AG’s Office Investigating Electric Bill Hikes

Thousands who thought they could save money on electricity got a jolt last month, when rates from secondary electricity suppliers doubled or even tripled.

Since we first told you about the prices last week, hundreds of you called and claimed the rate hikes were unfair.

Now Pennsylvania’s Attorney General agrees.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is looking to see if any laws were broken when these secondary energy suppliers sent out record high bills to their customers this month.

These customers have variable rates and thought they were saving a few bucks when they signed up with companies as alternatives to PPL.

One Hazleton man’s January electric bill doubled.

An Abington Township man’s January bill tripled.

And when Lon Singer of Williamsport opened his monthly electric bill from American Power and Gas, “the rate was atrocious.”

A rate that almost quadrupled.

“Normally, it’s around $300 dollars, somewhere in that range.  It was $1,200,” Singer said.

Singer is a customer of one of more than 40 secondary electric suppliers in our state.

Many promised monthly savings to those who switched from PPL. But sustained cold weather increased electric use in the region forcing many suppliers to pay higher costs. Costs companies passed directly on to customers with variable electric rates.

In Pennsylvania, variable rates mean no cap on how much suppliers can charge.

“The company said they couldn’t do anything for me, it’s just what it was, it’s a variable rate.  I said I didn’t realize you could charge something like that,” said Singer.

In a statement released on Wednesday, attorney general Kathleen Kane called the rate hikes, “alarming,” adding, “we are looking at these price increases and will be prepared to take action to protect affected consumers.”

Kane notes that Governor Corbett declared a state of emergency February 5, and that the practice of price gouging is illegal.

Lon Singer isn’t sure if homeowners like him are crime victims but he feels like he was robbed.

“It hurts.  I wasn’t expecting something like that.  I was expecting something a little bit higher, but not three and a half times.”

The Attorney General’s office is asking consumers to file complaints with its consumer affairs office and to send the office marketing materials, bills, contracts, terms and conditions, and sign up and welcome letters.

For more on how to get your material into the hands of investigators from the Attorney General’s office, click here.

You can also call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection hotline at 800-441-2555 for questions, help, and complaints.

On Friday, lawmakers announced a series of hearings on this matter beginning in March.

The attorney general’s office said more than 1,500 people called the consumer complaint line.

119 comments

  • Bryan

    Decembers PPL bill was $83, last month $189, and this month $211… I never had a bill more than $110 in my entire life. All for no reason. I expect reimbursement.

  • Jennifer Clark

    I have lived in my house 12 years and my electric bill was never over $220.oo in the winter. My bill was $471.00. I am a widow and single parent and this is bull. I called to cancel and all they had was an answering machine. Very unprofessional. I will never leave PPl again.

  • Diane Scally

    My Rate with IDT went from $0.0914 to $0.2653 in one month! I planned for more kwh usage due to the cold but did not plan for my rate to nearly triple. My bill went from $200.11 to $597.99! This is crippling to my budget that is already strained.
    After spending hours on hold with IDT and PPL over a 2 day peroid, I cannot switch back to PPL until the end of the current billing cycle. The cold weather continues and I already have my thermostat set at 55. I am looking at potentialy another $500 + bill that I can’t pay! I don’t even heat with electric but the oil furnace takes electricity to run. On top of the extra electricity expense, I’m running out of fuel oil. I know I’m not alone in this crisis but it is very overwhelming. Most working people do not have that much wiggle room in their budget. This whole mess is immoral at best and should be illegal!

  • Debra Eck

    Oh and good luck trying to get those past bills unless you kept the paper copy. I can’t get hold of them from PPL website.

  • Debra Eck

    I didn’t switch from PPL and my electric bill still went from dec @ 115 to jan @263 to feb @ 345 so it is more than just secondary suppliers outrageous charges.

  • Jolynne Frie

    I chose to stick with ppl and my electric over doubled this past month. I have natural gas heat and keep my home pretty cold, so yes I supplement with infrared heaters but only at night and not right to 2 1/2 times my bill!!!!

    • Brenda

      Anyone that purchases or uses any of the so called “energy efficient” heaters such a Edinpure, Duraflame, Amish Made, here’s a fact for you. They are electric space heaters! They will drive up your electric bill. You may be saving on heating oil or your propane bill by using one, but it will increase your electric consumption and that’s not the electric company’s fault. I do not have electric heat, I have oil heat (who can I go to to pay my oil delivery bill at nearly $4.00 a gallon???) but guess what? My electric bill also went up. Why? Because it’s much colder outside and of course the furnace has to run more often and circulate more heat to keep our home warm. Not trying to be rude, but people need to start being more responsible for their actions. I feel sorry for those that didn’t REALIZE they were going into a variable rate, but the sad part is, now most of them are pulling out their paperwork and finally reading all of it, and of course, in small print in black and white, it clearly reads variable rate after the introductory period expires. Is it right that prices were increased as they were? Blue Pilot at 44 cents per kwh?? Absolutely not, and that’s what needs to be investigated, the sudden extreme price increase being charged by these suppliers.

  • Joe coroniti

    Also had my electric bill tripled. I blame myself for not looking into the
    matter before I switched. l everyone. else I though I was getting a deal. Nothing wrong with switching to another supplier but make sure that you read the provisions that it is not a variable rate and no charge for cancellation A lot of the suppliers have a low fixed rate. It is all in plain view on the internet and you don’t have to listen to a sales pitch which is usually bullshit.

  • peggy tirado

    my bill doubled last month. now this month my daughters bill doubled this month I thought it was bc I had used a electric heater for 1 week and not all the time mind u…..my bills have never been this high even in the summer AG office will be hearing from me tomorrow

  • gerry

    my electric bills for all of 2013 totaled $2098.42. I switched from ppl energy plus in October to American power partners who had a rate of 0.0690 per kwh. nov bill $144.23. dec bill $223.14. jan bill $373.00 at 0.0850kwh. feb bill $841.85 at 0.2400kwh. triple rate increase. cant get phone call to the company because of full mailbox. when I changed to power partners, I was not aware of a variable rate change. I would only change if the rate was fixed like I did when I switched to lower rates. a call to pa puc was made and a complaint was made. waiting for a call back from puc.

  • Floyd E Ward Jr

    My husband went with Pa Gas and electric and our bill this month is 318. and we never had a high electric bill before. They said they are sending us a rebate check in the amt of 134.84 because it is high. But we still half to pay 318. This is outragous. My husband is on disability and the only one with an income he cant afford to pay that amt. The highest bill we ever got was at least one hundred and something. That was it. And my husband is on life threatening machines like oxygen he uses at night. We dont use that much electric during the day. The highest the bill ever was at 105.00 and he is on a fixed income. He is supposed to be on oxygen 24/7 but he doesnt use it like that cuz of the electric bill going up. We are thinking about switching to another company but we are not sure because of the high rates now. We were told our rates were cheaper then another supplier that is why he decided to go with pa gas and electric. They defintely need to be looked at.

  • Donna

    We stayed with PPL and our bill still went up $200.00.. Funny thing is the website says most of out usage was for heat. Here’s the kicker, we have a wood burning insert in our fireplace and don’t even turn on our electric heat all winter. So what’s up with that?

  • Carolyn Martienssen

    I was on Ontrack payments through PPL because of having a low income. In January my Ontrack ended. When I saw this article I checked my bill it was super high. I found the PPL charged me $71.40 for Jan. 13 bill and Direct Energy charged me $196.83 almost 3 times more then PPL. On my February bill PPL charged me $118.06 and Direct Energy charged me $387.16 more than double. I am going to file with the DA, Direct Energy was supposed to save me money. This is money I can’t afford.

  • Crystal Kevin Witek

    I agree this Is horrible I recieved a 765.00 bill my previous was 296. no more used in the month actually less , cant afford to pay for this at all and wondering how it can change so much in a month! we need answers other than its COLD! OBVIOUSLY WE KNOW THIS!

  • Bill Roenbaugh

    Yea, that’s complete garbage that we can’t control or it’s hidden. There has to be some pull cause you know there are people out there making a huge deal of money. It’s always one person that got paid off for letting them do it….

  • rick

    Let’s take time to thank our legislators who conveniently left out a cap on electric rates. Their comment was they didn’t think it was needed….here’s a cool idea…put it in anyway. So it costs you another couple hours to add it to the bill….that’s what we pay you for….instead let it get added to our bills…

  • george

    starion tripples there price.. there the people who knock on your door. I switched to Con ED.. my price stayed the same.. check ppls website for prices

  • Art

    In Dec. my bill was $119. Dec was $290 then $690.in Feb. It showed that we used less electric yet increased. I do not have a hot water heater, or electric heat. All of my lights are either CFL or LED and we brought an enery efficient refrigerator, wash machine and dryer.

  • rick whelchel

    I switched to PG&E last month my bill doubled to $746.00. this month I used LESS power and my bill was $1449.00 for one month. Not last month and this month…..just this month .3114/kWh. Compare to ppl at .08173/kWh….then u can’t cancel till end of billing so I have 22 more days at that rate… the do not return my calls put me on hold for hours then hang up. Here’s to all the people who say too many regulations for big business…you have no right to complain but I do I didn’t vote for big business

    • Smart Enough To Use a Fixed Rate

      let me guess, you’re a democrat stooge who will never learn that his party is ten times as deep in bed with wall street than the meanie conservatives are in his wildest delusions.

  • Carrie

    Our electric bill this month with Blue Pilot as the provider was $1622. Penelec told us it would have been $378 with them. Blue pilot claims the polar vortex caused the increase demand and subsequent cost. We have gotten no where with their resolution center, they said the bill still stands as is.

  • Paul Creteau

    PP&L is prohibited from charging more for electricity they sell than what they pay for it. They make their profit on the distribution costs – noted on our bills. They are primarily a electricity distributor and not a producer. What is puzzling is while PP&L is required to apply and have a rate hike approved, the secondary suppliers are exempt from this restriction. Two different customers are typically charged vastly different rates per KWH during the same month! Puzzling to you? I thouhgt I would not be the only one to find it strange.

    Our issue is that they clearly need far more regulation to keep them honest. Even if they only make an additional $10-20 per customer (times hundreds of thousands of customers), it adds up to a lot of “free” money. However, they are not satisfied with a few dollars on each bill, they are often 2-3 or even 4 times the rate PP&L charges. The immediate solution here is to recognize it is better to just stick with PP&L and put these thieves out of business. Then hopefully we can get our legislatures to impose regulations to keep them honest.

  • tom

    hey welcome to deregulation, tell me about the line charges , the same lines wether you use 10000kw or 1 kw , the line doesn’t change but you get charged more

  • april

    I switched to pa power and gas last summer because they said they were lower then met ed, last month my bill was almost tripled, their rate was 27 when met ed was at 8 they said it was because of the weather and the demand for electric

    • Heather Miles

      This has happened to so many people its outrageous! You must lock in a low fixed rate! Contact me and I can have it switched in minutes. 814-506-2400. I have helped many others and I will continue to look out for my customers.

  • Megan Lawson

    I live in housing, I heat approx. 300 square feet, My bill last month was $191.00 my neighbor has the same exact lay out of apt and is 300 square feet as well, both heaters are set below 65. Her bill last month was $246, this month $286. Please we all need some kind of answers.

    • Jenna

      Aww cry me a river…I have oil heat.. It isn’t much better… And we have to pay upfront usually with no special rate reductions..$1200. To fill my tank… And with this cold hope it lasts give me a break

      • Jep

        who’s the moron here, could spend around $300 a month to heat a nice size house with electric or continue spending $1200 on burning fossil fuels

  • Sarah

    I live in a one-bedroom apartment and keep my electric heat at 60 degrees. I work 50 hours a week so I’m never home and use almost no appliances, yet my electric bill is well over what I was quoted. I called the electric company to question the charges, and they told me it was based on the usage from last year. But my apartment was unoccupied last year, so it should have been a base rate. I was given the runaround from then and finally was transferred to a “supervisor”, which was really a disconnected number. I haven’t been given a straight answer.

    • George Martin

      The Attorney General needs to come down hard on these companies who are guilty of gross violations of the public trust. The WNEP text for this story says that rates for American Power and Gas customers almost quadrupled. Yet in January they offered me $.063 for my first months billing and currently they say that their rate is $.0799 on PAPOWERSWITCH.COM. Enough of the games. Enough of the bait-and-switch.

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