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Consumers encouraged to read up on electric suppliers

Consumers too quick to disregard unrecognized telephone numbers as telemarketers may miss out on a chance to save money, a spokesman for the public utility regulatory agency said.

Consumer tips
The PUCO recommends four steps for any consumer considering a switch in electric supplier.

• Compare offers — Visit PUCO’s apples-to-apples chart to determine which electric supplier’s offer works best for you.

• Contact suppliers — Determine which supplier suits you best, contact them, and ask the following questions: Are you certified by the PUCO? Is the price fixed or variable? If the price is variable? How does it change? Are there any built-in price increases or

• Read and understand the contract — Most suppliers will require a contract. Before signing anything, consumers should make sure they read and understand all the terms and conditions such as length, rate and any applicable fees.

• Receive confirmation — Upon signing up, the new supplier will contact the current utility and the current utility will mail a confirmation. Consumers have seven days from the postmark date to cancel the contract for no penalty.

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And consumers unsure about where to start should visit an “apples-to-apples” comparison of electric suppliers at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Web site Jack Keegan, a PUCO public information officer, has been conducting public meetings across greater northwest Ohio in an effort to educate consumers about their choices in electric suppliers.

One such meeting was set for Thursday in the AcuSport Community Room at the Knowlton Library. One person showed up.

A low turnout doesn’t mean Logan County residents have a firm grasp on their rights and choices as energy consumers. At the most recent meeting of the Logan County Mayors’ Association, the group discussed at length energy choice, with Belle Center Mayor Rhonda Fulmer reporting that some residents there told her they felt scammed by an energy supplier.

Mr. Keegan said he’s talked with lots of people who have told similar stories.

As a deregulated state, Ohioans may select any electric and natural gas supplier they want at any price they can get from the market. Local utilities, such as Dayton Power and Light, still deliver electricity into the homes, but customers get to pick which company generates their electricity at a rate andterms convenient to them, Mr.Keegan said.

It’s basically that simple. Except that energy prices fluctuatedaily, pricing structures may vary wildly from one company to the next and no two contracts are alike, Mr. Keegan said.

“All of this can cause some confusion,” he said. “It comes down to knowing your rights as a consumer and reading that contract before you sign anything.“

Specific details such as the rate, contract length and termination fees will depend on the supplier.

"Part of the complexity is the result of electric suppliers stil lfeeling their way through what consumers want.

“There’s been competitionfor big commercial businesses for years,” Mr. Keegan said. “Acontract for a low rate, but high early termination fee may have made sense for some businesses,but residential consumers have shied away from high early termination fees.

”Mr. Keegan emphasized the PUCO’s willingness to help direct any consumer to theenergy supplier that works best for them.

“The apples-to-apples chart on our Web site shows all the available offers consumershave available to them, no matter where they live,” he said.


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