Power companies supplying energy to District of Columbia and Maryland residents are under scrutiny for allegedly luring customers with promises of cheaper monthly energy bills — then jacking up the prices.
Complaints against companies delivering power to D.C. and Maryland residents are on the rise, The Washington Post reports.
The D.C. Office of the People’s Counsel has recorded 145 consumer complaints against seven power providers this year. Approximately 75 percent of those complaints come from wards that are overwhelmingly minority and have high poverty rates. According to the OPC, many people filing complaints are senior citizens.
“Clearly, the problem is wider than just one provider,” Sandra Mattavous-Frye, the people’s counsel, told the Post. “This is a big issue. There should be an industry-wide investigation.”
Many of those complaints — 29 this year — are against a company called Starion Energy, which supplies power in D.C. and eight eastern states. One of Starion’s customers, Lisa Ford, was promised a monthly electric bill cut in half after she switched over to the company.
However, that’s not what happened to Ford’s bills — they increased from $96 per month in her first bill to $149 per month by her third.
“They lied to me — without a shadow of a doubt,” said Ford, who lives in subsidized housing and makes around $23,000 per year.
The Post notes that many other customers have the same complaints about Starion: “Instead, their bills have increased — some by more than 50 percent, according to their complaints. Consumers also have alleged deceptive practices, including company representatives failing to disclose billing and cancellation terms in addition to rogue sales tactics.”
In May, the D.C. Public Service Commission launched an investigation into Starion’s business practices.
Maryland residents are also complaining about power suppliers. The Maryland Public Service Commission received 206 complaints from customers against three power providers. Complaints have skyrocketed since last year when MPUC got 119 and got only 51 complaints in 2011.
“It’s an ongoing problem, particularly with misleading or deceptive marketing tactics,” Theresa Czarski, deputy people’s counsel for Maryland, told the Post. “There’s constant stuff going on with these suppliers.”
Complaints against Starion stood at a whopping 175 this year, up from only 9 in 2011.
“We don’t tolerate any unethical business practices,” Robert Bassett, compliance manager at Starion. “And we don’t market with a promise of any guaranteed savings. We don’t use the word ‘discount.’ ” He declined to discuss Ford’s complaint or any other individual’s.
Basset told the Post that “there are measures in place to ensure that representatives don’t sell something they can’t deliver.”
Update: This article has been changed to reflect that the power companies in question, including Starion, are not “green” energy companies.
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