AARP & PULP to Utility Consumers: Don't Sign With ESCOs Unless They Prove Savings

Urge Consumers to Wait Until Courts Rule on New Regulations

Mar 10, 2016, 15:48 ET from AARP New York

ALBANY, N.Y., March 10, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AARP and the Public Utilities Law Project (PULP) today urged New York consumers not to sign a contract with any energy service company (ESCO) unless the company can prove it will save the consumer money and document that proof with the state Public Service Commission (PSC).

AARP and PULP are urging consumer caution while the courts come to a resolution on whether to allow new consumer protection rules governing ESCOs to move forward. A state Supreme Court judge ordered a stay on the rules last week.

AARP applauds Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman for proposing the strong new rules last month.

AARP has been advocating that the PSC crack down on ESCOs, with federal data showing ESCOs on average charged 14% more than utility companies in New York in 2014.

The PSC's order requires ESCOs guarantee savings to customers unless customers choose to receive at least 30 percent of their energy from renewable sources. It also mandates all ESCO chief executive officers certify their companies are in compliance with the order, with PSC staff to verify compliance through audits of ESCO records.

"Now is exactly the wrong time for New York utility consumers to consider switching to an ESCO – and exactly the right time to resist any sweet-sounding sales pitches," said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. "We are asking consumers to sit tight until the courts rule on whether the strong and effective new rule developed by Governor Cuomo and PSC Chair Zibelman to ensure the industry delivers promised savings will stand – as it should."

"We are very pleased with Governor Cuomo and the Public Service Commission's strong step forward in leading the fight to protect low- and fixed-income New Yorkers from the depredations of the ESCOs," said Richard Berkley, Executive Director of PULP, a 35-year old public interest law firm that fights for low-income utility consumers' rights. "While we respect the Court's actions we are appalled that this gives the ESCOs yet another chance to overcharge and engage in misrepresentations designed to induce low-income New Yorkers into energy contracts that harm them."