Improved customer service is another potential upside when consumers switch. Power company executives know that customer service is more important now than ever, so they’re always working to improve your experience. The challenge is understanding how to switch energy providers. To help you navigate this energy world, we’re focusing on one thing first: Making the change. Electric provider, gas provider—there are plenty of nuances, but we’re going to help you make an informed decision. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.
If you do not have an existing contract, there is usually not an early termination fee if you switch your energy provider. Be sure to carefully read the terms of your agreement before signing on to a new plan, however, to ensure you’re protected. One exception, for instance, might be if you originally signed up for a pricing plan of a certain length. Bottom line? Confirm with your current energy provider before you switch electric companies.
You can switch electric companies assuming Energy Choice is available in your state. Typically you will receive confirmation from your local utility confirming the switch. The switch should happen fairly quickly after that. In Texas, for instance, consumers choosing to change electric providers receive mail confirmation from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) about the pending change. Depending on where you live, you have from between 3-14 business days to change your mind after the initial switch has occurred.
You should not have a lapse in service when you switch power company services. In most places, the utility will still continue to send your bills, but you will notice the new electricity company’s name listed on the supply line at your next regularly scheduled billing cycle.
Fortunately, there are not too many logistics when you’re figuring out how to switch energy providers. Usually the new provider will notify your utility that you are going to switch electricity companies. You should receive confirmation from your power company that the switch has occurred.
If you lose electricity, call your local utility. If you see downed power lines, call 911 before contacting your power company. For more information on how to switch energy providers, visit our Energy 101 page.
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