Customer protections expanded under Texas electric choice program

AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 20, 2001 – Texans seeking information about their rights as a customer in a competitive electric market can now obtain a free copy of a brochure titled “Customer Protections in a Competitive Electric Market.”

The brochure, produced by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) and the Texas Electric Choice education campaign, provides details on a wide variety of customer protections. The brochure also explains, in simple terms, how customers will be affected by competition among Retail Electric Providers (REPs), and how, in some cases, their customer rights will be strengthened in a competitive marketplace.

“Shopping for electricity is a new concept for Texans, and customers should feel reassured that new rules have been put in place to protect them in a competitive electric market,” said PUC Commissioner Rebecca Klein. “Customers may now sign a contract with a REP which explains the terms and conditions of their electric service. Additionally, the PUC will establish a `Do Not Call List’ for those customers who do not want to be called by telemarketers on behalf of REPs.”

To obtain a copy of the “Customer Protections in a Competitive Electric Market” brochure, customers may contact the Texas Electric Choice answer center toll free at 1-866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839). Customers may also download a copy of the brochure from the web site, www.powertochoose.org.

Some of the new rules that will be in effect for the competitive electric market include:

– Electricity Facts Label: The Electricity Facts Label gives you information on prices, contract terms, sources of generation and levels of emissions in a standardized format for comparison-shopping. REPs must provide this document to customers upon request.

– A “Your Rights as a Customer” disclosure: This information informs customers of their standard customer protections as mandated by the PUC.

– Non-English language materials: All REPs must make customer information available in Spanish. Additionally, a REP must make materials available in the language(s) in which they market electric service.

– “Do Not Call List”: The PUC will establish a “Do Not Call List” for those customers who do not want to be called by telemarketers on behalf of REPs.

– A Terms of Service statement: This is the customer’s contract. It informs customers of a REP’s contract terms and conditions.

“Under Electric Choice, the PUC will continue to enforce existing customer protections, including non-discrimination, the prohibition of slamming and cramming, prompt dispute resolution and customer privacy,” Klein continued.

In addition to enforcing customer protections in a competitive electric market, the PUC will also continue to regulate the transmission and distribution of power in Texas and ensure that electricity is delivered safely and reliably to homes and businesses across the state. The poles and wires that deliver electricity will continue to be maintained by the same electric utilities.

The competitive electric market is set to open for most customers in January 2002. However, customers may shop for a new REP now through the Texas Electric Choice Pilot Program. The Pilot Program, or early enrollment program that began this summer to test computer and communications systems, allows up to 5 percent of customers served by investor-owned utilities to choose a new REP.

Those customers not interested in shopping for a new REP will receive service from the REP affiliated with their current electric utility beginning in January. Regardless of a customer’s choice, customer protection will continue to be a significant facet of the transition to a competitive electric market.

Electric Choice, created by a state law passed in 1999, allows most businesses and residences to choose their electric provider from a list of REPs certified by the PUC.

For more information about Texas Electric Choice, contact the Texas Electric Choice Answer Center toll free at 1-866-PWR-4-TEX (1-866-797-4839), or log on to www.powertochoose.org. Hearing impaired customers may contact the Texas Electric Choice Answer Center toll-free at TTY: 1-877-864-4725.

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