Protect your electric account
The problem with electric supply contracts
It’s fairly common for marketers to approach Boston residents to sell them electricity. These marketers work for private companies called competitive electric suppliers. They may use dishonest and aggressive sales tactics to get residents to sign electric supply contracts. To gain your trust, they may pretend to work for your utility. Or, they may make unauthorized changes to your electric account.
But more often, they simply fail to adequately communicate the electric supply contract’s terms and conditions. These hidden terms and conditions can be costly and restrictive for customers. Many residents pay more for their electricity when they sign these contracts. This is why the Massachusetts Attorney General opposes the direct sale of competitive electric supply to residents.
We urge you to be cautious if, and when, you consider signing an electric supply contract with a competitive electric supplier. Be sure you know what you’re buying. Avoiding these contracts may be in your best interest.From 2015-2019
Competitive electric supply contracts cost Massachusetts customers an extra $340 million.From 2016-2017
Competitive electric supply contracts cost the average household an extra $226.Since 2015
Residents have filed thousands of complaints against the companies that sell these contracts.
Who supplies your electricity?
In the City of Boston you have a choice of who supplies your electricity. Eversource (the local utility) can supply your electricity, or you can sign an electric contract with a competitive electric supplier. Competitive electric suppliers are private, for-profit companies that sell electricity directly to customers.
Regardless of who your electricity supplier is, Eversource always delivers the electricity to your home or business. This is similar to how the United States Postal Service delivers store-bought packages to your door. Eversource also handles the billing for both the supply and delivery of your electricity. However, Eversource passes along the payment for the electricity supply portion of your bill to your electric supplier.
So grab a recent electric bill and see who supplies your electricity! Your electric supplier is listed on your bill under the section, “Your electric supplier is.” You will see Eversource or the name of a competitive electric supplier. If you switch your electricity supplier, the change will be reflected here.
Protect yourself and your account
Protect yourself from imposter scams. Imposter scams are when a marketer or scam artist pretends to be from, or work with, your utility. They do not.
Tip #1: Decline requests to discuss your electric supply options from anyone who claims to work for, or with, Eversource. Eversource will never reach out to discuss your electric supply options.
Tip #2: Call Eversource to verify any requests, or to confirm that they sent a representative to your door. Don’t dial the phone number a stranger provides.
Protect yourself from “slamming.” Slamming is when a marketer changes your electric supplier without your knowledge or consent. It’s against the law.
Tip #1: Ask door-to-door marketers for their identification. This includes their name, photo, ID number, company name, and company logo.
Tip #2: Guard your electric account information. Only provide account information after you agree to sign a contract, and not before.
How can you switch your electric supplier?
You have up to three days to cancel any signed contract free of penalty. If that three-day period has passed, you still have other options available to you.
If you want to switch your electric supplier, consider the following steps:
- Call your supplier (their contact information is listed on your Eversource bill).
- If there is no early termination fee, instruct them to switch you back to Eversource Basic Service.
- If there is an early contract termination fee, ask them to waive it.
- If they refuse to waive the fee, you have three options:
- Switch once the contract ends.
- End the contract, but be aware you will have to pay an early termination fee.
- Seek further help (see below).
Who should you contact for help?
Contact the Massachusetts Attorney General about:
- Deceptive or misleading sales practices
- Misleading terms of your contract
- Harassment by marketers
- Violations of the “do not call” rules
- The need for further help
Understanding electric contractsContracts
- You are signing a contract when you sign up with a competitive electric supplier.
- Be aware of the length of your contract. The contract could lock you into a specific electric rate.
- You are not bound by a contract if you receive your electric supply from Eversource.
- Competitive electric suppliers may initially offer you an attractive promotional rate. However, these rates can increase substantially after the introductory period.
- Ask how long the promotional rate will last and how it will change afterward.
- With some contracts, electric rates can change with market conditions or the supplier’s discretion. Be cautious about this type of vague language.
- As with most contracts, there will often be early cancellation or termination fees.
- These fees typically run between $50 and $150.
- Ask if, when, and at what rate the contract auto-renews.
- Contracts often last anywhere between six months and three years. Some can last longer.
- Make sure the marketer is clear about what they are selling you. Renewable energy can come in different forms and from different places. A lot of renewable energy comes from wind projects in states such as Texas. This energy is commonly referred to as "National Wind" or “National RECs.”
- Read the contract's fine print if you only want to support certain renewable sources.
- The source of the renewable energy can affect the price of that energy.
- Always be sure to receive and review a contract in your native language.
- Customers of competitive electric suppliers have complained about poor customer service. Be sure you have adequate contact information if any questions arise.
Community Choice Electricity
The City of Boston will soon be launching its Community Choice Electricity program.
Currently, residents can receive their electric supply from Eversource or by signing a contract with a competitive electric supplier. When the Community Choice Electricity program launches, it will provide residents with a third electric supply option. The program will leverage its large buying power to provide residents with affordable and renewable electricity. And, as a public, not-for-profit program run by the City, you can be sure we are working on your behalf. Learn more about Community Choice Electricity.
NOTE: Eversource offers residents a default electric supply option called Basic Service. The Community Choice Electricity program aims to offer rates below the Basic Service rate. However, because Basic Service rates change twice a year or more, this may not always be possible. The program will work to deliver cost savings, however, we cannot guarantee savings.