HAZLETON - Have you seen your electric bill this month?
Some of the half million area homes and businesses, who recently switched from PPL to certain alternative electricity suppliers, are getting a jolt of sticker shock.
Tom Percosky of Hazleton recently switched from PPL to Harrisburg-based PG&E, an alternative energy supplier. He used 20% less electricity in January than December.
Yet his bill almost doubled.
"I almost fell over. I`m here 30 years. I`ve never had a bill like this in my life," said Percosky.
Brian Machowski of South Abington Township switched power suppliers from PPL to Georgia-based Great American Power last year.
"They were stating that their rates would be lower than PPL`s. And everybody in this economy is trying to save money," said Machowski, who claims he saved about 120 dollars last year by making the switch.
His January bill shows he used about 10-percent more electricity than in December, yet his bill almost tripled.
"$720-dollars and 40 cents. I was shocked, outraged," said Machowski. "I thought it was a typo."
"The customers aren`t examining the contracts closely enough," said PPL spokesman Rich Beasley. "Variable rates, and the extremely low temperatures have created a situation where in some cases, bills may be doubled or even tripled."
Beasley believes some alternative suppliers didn`t buy enough electricity for January`s extra demand caused by the sustained deep freeze.
To meet that demand, suppliers paid premium prices at the last-minute . Passing on the costs to customers whose variable rate contracts leave them vulnerable to drastic price hikes.
"Variable goes up a little bit," claimed Brian Machowski, "variable doesn`t go up three times what it was the last year."
Machowski is so frustrated, he switched to another alternative energy supplier for what he thinks is a better deal.
In Hazleton, Tom Percosky says PG&E offered a rebate when he threatened to find another supplier.
"The offer was $150, I said,'no that's not acceptable," said the Hazleton native who is going back to PPL.
Despite several calls, representatives from Great American Power, and Pennsylvania Gas and Electric did not call back to let us know why the companies raised the rates so much.
Meantime State Lawmakers, including Marty Flynn of Scranton, are looking a bill that would force alternative energy suppliers to give a months notice before raising rates at steep levels.