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Attorney General: electric supply switch costs residents millions

Banner Staff

Residents across Massachusetts who switched to competitive electric suppliers have lost $253 million over the last three years, according to a report released last week by Attorney General Maura Healy.

The report follows up on a report Healey’s office released last year and adds data from 2018.

“This new data brings the total net losses to $253 million for Massachusetts customers over the course of three years,” the report reads. The report also shows that the competitive electric industry’s deceptive tactics have disproportionately impacted low-income residents and communities of color.

“Our concern remains that too many customers are being falsely promised big savings on their electricity bills and then overcharged month after month,” Healey said in a press statement. “The results of our new report highlight the need for legislation to protect real competition and stop these predatory companies from scamming residents in Massachusetts.”

The report is part of the Attorney General’s Office’s ongoing effort into addressing the unfair practices used in the individual residential electric supply market, according to Healey. The effort includes investigating and taking action against such suppliers.

In March 2018, Viridian Energy LLC agreed to pay $5 million in compensation to consumers for allegedly engaging “in various deceptive and unfair sales tactics,” according to Healey’s report.

In October 2018, the AGO sued Starion Energy for “allegedly falsely promising consumers electricity rate reductions in unsolicited telemarketing calls and pre-recorded robocalls and then charging those consumers tens of millions of dollars more than they would have paid if they stayed with their utility company.”

In January, Healey filed legislation that would ban suppliers from contracting directly with residential customers for new contracts after January 1, 2020. The legislation would not change Massachusetts cities’ and towns’ municipal aggregation programs or the markets for commercial and industrial electric supply.

State Sen. James Welch, in a show of support for the attorney general’s call to action, explained the impact of the situation on his constituents.

“Competitive electric suppliers have taken advantage of Springfield residents, targeting seniors and others who are desperate for any relief on utility bills. It has been happening across our state for far too long. The results of AG Healey’s new report, particularly the swelling consumer losses, is yet another call to action. I’m working with the Attorney General to pass legislation that will protect our residents from these troubling scams.”

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera also underscored the value of the report for those who are unaware of the alleged scams deployed by these suppliers.

“I want to thank Attorney General Healey’s office for leading the charge on educating Massachusetts residents about Competitive Electrical Supply (CES) service and the negative impact it has on the wallets of our communities,” Rivera said. “CES preys on the most vulnerable populations of our community: low-income brackets, seniors and English as a second language residents.”

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