PUC Urges Consumers to Be Alert for Energy Marketing Scams

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission urged Pennsylvania consumers to be alert for potential energy marketing scams, especially unsolicited telemarketing calls requesting immediate action and promising far-reaching savings on energy bills.

One type of misleading solicitation involves robocalls from unidentified sources making vague and potentially misleading statements about customer discounts, refunds, rebates and bonuses if the customer acts now.

The calls often appear as a local telephone number on recipients’ caller ID, which is often fake or “spoofed,” or the calls fail to display any number at all. These questionable calls appear to follow the same basic script:

“This is an apology call from your electric (or natural gas) utility.  You got overcharged by your third-party supplier.  You will be receiving a rebate check along with a 30% discount on your electric and gas bill. Please press 1 to get your rebate check.”

When discussing energy supply service with telemarketers, the PUC stresses that telemarketing agents must do the following:

•             Identification – Callers must tell you who they are at the beginning of the call;

•             Information – Sales agents must clearly explain why they are calling; and,

•             Affiliation – Telemarketers and sales agent may NOT claim to represent the PUC, another utility or other organization.

In a recent notice to energy suppliers, marketers and other related entities, the PUC emphasized that energy telemarketers must clearly identify themselves and the reason for their calls and underscored the Commission’s zero tolerance policy for the unauthorized switching of customers.

“The PUC stresses that telemarketing agents are to immediately identify themselves upon contacting a potential customer; identify the supplier they are representing; and the reason for the telephone call.”

If the agent fails to immediately identify themselves and the reason for the call, the consumer should end the call.  Again, vague and potentially misleading statements – for example, “I am calling about an urgent matter concerning your generation service,” or “about your utility bill,” or “about your discount /refund /rebate /bonus/overcharges” – should also alert consumers to end calls.

Additionally, sales agents may not suggest that they are working for or in partnership with a utility – such as your local electric or natural gas distribution company; a government agency – such as the PUC; or other supplier – including false claims that other suppliers are “going out of business” or experiencing other problems.

Consumers with questions or concerns about their energy supplier or contract can contact their supplier (supplier contact information is included on monthly electric bills). Also, consumers can contact the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services at 1-800-692-7380 to report suspected scams.