AG’s Office Investigating Electric Bill Hikes

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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.


  • Janna

    How bout oil and gas companies too investigate them ??? And ANYONE who has ELECTRIC heat and CLAIMS not to “use” it …. You are not very aware are you??? Step outside and then come back in …. Yeah …Betcha it’s warm? That means YOU are using it..I lt is impossible in these weather conditions to have it ” turned off at breaker” Jennifer …. If that truely was the case which I do not believe…. Your water pipes would have frozen and/or burst by now ….come on already! Don’t feel sorry for ya if you had a bill from JULY you are a deadbeat!!! Pay your bill!

  • Rose

    I think it is ridiculous that we have to “shop” for electricity like it is a used car. There should be one fair price for everyone. People are afraid of the “fine print” of contracts that they may not understand. They think they have a fixed rate…but then it goes up after a year. My friend had Dominion supplier…cheap bills..but then he was told his fixed rate was only fixed for ayear. Consequently…he switched back to Ppl. He said Dominion never told him it was only a one year contract. I miss the days of simple bills. People have lives and don’t have time to constantly shop around. Ridiculous.

      • Rose

        Grew up with gas heat down near philly. The reasonable bill just came every month. That’s all I meant. I know oil is different. Of course that was 80s and 90s.

  • Joe Schmo

    People, you went with a variable rate because it was a little cheaper…..Well variable means just that…Variable …..and they can charge what they want….Next time get a fixed rate with no cancellation fee….Been doing this since the switch and no problems

    • Rose

      Who is your supplier Joe Schmo?? What is your fixed rate for capacity and distribution?? How long does contract last?? Thanks!!

      • Steve

        Rose, you can visit my energy companies website…check out the company, review their background and choose a fixed rate option. I am available for any assistance you may need. Our company is one of the top suppliers in the country when it comes to choosing an alternative and we have a very high rating with JD Powers and Associates for customer service!
        Just click on my name and it will take you to the website…you can check out the customer side by clicking “request for service”

        Even if you do not chose our company, I hope you will find the information on the website helpful for you so you are educated and can find a company that you feel comfortable with being your energy supplier.

      • Sick of the complaining

        Here is some helpful advice, stop complaining, take some ownership for your action and quit complaining about a “mistake” that YOU and only you made. Fix it and move on. Complaining isn’t going to do anything. Stop sitting back and waiting for someone else to do something.

  • Rose

    It’s the distribution and capacity charges that are up to 7x the kWh. so even if you go in at a fixed rate…can they still charge you 7x the amount for distribution and capacity.?? I would like real answer not someone who is going to put me down. I did not sign up with an alternate provider. Stayed with ppl for distribution for 11 years. Also…just a side note… I was at the Bear Creek diner about 3 years ago and I was sitting near some Ppl guys having lunch. I always remember this…they were talking business and I overheard one guy say that customers are going to get hit hard and bills skyrocket once regs change. This was 2010. Personally… I feel this was a PLANNED price hike and has nothing to do with the cold weather. Just as gas prices magically go up on memorial day. The companies say it is supply and demand…but it is always done. skeptical….

    • Brenda

      No Rose, you are misreading your bill. I’m a PPL customer too. We pay something like 3.5 cents per kwh for distribution. That is all PPL gets even though they are the ones responsible for maintaining the primary lines, the substations, your meter, who we call if we have a power outage etc.. Generation and Capacity are what people are upset over because that is what has increased due to these “alternate suppliers”. Because PPL is a REGULATED company, they must present a rate increase to the PUC to be voted upon before they can raise rates and it takes several months to years to be approved by the PUC. Cool down, and take the time to read your bill. You asked for help in understanding so here it is: PPL Electric Utilites (whom you receive your bill from every month) is a Distribution company. They do not make electricity and have not in years. They access what we common folks often hear of as “the Main grid” and they pull the electricity off of it and deliver it to us customers. The Generation and Transmission or energy capacity charge is charged by the “alternate generation supplier”. Essentially, these “alt suppliers” are the companies that actually generate or broker the electricity into the grid on your behalf (if you choose one) and PPL delivers it. So, essentially, PPL is nothing more than the Post Office of electricity. If you choose not to shop for your own supplier, then PPL is required by the PUC to have blocks of electricity purchased as a “reserve” so to speak. As someone else wrote on this board, PPL cannot profit from the generation portion of your charges. They are required to sell it to their “default” customers at the same price they purchased it for. I recently checked PPL’s website and the PUC’s website (which is also on your bill) and guess what? PPL’s price isn’t increasing. Their price for residential rate for default customers is 8.754 cents per kwh. Again, this is all on your bill, if you just take the time to read it. I’m not trying to be condensending and please don’t take it as such, again, you asked for help in understanding. All the info I’ve just listed is easily found on PPL’s website, and the PUC’s website. I hope this helps and I hope you are finally able to understand your electric bill.

      • Steve

        Everything in that is true except March 1 PPL price will be going up for the generation portion of the bill if you are still their customer

      • Pat

        Thank you, Brenda, you made my day! I’m so glad to see someone that understands the charges!
        Piggy backing here… Steve, Brenda gave the 3/1 PTC.
        For anyone that doesn’t know, PPL’s price to compare changes every March, June, September and December 1st. It has since 2010!
        Decent supplier today – Direct has 7.89 cents for 24 months with zero cancellation fee. That’s from PAPowerswitch.

      • Rose

        Brenda here is my bill. I am not misreading it. I have it right in front of me. distribution charge 106.69 (3.165 per kWh). transmission charge 30.71 (.911 per kWh) And the Big one…generation charge: 264.62 ( 7.85 cents per kWh). My total kWh used…3371 for the month. total bill: 417.96 it is divided into those three sections on page 2. My biggest concern was the generation charge. Thanks for your previous reply.

      • Rose

        Telling me to cool down was unnecessary Brenda. I did take time to STUDY my bill. that being said…it does not mean I still UNDERSTOOD the capacity charge. So now I do. I will look for a cheaper alternate supplier. Thanks for the clarification. But next time…know that I was not complaining only frustrated and confused!! (Like most folks on here)

    • Brenda

      Oh, and in regards to your side note about over hearing the PPL workers. Of course one would expect rates to increase when you open the market to unregulated companies like Pennsylvania Gas and Electric and American Power. Oh, and one more thing… Did a little research and found out the PG&E is not a “real” company. They are actually part of a larger company in Florida and what they do is sell electricity in states that are unregulated and get this… They use the name of the state they are doing business in.. Last year they got in trouble with the State of Connecticut for? Oh, yes Price Gouging!!! And what business name were they using? Connecticut Gas and Electric!

    • Steve

      Rose, if you were in a fixed rate plan your generation portion would not have jumped…it is similar as to having a fixed rate you would pay at the gas station if you locked in at a certain rate for one year or two years.
      As to the PPL guys talking, everyone’s rate went up because the distribution rate had an average increase of 20-30%

      As to you not switching yet to an alternative supplier. The PUC mandated all incumbent (PPL) companies they need to provide information to consumers about the availability to switch their supplier. Within a certain amount of years those companies will have to had a certain percentage of customers switch or else it will be done automatically, so if you still have not switched probably within 2-3 years and look on page two of your bill you would see another name under the generation part of the bill…FYI You can email me and I would be glad to help you understand your bill

      • Pat

        Steve, customers are not being forced off ppl default service. If that’s the case, please point me to that in the regs. As one well versed in both retail and supplier tariffs, I never heard that. I did hear of SB 1121 where the govt plans to auction off customers…

  • Steve Brown

    First I am sorry to hear of the people who have faced the increase in their bill this past month, it is hard enough sometimes to pay the bill you have and then to find it doubled or tripled is very disconcerting.
    This interview that was held two years ago may help educate the public. Same principle applies to PPL customers as it does the PECO customers they are discussing.

    It is important to make sure when you do join a different company whom you will purchase electricity from that you chose a fixed rate

  • craig jackson

    I am wondering why nothing is be mentioned about the cost of fuel oil and propane. Gouging is a word used but usually does not gain any results. It all goes away when the need lessens and spring comes. At the end of the day you are on your own. By the way what does variable mean? If there was not a cap on the rate, then you need to pay the bill.

  • jennifer myers

    I don’t even have my electric heat turned on and my bill went up an additional 150.00! I don’t use the electric heat, breaker is off…so how do they explain that?

  • Gerald Thompson

    PPL needs to be investigated, fined, jailed and put out of business, period. They send me shut-off notices every month along with harassing phone calls twice a month or more. My bill has tripled from PPL without the use of a secondary company. My normal bill used to be $130 per month or less, now I have been paying off a bill for $1386.04 since last July 2013. I have records of these payments along with these shut-off notices they sent out. Nasty, non-professional people in PPL too.

    • Tim

      Pay your bill on time and they won’t call or send out shut off notices. You admit to owing money from July and want to complain about them trying to collect? If someone owed you money since July you wouldn’t try to collect?

      • Rose

        He got hit with a large bill TIM. So he set up a payment plan. they still harass him. if ppl agreed to a payment plan then they should not call you. They always seem to send shut off notices even if you pay on time when the bill goes above 500.

      • Brenda

        Rose, they don’t harrass you and call you IF you are set up on a payment agreement with them. I know, I’ve had to do it myself. If they are calling him, it’s because he’s not paying as he agreed to with them. Also, he stated he doesn’t have a secondary supplier but his bill tripled? Common sense would tell us then, that he USED more electricity.

      • Gerald Thompson

        Tim, you misunderstand, I’ve been paying PPL every month, then got the bill for $1386.04 in July and that had to be setup for a PPL payment agreement. This is simply reinforced price gouging and they do it to a lot of people. PPL’s explanation why this occurred was bogus and I hate them as a supplier.

  • Ryan kunes

    I have a secondary electric company and my bill went from around 100 to 150 to a 705 dollar bill this month thats almost 7 times the price also they estimated my bill for the last 4 months the coldest ones and they say there is nothing they could do i feel like i was robbed to and i know of quite a few people this happened to all under penelec energy company

  • Tina Zimmerman

    Our bill with PG&E tripled this month and we had been with them since 2012, I called and I could not understand the person that answered she was speaking Spanish I think, the lady that called in 2012, her name was Shannon and she gave me her phone # and extension, not there, some one speaking another language.

  • Diane

    Get out of PG&E. Direct energy at this point seems to have a lower fixed rate for next two years. with no cancellation fee. My bill tripled.

    • Christina

      We have Direct Energy. Our bill was higher, but nowhere near what others were charged. I’m very pleased with their service.If anyone is considering a change, call 1-877-297-5147 and use RAF-6293248. You won’t be disappointed.

  • John

    We have lived in our home for 20 years. We have never in those years have had such a big bill. When we opened up our PPL bill we almost had a heart attack. The amount was 729.00 When we called all they said was, ” Please Hold ” , I think it is horrible what is going on.

  • Neil

    There is corruption everywhere, this country is full of it from the government to big business and small business. It doesn’t look like its going to change anytime soon either.

  • Jenna

    Your furnace still runs doesn’t it?? Even when you are not home:) unless you shut it off at main … But then pipes will freeze :(

  • Valerie

    So, am I the only one who’s bill went down? My bill went from $75 last month to $37 this month…I am apparently with Shipley Energy on my PPL bill and I was charged a rate of $0.08163. I just don’t use that much electric I guess.

  • Rose

    I live in a modest apartment with electric heat. My bill for the past two months has been 475. Insane!! It is more than double. I have stayed with Ppl. I live in Lehigh county. It says on my bill that the distribution charge is 3.165 per kWh and 7.85 cents per kWh for capacity and energy. Am I being scammed?? It seems a lot higher than other posts on here!! I used 3,37 kWh for the month. Please….any other ppl customers out there?? Let’ compare. Any suggestions on who to talk to?? i

    • Rose

      Mr stop please. I never signed up for anything. I am sorry I am not as well versed in electricity prices as you.!!! I am on here to learn and understand this mess. I have lived in same place for 11 years and never such high prices. If you are not going to offer helpful advice…go away troll.

    • Chris

      Rose your rate is fair, it may seem high but keep in mind just how cold it was, and at times windy. The average day temp was 29 per PPL on the statement, is was pretty darn cold most nights. You just may not realize that your heat ran much more to keep up with those temps.

    • Chris

      I am sure you are fully versed in everything in your life which is why your soap box is so large. Even an unsympathetic person such as yourself must see that consumer protections were missed in this case. Most of us will take our lumps as a lesson learned and move on. I think we expected varied to be within a tolerance, A change of 300% is a spike or a crash, if it were the stock market people would be really rich or jumping out windows. You call these people stupid for TRYING to save money?

    • Turd Ferguson

      Anyone on here that needs to dispute your usage, call your local utility(PPL, WPP, MetEd, etc). Keep in mind that it was a whole 30% colder this winter than last with record setting temps so any home heating systems will end up using more electric, gas or oil than normal. Having your meter checked by your local utility if the usage seems excessive is always an option because meters do break down. Anything to do with your supply or generation portion has to do with your rates which are vary based on who you have as a supplier. Variable rates buy new energy every month so being that prices quadrupled on the open market, the rates jumped. Local utlities maintained the rates because they buy in bulk every 3 months, then resupply at the rates on the market. Fixed rates buy energy long in advance to keep the rates steady for a certain amount of time. That being said, figure out where the problem lies whether its the rates spiking, usage spiking, and keep in mind alot of utilities estimated multiple meter reads in early 2014. If these estimations have happened call your utility and ask for a billing history investigation. Also keep in mind that everyone from alt suppliers to the local utilities are monitored by the attorney general and PUC so any wrongdoings will be discovered and hopefully prevented. Call your company, hope for a good rep and a good explanation and ask as many questions as possible.

  • Peter piper

    AG has concluded the problem was stupid people using variable rates. Thanks for your time. My electric was $59 last month.

  • Janna

    Switched in mins? I know for a FACT it can take up to a billing cycle or two… Don’t misguide these people ….sounds like you work for a electric supplier trying to drum up business…while fixed rates seem fine they may change as well…and you are stuck. I used to talk with people all if the time at my last job about this. Ppl posts their rates in bill and they provide a heads up on the bill when rate I’ll change rates change quarterly

  • Get a backbone

    First thing I learned about credit and variable rates was don’t ever get involved with variable rates. This is the same thing as the housing crisis. When rates went up people couldn’t afford their mortgage payments. They should be illegal. It is legal loan sharking. Simple rule to follow until they become illegal is if you hear variable rate don’t agree to it.

    “The juice has doubled.” Could work for a loan shark or the electric company.

  • Mary Jane Flynn

    Last month my rate with IDT was 0.098 p/kwh, this month it has risen to 0.2996 p/kwh. My bill was $81.31 in January and this month it has gone to $201.75. It is outrageous that IDT has taken advantage of its customers. Something should to be done to IDT for their underhanded tactics. I did try to contact them numerous times but was put on hold for long periods of time, to no avail. I’m sure they’ll be losing many customers over this, which is well deserved, just for being sooooo greedy.

  • Vince Roman

    U.G.I. Energy got me, .076 to .269 per kilowatt…. last month was almost $2,000.00!!!!!! Best part is that my usage from last year is down 15%….Was Also told I couldn’t drop them for up to two more months….Bull Sh##!!!!!!! I use propane and oil to heat my home and small business!

  • Chris

    My issue is that when they opened up the market the state and the commission put no safe guards in for residents. That is a disservice in my eyes. It is at the the very least unethical. And companies like Great American Power should no longer be allowed to sell electricity in our state. It is sad that “variable” is now defined as unlimited. My rate went from .07 to .158 to .24. I canceled at .158 but it takes a min of 1 billing cycle to change. The Utility Commission should really be the ones providing answers as well.

    • Brenda

      Sadly, these alternative suppliers are NOT regulated by the PUC, although the PUC has openly invited customers affected by the price surge to contact them to file a complaint.

  • Paco Ortiz

    I have PPL and my bill went up 10 dollars from last month. My bill this year was a $1.04 less than the same billing cycle last year. This is what happens when people want to save money and don’t read the small print. Variable means exactly what it means. These companies did not buy enough energy and when the entire country went into a freeze it was all used up. They had to buy more energy at a higher rate and it gets passed on to the consumer and rightfully so. Some of the bills are outrageous but you reap what you sew.

    • Jackie

      PP&L sucks too-a few years ago they had some expired regulations-I don’t remember any details of what the circumstances were-but they took advantage of whatever it was….my electric bills increased by over 200 dollars per month compared to the previous year. I checked all the statements…not one bill over 190 dollars, increased to more than 400 dollars/month…so I may not know the details, but I know I hate PP&L and their ugly skyscraper. I like cliffy’s idea: don’t pay it…brilliant! I mean it-it was funny-we are all screw-driver-ed!! I think I’m replying to “paco” but that’s only because I’ve never posted anything before…I’m just venting like the rest of you. My only opinion is that whoever is defending that adjustable rate with an ‘i told you so’ attitude needs to realize this is not a lesson that we need to learn-develop a little empathy for a person that migh’ve gotten taken advantage of…stop making up names like “paco”, “tom”, “tim”………”heather miles” to disguise worthless ranting that somehow makes you smarter than the rest of us. All you’re suggesting is that people without a fixed rate with their electric company are idiots…that’s just inappropriate no matter how many made up blogger names you create to pretend there’s another side to this argument. It’s unfair, it’s unfortunate, and If Lon Singer wants me to call his electric company personally just to yell nonsense to customer service on his behalf….I would. That bill is outrageous. One more thing-I scrolled up and saw something about democrats…seriously? What in the world kind of condescending irrelevant comment was that? There’s a time and a place…leave cliffy alone. Oh, saw that clever new name “smart enough to use a fixed rate”….are you kidding? This topic is disgusting and stressful-is this the only way to feel better about yourself…Rolling your eyes at these people’s distress? Maybe you can sit down with the attorney general and explain how stupid we all are and offer up this profound wisdom of adjustable and fixed rates…you big bully

      • Tim

        The only worthless ranting on here is the page full of garbage you typed. If your going to get upset about these variable rate electric providers just wait until interest rates go back up. Then everyone will be on here crying about the banks,. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU AGREE TO

  • Roy taylor

    I was with PGE and my bill in winter is about 280 320 month when I got a bill from PGE I didn’t know what to do. But I made a switch to constellation and locked in a price at .0749 for two years this month was around 260 and I’m OK with it again. I got taken by PGE not happy at all. CALL CONSTELLATION and lock in a low price.

  • Tim

    This is what can happen with a variable rate. I watched many reports in the news about a coming spike in energy costs because of the cold weather. Now those of you who made the decision to select a supplier with a variable rate are seeing that spike.

  • Pat

    I am a 77 year old woman with an 86 year old husband, who needs constant attention. My electricity is provided by Pennsylvania Gas & Utilities. In January the bill was $844 and this month it was $1765, which is absolutely ridiculous. I was under the impression you had to pick another supplier beside PPL and look what happened. This is a disgrace. Hope Attorney General Kathleen Kane can help us — the victims of this gouging. She is doing such a good job representing the people in other matters.

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