Public Utility Commission of Texas
- What is a minimum usage fee? Many plans require you to use a minimum amount of electricity each month. If you use less than the minimum amount, you will automatically be charged a fee, sometimes called a "minimum usage charge." This fee may or may not be listed separately on your monthly bill, so it is important to check the electricity facts label for your plan. Not all companies charge this fee or require you to use a minimum amount each month. Some companies offer credits or waivers of other fees for using a certain amount of electricity.
- What information is required on my bill? The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) has established rules requiring electric companies to provide customers with an easy-to-read bill. Unless your plan is prepaid, your bill will be mailed monthly. You may have the choice of receiving your bill electronically, if both you and your company agree. It is up to each electric company to design its bills; however, there are many bill components that companies are required to include.
- Will my bill be itemized? It is up to each company to design its own bills. How it decides to itemize charges is its decision.
- Whom do I call with a billing question? You should contact your electric company.
- How are billing disputes resolved? Billing disputes should be directed to your electric company. If disputes cannot be resolved, please contact the Public Utility Commission of Texas Customer Hotline toll-free at 1-888-PUC-TIPS (1-888-782-8477).
- Will I pay a monthly charge if I use more or less electricity within a billing period? It is important to know whether the company or plan you are considering charges an additional fee if you use less than a certain kWh amount during a billing period. Typical usage cut-off points that might incur a fee are less than 500 or 1,000 kWh. Different companies list this fee by different names, such as "minimum usage fee." To determine whether there is a usage fee affiliated with a plan and what the minimum kWh usage is, read the plan's Electricity Facts Label or contact the electric company directly.
- What is electric deregulation? In 1999, the Texas Legislature passed a deregulation law that made it possible for consumers in most parts of Texas to choose their own electric company. The new law was passed to encourage free market competition and lower prices. Some areas, such as municipalities and cooperatives, were not required to deregulate, so customers in those areas may not have electric choice.
- What changed in electric service? People living in deregulated areas can now choose their electric company (also called a Retail Electric Provider or REP). What did not change? The same wires companies (also called Transmission and Distribution Utilities) continue to deliver electricity to homes and businesses, regardless of which company is selling a customer electricity. Local wires companies still read meters, respond to service interruptions, and continue to maintain the poles and wires.
- Do all Texans get to choose their electric provider? No. It depends on where in Texas you live. Some communities are served by municipalities, cooperatives, or investor-owned utilities, so electric choice is not available. To see whether there is electric choice in your area, visit our Plans page, or call toll-free 1-866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839).
- With competition, will the reliability of my electric service change? No. Regardless of which electric company you choose, your electricity will continue to be delivered safely and reliably by the local wires company, which is regulated by the PUC.
- Is there a penalty for changing providers? No. There is no switching fee unless you request a special meter reading at a time other than your regularly scheduled meter reading. There may also be penalties if you break an existing contract with your current electric company. Review your Terms of Service agreement for details on your plan.
- If I sign up with a new electric company, when will the switch to that company occur? Customers can choose a new plan or electric company at any time (there may be penalties if you break an existing contract with your current electric company). After you sign a new contract, you will receive a mailer from ERCOT confirming your switch. Once you receive the confirmation, you will have three business days to change your mind. The switch to your new provider will happen automatically within seven business days. There will be no lapse in your service. You will receive your first electric bill from your new electric company on the following billing cycle.
- Do I have a right to cancel? Yes. You may contact the electric company to cancel your switch within three business days from the time you receive your Terms of Service agreement, regardless of whether you received a Terms of Service agreement in the mail or you signed up for service online. The confirmation that will be mailed to you will also provide a way to cancel your new contract.
- What happens if my electric company stops serving customers? You will not be without electricity. In most cases, your electric company will give you 30 days' advance notice to give you time to select a new provider. If your provider goes out of business suddenly, your electric service will be switched automatically to the Provider of Last Resort (POLR). If you do not switch to a new provider, you will remain with the POLR. Once you switch, you can begin to receive service from your new provider within seven business days. For more information read the PUC’s fact sheet, “What To Do if Your REP Leaves the Market.”
- Which companies are other people choosing? You should choose the provider that is best for your electric needs. Because Texas Electric Choice is a neutral source of information, we do not recommend any particular provider or plan.
- How do I know which providers are providing service in my area? You can see which companies are providing electric service in your area by visiting our Plans page and entering your ZIP code.
- How can I compare offers from different electric companies? Electric companies are required to provide an Electricity Facts Label for each plan. This fact sheet contains standardized information about the plan’s rates, fees, and contract terms. To compare offers online, visit our Plans page.
- Do I have to tell my current electric company that I'm switching providers? No. When you sign a contract with a new electric company, it will contact ERCOT, which will mail you information to confirm that you want to switch. ERCOT will also notify your old company that you have changed service providers. You do not need to contact your current electric company, but remember that you will still be responsible for any penalties if you break a contract with that company.
- Non-discrimination: In addition to standard discrimination prohibitions, companies may not deny service or discriminate in the marketing of electric service based on a customer's income level, location in an economically distressed area, or qualification for low-income or energy efficiency services.
- Slamming and cramming: Slamming is the practice of switching your electric service provider without your permission. Cramming is the practice of adding charges to your electric bill for optional services without your permission. Both slamming and cramming are illegal.
- What are my rights as an electric customer? You have the right to choose an electric provider, which includes the right to use your original electric company. Regardless of which electric provider you choose, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) will protect your rights.
- f you think your rights have been violated, call the PUC's toll-free Customer Hotline at 1-888-PUC-TIPS (1-888-782-8477). Your rights include:
- Dispute resolution: Customers have the right to make complaints about a company to the Public Utility Commission, and electric companies must promptly investigate customer complaints.
- Privacy of Information: Electric companies cannot release any customer-specific information to other companies without your permission.
- An Electricity Facts Label: This shows pricing information and contract terms in a standardized format so that you can compare offers.
- A Terms of Service agreement: This is your contract. It informs you of the company’s contract terms and conditions.
- In addition, all electric companies must follow a new set of customer protections, by providing:
- Non-English-language materials: All electric companies must make customer information available in Spanish. In fact, a company must make all marketing materials available in the language(s) of their customers.
- A "Your Rights as a Customer" disclosure: This informs you of your standard customer protections as mandated by the PUC.
- Notice of Contract Expiration: If you have electric service with a contract term of three or more remaining months, your electric company must notify you in writing at least 30 days or one billing cycle, and no more than 60 days or two billing cycles, from the end of your contract, stating that it will soon expire. You should either renew service with your current service provider or select a new provider before your contract ends in order to prevent being automatically switched to a month-to-month, variable rate plan.
- With competition, does the reliability of my electric service change? No. Regardless of which electric company you choose, your electricity will continue to be delivered safely and reliably by the same local wires company, which is regulated by the Public Utility Commission.
- Whom do I call if I have an outage? You should immediately call the local wires company (often called the Transmission and Distribution Utility, or TDU) for your area. You can find the toll-free number on your electric bill.
- My electric company is not based in my area. Who will repair the poles and wires in my neighborhood? Regardless of which company provides your electricity, it will be delivered over the same set of poles and wires. These services are provided by your local wires company (often called the Transmission and Distribution Utility, or TDU), which is responsible for maintaining the poles and wires and for responding to emergencies and power outages. The Public Utility Commission continues to regulate this delivery of electricity to ensure the safety and reliability of your electric service.
- Can my electricity be disconnected for nonpayment? Yes. You will receive a termination notice giving you 10 days to pay the bill or make payment arrangements.
- What is slamming? Slamming is the illegal practice of switching your electric service without your permission.
- What is cramming? Cramming is the illegal practice of adding charges to your electric bill for additional services without your permission.
- How can I make sure I am not slammed or crammed? To prevent slamming, be protective of your electric account information. Do not give a provider any account information unless you want to switch to that provider. For more information read the PUC's fact sheets on slamming or cramming.
To prevent cramming, make sure you read your bill each month and understand all of the fees and charges. If there is a charge that seems strange or unusually high, call your electric company.
Slamming and cramming are illegal in Texas. The Public Utility Commission of Texas will enforce this law. If you think you've been slammed or crammed, call the PUC Consumer Hotline toll-free at 1-888-PUC-TIPS (1-888-782-8477).
- I received a letter from an electric company thanking me for choosing them, but I did not choose them. What do I do? If this occurs, you should call the company immediately to discuss the situation. If the provider insists they were chosen, you should ask them to send you a copy of the authorization. If the provider cannot provide it or you think you have been slammed (switched without your permission), call the PUC Consumer Hotline toll-free at 1-888-PUC-TIPS (1-888-782-8477).