Website to shop for electricity gets facelift, more user-friendly

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Click on PApowerswitch.com and the colors pop.

The new-and-improved website is definitely high wattage.

And the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission hopes even the dimmest among us can successfully shop for electricity, even though more than half of residential customers in the commonwealth don’t bother and just accept the default price from their utility.

“We’ve made the graphics brighter, we’ve made the information more sortable, and more easily understood,” said PUC Commissioner Pamela Witmer. “It’s more intuitive for people.”

Plug in your ZIP code and more than a hundred electric supply companies will pop up offering options, lots and lots of options. Fixed rates are listed in green. Variable rates are in orange. If you’d like to support renewable energy, you can choose that, too. The website is also more friendly to devices like tablets and smart phones. Witmer says 30 percent of the sites visitors are on devices.

“I think consumers have become much more educated,” Witmer said. “They’re smarter. They’re savvier than they had been in the past.”

That’s not to say all is perfect in the world of electric supply.

Carol Neumayer of Boiling Springs was stunned last month when she opened her Met Ed bill. Her winter bills are typically $300. This one jumped to more than $700.

“That’s a $400 dollar hike which I have no explanation for other than there has to be an error,” Neumayer said.

With four kids, that bill was a budget buster for the Neumayers.

“I don’t have $700 lying around to just give it to the electric company when I really don’t believe we used that much energy,” she said.

A Met Ed spokesman tells me that Carol was on an “estimated” bill. In February, temperatures plunged, forcing her usage to spike. When the company tabulated her “actual” bill, it ballooned. It was a billing perfect storm. Carol complained to the PUC, which has put that bill on hold while it investigates. Met Ed told me it’ll check her meter in the next few days to make sure it is working properly.

Carol’s not happy with the bill and insists there’s no way her usage could’ve more than doubled from one February to the next, but said at least Met Ed and the PUC are listening to her.

“I got them to take off all my late fees so that was cool. They worked with me on that.”

Each winter the PUC typically fields 2,000 complaint calls like Carol’s. Last year, following the so-called polar vortex, it jumped to more than 10,000 complaints. This year, Witmer says, it’s back to normal. Witmer says that’s proof most companies are acting responsibly but she reminds them the PUC is still watching.

“If somebody goes outside the chalk lines we will not hesitate to take them to the mat and the power of the PUC will come down on those folks.”

To check out the PUC’s improved website, go to papowerswitch.com.

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