- The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and the state Division of Consumer Affairs have agreed to cooperatively investigate — and potentially prosecute — third-party energy suppliers for illegal advertising, marketing and contracting practices.
- Between December 2013 and March 2014, the BPU saw ten times the previous number of complaints about electric and gas service bill increases and third-party suppliers’ marketing tactics and terms, according BPU President Dianne Solomon.
- An extremely volatile natural gas market made the prices of electricity and heating gas from third-party marketers sharply variable month to month and there were reports of suppliers shifting consumers whose fixed-rate contracts expired to a variable rate contract without their assent.
It appears New Jersey ratepayers have encountered the downside of deregulation. Many complaints were of being fraudulently given rates not in their contracts, of bait-and-switch telephone sales, and of contracts with fine print subterfuges.
NJ BPU President Dianne Solomon: “Numerous customers alleged behavior by certain third-party suppliers that if corroborated would at best be considered dishonest and/or misleading…”
The NJ deregulated market is voluntary and if the ratepayer does not elect a third-party supplier, wholesale electricity prices are set in the power market, passed through by the utilities, and regulated by the BPU.
Third-party suppliers’ business, advertising and marketing practices must conform to state law.