No power to change providers?

May 17, 2010 5:20:46 PM PDT
Electricity customers have the right to choose their own provider, but one Harris County woman says she was switched without her consent and could not get switched back. It's a problem that was new to state regulators, and it took Action 13 to help clear up things.

The woman we helped couldn't get anything done because it wasn't just her power provider that was switched, but the name on the bill as well.

Mary Cline was a happy Reliant Energy customer until a few weeks ago. That's when a big envelope from TXU arrived at her home, but it was addressed to Cline's mother.

"The letter was kind of heavy and I was going to recycle it, but then I opened it up and it says clearly on here, 'Thanks for choosing TXU Energy,' and it's like, I never picked TXU Energy," said Cline.

Cline says when she called TXU to get switched back to Reliant, a customer service representative would not discuss any details with her.

"I was told that nobody could discuss it with me because my name is not on the account, and I was told it is proprietary information," said Cline.

Cline says her mom lives in a nursing home and is unable to navigate a power provider's Internet web site.

"This contract or whatever is May 9 and that's Mother's Day and we were all in Dallas at the time, and there is no way my mother could have done this because she does not live with me," said Cline.

Despite explaining that to a TXU customer service representative, Cline says she still could not switch back to her previous provider until Cline could prove her claims..

"I would have to fax mortgage information, and then I would have to fax over proof that my mom actually did live in this assisted living facility," said Cline.

So we contacted TXU. The company says it does not know how the switch happened, and they are investigating it. However, as a result of us contacting TXU, Cline has now been switched back to Reliant. The Public Utility Commission has rules about switching customers and a way to complain if you get switched without your permission.

"There is a recourse," said Monica Russo with the Houston BBB. "One of the best things a consumer in this situation can do is to contact the PUC and file a complaint."

The PUC says this is a new one to them. The agency has rules that providers must follow when switching someone who contacts a company online.

Again, the PUC is trying to figure out how it happened but promises that Cline is back with Reliant.


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