More than a year ago we switched our electricity supplier to IDT Energy. At the end of last year I called them with the intention of switching suppliers, but the rep said that they would send me a rebate check since I called to ask about the charges (they were only slightly higher than the local company at that point, so I waited the six weeks or so for the rebate check to arrive). Unfortunately, though I intended to switch suppliers after receiving the rebate check (approximately $111), I was busy and didn’t switch. Today we discovered that our power bill for the past month is $446 (it had been running less than $200 per month).
(The local power company fee adds around $50 to take it to the approximately $446)
I called IDT about the bill this morning, and the rep said that they are always and only a variable rate supplier and that electricity prices had spiked with the cold weather. She said that there was nothing she could do and that we are going to have to pay the bill. She said that IDT does shop for rates. Before calling IDT, I had checked PA PowerSwitch to see what IDT’s rates were listed as there. IDT’s rate on PA PowerSwitch is 14.9 cents per kWh. When I asked the rep about that, she had no answer. In fact, the HIGHEST rate listed on PA PowerSwitch today is 14.99 cents per kWh for Respond Power LLC. I also asked the rep why IDT’s rate was so much higher than the local power company rate that is listed on the bill for comparison (5.61 cents per kWh) but didn’t receive a definitive answer. The date of our bill is February 12th (just five days ago). I will be checking with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to see if they can tell me what IDT’s rate was listed at five days ago. I can’t imagine it was 50% higher just five days ago. I had the rep cancel our IDT account.
Follow up (3-1-2014):
I called IDT Energy back and was able to get an additional $50 off. I also called our local power company to ask them if I could enter a reading so that the change back to them as our power provider could happen immediately. Unfortunately they said that it is in the law that changes can only happen one time per month at the regular billing – so we’re stuck with one more month and will almost certainly have another bill at least as high as the last one. Someone where I work also mentioned to me last week that they had also been using IDT and had gotten hit with a large bill just a few days before the same as we had.
I wasn’t able to find anyone at the Pennsylvania PUC that could help me, so I called the Pennsylvania Office of the Consumer Advocate and they provided the information I was looking for. They said that the rates on PA PowerSwitch are introductory rates.
So to summarize: We were never without power due to IDT, so the quality of service was fine in that regard. This situation, of course, is a case of buyer beware. I did not monitor this closely enough when I could have changed and saved us a LOT of money. I don’t think I would ever consider switching from our local supplier again because I’m too busy to monitor a power supplier for all the more savings that would be achieved. It’s just not worth the risk to me. It seems that choice of power generation makes more sense for commercial and industrial concerns than for consumers. If you WOULD switch, you would definitely want to go with a fixed rate. In that case you would also want to have a reminder set to ensure you’re getting a new contract well before the end of the fixed rate period. This would be very important because if you happen to forget that your fixed rate period is ending and you would change over to a variable rate, then by the time you find out that your bill has skyrocketed, you would have to continue with the current supplier ANOTHER month before you can switch from them (at least in Pennsylvania). The PA PowerSwitch website does have an email subscription service through which you can be notified of rate changes, but it lists all power suppliers (quite a few) – you can’t narrow it down to your own supplier.
To conclude: Here is an interesting press release just out from the PA PUC.