Consumer Corner


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Consumer Corner – Retail Suppliers (of Electricity and Natural Gas)

GENERAL TIPS (click sentence for explanation)
 1)     Residential customers in Maryland may choose to receive electricity or gas supply from your local utility or from an energy supplier.  Gas or electricity suppliers may offer different contract or price terms than your local utility, or may offer you a contract that helps to promote renewable energy, such as wind energy. All gas and electricity suppliers must be licensed by the MD Public Service Commission and comply with the MD PSC rules on marketing, solicitation, contracting, and all Maryland consumer protection laws.   
2)    BUYER BEWARE--This is a Legal Contract which may have monetary penalties and costs that sales people may not fully explain. You can sign away many of your consumer rights and protections.  Websites and direct mail information from energy companies do not always make clear whether they are energy suppliers, energy brokers, or aggregators. However, there are important differences and you will always need to have a contract with an energy supplier if you do not purchase your electric or gas from your local distribution utility. 
3)     You do not have to choose a supplier. You will continue to receive electricity or gas supply from your local utility. If you do choose an energy supplier, the following protections still apply:
a.      The wires, pipes and meters will remain the same.
b.      Contact your local electric/gas utility if there is an emergency; electric outage or smell of gas.
c.       The local distribution utility will address billing complaints.
4)     Local Utilities generate profit from the Distribution Part of the Billing (Maintaining the Pipes, Wires, Meters, and Billing systems). Since Distribution Companies Must Purchase Electric and Natural Gas in the Marketplace, there is little to no profit in this activity. 
5)     Suppliers have a Contractual Relationship with the Distribution Company, but they are not Employees. Demand Identification of these Individuals, and Report any individuals that make False Identification to the Public Service Commission and/or the Police. DO NOT LET ANYONE IN YOUR HOME WITHOUT IDENTIFICATION YOU CAN RECORD FOR FUTURE REFERENCE.
6)     Protect yourself from unauthorized Switching. The Account Number Should Never Be Given until you are Ready to Sign with a supplier.  Remember your account number is on your bill.  OPC has prepared a guide on Contracting for Electricity and Natural Gas Supply and pricing information for Electric Suppliers and Natural Gas Suppliers.We recommend that you review the Guide and OPC’s price comparison information, and check with the MD PSC about licensed suppliers, before you make any decisions on contracting with a supplier.
a.      Suppliers sell directly to consumers, using the local utility’s distribution system to deliver the commodity (electric or natural gas).  The local utility usually sends you the bill, with the supplier information and costs.
b.      Suppliers may offer renewable energy contracts, above the Legal Mandates from MD Public Service Commission. Ask what percent your Distribution Company Purchases to COMPARE to a Supplier Offer.
c.       BE AWARE—Some suppliers charge monthly fees that will impact savings
d.      BE AWARE—Some suppliers have fees to cancel a contract
e.      BE AWARE—Variable plan pricing can vary month to month, and you will not know the price  until the bill arrives
f.        REPORT any company that is not licensed by the MD Public Service Commission that tries to sign you to a contract.
g.      DEMAND the TERMS and CONDITIONS—What are you contracting for?!
h.      CONtact our office with questions. REVIEW our Pricing Guides. REALIZE there are different companies, see our detailed description pamphlet: What are Energy Suppliers, Brokers, Aggregators.
If you are a low-income consumer, you may qualify for assistance from the Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) and the Electric Universal Service Program (EUSP) for your utility bills, contact the Maryland Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP)